Cover for Reading Comprehension: Drawing Conclusions post showing a detective with a magnifying glass.

Reading Comprehension Strategy #4: Drawing Conclusions

Today’s post in our reading comprehension series is about drawing conclusions by going beyond the words on the page. 

When a reader collects clues from the text, they can make a variety of types of educated guesses that help them understand what they are reading.  It allows them to draw out more information from the text and understand humor.

Drawing conclusions can be a particularly hard task for some readers.  Below, I break down how we can help our children develop this skill during other tasks, including games and then apply the skills they have learned to reading.

Click here to read the last three posts about visualizing what we read, connecting background knowledge with what we read, and asking questions while we read.

Pinnable cover for Reading Comprehension: Drawing Conclusions post showing a magnifying glass and a book.

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How We Draw Conclusions

We draw conclusions by collecting clues as we read and then put them together to make an educated guess.  What clues do you gather while you read the following excerpt?

An excerpt from chapter 2 of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowlings...

“Well get a move on, I want you to look after the bacon.  And don’t you dare let it burn, I want everything perfect on Duddy’s birthday.”

Harry groaned.

“What did you say?” his aunt snapped through the door.

“Nothing, nothing…”

Dudley’s birthday — how could he have forgotten?  Harry got slowly out of bed and started looking for socks.  He found a pair under his bed and, after pulling a spider off one of them, put them on.  Harry was used to spiders, because the cupboard under the stairs was full of them, and that was where he slept.”

Now, I did not give you any more direction than to just gather clues.  But, if you were using this exercise to help your child build the skill of drawing conclusions, you could have asked them to specifically collect clues about how Harry and his aunt get along.

In this case, we have the clue of the aunt not speaking very nicely to Harry…”get a move on” and “don’t you dare let it burn”.  We also have the clue of Harry groaning instead of answering in an excited way about Duddy’s birthday.  And then his aunt “snaps”.  Next we learn that Harry sleeps in a cupboard under the stairs that is full of spiders.  That is a big clue!  We can determine from all of this information that Harry and his aunt do not get along well.

How characters feel about each other in a story is just one of several different types of conclusions a reader might draw from a text they are reading.  Here are some other important types of conclusions, we learn to make…

Types of Conclusions

Predict what will happen next.  We often read to see what happens next in a story.  As you are reading, your brain is collecting clues and you may envision where a story is headed.  Sometimes an author may throw a plot twist in there and take the story in a different direction.  Sometimes the author might use foreshadowing to give you bread crumbs to follow through the story.  Rosie’s Walk by Pat Hutchins is a picture book with almost no words.  But the pictures help us draw the conclusion early on that the fox is going to keep following the hen around the barnyard getting into one accident after another.

Rosie's Walk
  • Hutchins, Pat (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 32 Pages - 08/01/1971 (Publication Date) - Aladdin (Publisher)

Determine the meaning of an unknown word.  When we encounter a word we don’t know in our reading, we need to ask some questions to draw a conclusion about its meaning…What is the thing being used for? Is this action being described in a positive or negative way?  What else do we know about this person?  If we ask the right questions and make good educated guesses we may be able to determine the meaning of the word without interrupting our reading to look it up.  This is referred to as using context clues.

James and the Giant Peach book with printable vocabulary pages on either side of the book.

A really fun way to work on this skill is with books that incorporate a few words from another language in the book.  Everyone can work together to use the clues from the pictures and the words around them to figure out what the word from another language means. Isla and Abuela by Arthur Dorros are two books to get you started.

Sale
Abuela (English Edition with Spanish Phrases) (Picture Puffins)
  • Dorros, Arthur (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 40 Pages - 05/01/1997 (Publication Date) - Puffin Books (Publisher)

Connect different points in the story. Something might be revealed in a story (or movie) that fills in another part of the storyline.  Marvel movies do this all the time!  We recently watched Ant-Man and the Wasp and at the end of the movie, a clue is given that connects the movie to the end of another movie, Avengers: Infinity War.  A savvy watcher realizes that the events in the two movies have been occurring at the same time.

Fill in blank spots in the movie you are making in your mind.  In our first article in this series, we talked about visualizing what you are reading.  One example I included was a description of Marilla in Anne of Green Gables.  We are told that she is tall and thin and that her hair has gray streaks.  We can then draw the conclusion that she is old enough to have gray hair and fill in her age in the movie we are making in our mind.  We are not told what she is wearing so we need to work harder to collect clues from different parts of the text to fill in her clothing in the movie in our mind.

Answer questions that you might have wondered.  You may have questions you wonder while you are reading that are not answered explicitly by the text.  Instead, you have to collect clues and make your own prediction.  Maybe you have wondered what happened in a character’s past to make him so mean.  As his past is revealed throughout the story, you can draw conclusions to answer your question.

But we don’t just draw conclusions while reading…

Drawing Conclusions in the Real World

We draw conclusions from the world around us all the time and this is a skill that can be taught at a very early age.

See dark clouds outside?  It is probably going to rain.

Are the clouds really tall?  Then it might mean a thunderstorm.

Are the leaves turning red, yellow, and orange?  They will fall off the tree soon and the temperatures will get cooler and the days will be shorter.

Go to a store and there are no cars in the parking lot?  As you approach, you notice that the store is dark.  You draw the conclusion that the store is closed.

These are all observations you can point out to young children.  At first you will probably need to model your conclusion for them.  But eventually you could make the observation and then say “You know what that means?” and give them a chance to draw a conclusion.  Pretty soon they will notice the clues on their own and come to you and share their observations and conclusions.

Continue to look for other examples where you can point out clues in your child’s world and help them draw conclusions.  Then carry this skill and these examples over to the books you read.

Drawing Conclusions from Pictures

Picture books are a great way to start drawing conclusions in books. You can start by calling attention to details in the pictures just like in the above “real world” examples.

For example, in the book The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt, each crayon has written a letter of complaint and there is a picture that goes with each letter.  Before reading the letters to your children, you could have them look at the accompanying picture and see if they can guess what the letter might be about.  Even older children would have fun with this.

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The Day the Crayons Quit
  • Funny back-to-school story.
  • Duncan's crayons quit coloring. Crayons have feelings, too.
  • What can Duncan do to appease the crayons and get them back coloring?
  • Contains 40 pages and measures 9.25" x 6.25".
  • Recommended for ages 3 - 7 years.

The Perfect School Picture by Deborah Diesen is another book where you could have kids look at the pictures and predict what problems might show up in the main character’s school picture.  You could then read each page to add information to what your child has noticed and at the end of the book see how the picture day went.

The Perfect School Picture: A Picture Book
  • Diesen, Deborah (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 32 Pages - 07/02/2019 (Publication Date) - Abrams Books for Young Readers (Publisher)

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff is another picture book that is great for practicing predicting what will happen next.  Kids won’t be able to use pictures this time.  They will have to think about word associations.  When the mouse is given each object, prompt kids to think about what that object might make him want next.

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie
  • For Mac system 7.0 or later (OSX in CLASSIC OS)
  • Interactive book
  • Hardcover Book
  • Numeroff, Laura (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

With older kids, you can use cartoons as picture prompts to draw conclusions.  In a recent Calvin and Hobbes cartoon, Calvin is yelling at someone who has left the scene.  After looking at the cartoon with your child, you could ask him what he wonders about the cartoon.  And then ask him what a possible answer might be to what he wonders.  Finally, ask him what makes him thinks that.

Regardless of how your child responds, praise anything they share.  If your children think there are “right” and “wrong” answers, then they may hesitate to share any thoughts about the pictures.

If you find your child is reluctant to answer, you can model by wondering something aloud, coming up with an answer, and then pointing out why you think that.  As you model be intentional with your language…talk about searching for clues.  Say you are making a prediction.  When we label steps like this for our children they understand better what we are doing and can cue themselves using those same words as they work through the steps.

In our last post about asking questions, we talked about looking at the cover of the book and prompting your child to wonder something about what they see.  Now you can prompt two more steps…guessing an answer and giving resaons for why they think that is the answer.

Games You Can Play

There are several games you can play with your children to help them work on drawing conclusions.  These games will help children learn to pay attention to clues, ask good questions, draw on their background knowledge to apply it to the current situation, and make educated guesses.

Charades, where a person acts out something, and everyone else has to guess what it is, is a great game to work on drawing conclusions.

Twenty Questions adds language to the guessing game.  Someone thinks of a person, place, or thing and the other people can ask up to 20 yes/no questions to narrow down choices and guess what the person is thinking of.

Another language game is a Simile Game.  Someone starts a simile and other people fill in the blank.  The first person might start with “As shiny as a __________.”  The other players may say “gold”, “foil”, “a star” or any other object that pops into their head.

There are also commercial language games that help children learn to draw conclusions such as Hedbanz and Taboo.

Hedbanz 2023 Edition Cards Picture Guessing Board Game- Family Games | Games for Family Game Night| Kids Games | Card Games for Families & Kids Ages 6 and up
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  • SIMPLE TO PLAY: Pick a headband, place a card in it and play to figure out what’s shown on your card. Using yes/no questions, be the first to guess 3 cards correctly and you win!
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Hasbro Gaming Taboo Kids vs. Parents Family Board Game Ages 8 and Up
  • GAME FOR KIDS TO CHALLENGE PARENTS: Gather the family together It's kids vs. parents in this edition of the Taboo game
  • TWO DIFFERENT CARD DECKS: The hilarious kids vs. parents game is a fun twist on the classic Taboo game. It includes a kids' deck and an adult deck of cards. The kids' deck features familiar Guess words and only 2 forbidden words
  • THE GAME OF FORBIDDEN WORDS: Includes over 1, 000 Guess words on 260 cards; get teammates to say the Guess word on the card without saying the forbidden words
  • INCLUDES A SQUEAKER: Oops Say a forbidden word shown on the card and opponents will squeak the squeaker and the other team gets the point
  • FUN, FAST-PACED GAME: Race against the included one-minute timer in this fun and fast-paced family game

These games are a great way to get ready for what our goal is…

Drawing Conclusions While Reading

By the time your child gets to reading full-length books, they have had lots of practice drawing conclusions.  However, they may need some help connecting that process to a full-length book.  Read alouds, once again, are a great way to support them through this process.

Start by wondering some questions while looking at the cover of the book and then make some predictions as  you start to read.  Look for clues along the way to see if your predictions were correct or if you need to revise them as you go.  You may need to go look at the cover again or reread an earlier passage as you revise your predictions.  You may elaborate on your predictions, tweak them, or throw them out all together and come up with new ones.

As always, if your children are having trouble coming up with ideas on their own, model your thinking out loud. Use words like search, clues, predict, and conclude.  Show your children how you are bringing in background knowledge to help you make your predictions.

Here are some sentence starters you can model and then prompt your children with:

  1. I wonder…
  2. An answer might be…
  3. I think this book will be about…
  4. I predict…
  5. I think next _____________ will happen.
  6. My guess is… (Using the word ‘guess’ keeps the pressure down.)
  7. I think that because…
  8. Ooh, this is a surprise… (For when you need to revise your predictions.)
  9. My conclusion is…

Remember to always praise any thinking your children do even if you think it is way off base.  This will keep them thinking and offering ideas!  And remember to use these same strategies to help you figure out unknown words and to fill in some details in the movies you are making in your minds.

If you feel your child needs some more intentional practice with drawing conclusions, check out the Inference Jones series of workbooks from the Critical Thinking Co.

Inference Jones, Level 1
  • Robert E. Owen (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 48 Pages - 02/23/2024 (Publication Date) - The Critical Thinking (Publisher)

As you can see, each of the strategies we have talked about in this series connect to each other.  To keep it simple, it is best to pick one strategy to focus on for a week or two.  Once you feel comfortable using it during a read aloud, add in another strategy for a week or two and think about how you can connect them together.  If you start to feel that you have too many things to focus on while reading, back off on some of them and practice just one or two strategies until they become a natural part of the reading process.

Next week, we will cover the reading comprehension strategy of determining what is important.  This is another higher level skill that is necessary to reading informative texts and is critical to learning.  So make sure to come back next week for some concrete strategies.

If you enjoyed this post then you may be interested in reading 7 Keys to Comprehension: How to Help Your Kids Read It and Get It!

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7 Keys to Comprehension: How to Help Your Kids Read It and Get It!
  • Zimmermann, Susan (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 224 Pages - 07/22/2003 (Publication Date) - Harmony (Publisher)