Addressing how these types of questions are taught in schools may increase student performance in this area in future.
Students need to engage in higher order thinking skills, particularly, making inferences – a skill sometimes considered as ‘reading between the lines’ of a text. Higher order thinking skills include inferring, reasoning, generalising, summarising, making comparisons, sequencing, and predicting.
Below, SPC present some ways that teachers might support these higher order thinking skills.
- Discuss interpretations of information in texts as a class or in small groups. This can include giving an interpretation of a text to groups and asking them to find information in the text to support this interpretation. Groups can also be provided with a range of interpretations relating to a text and be asked to identify which are accurate and which are not, providing evidence from the text to support their findings.
- Support students’ understanding of underlying meaning by creating an activity that requires them to look at the intention behind a particular phrase or title. This could include providing a selection of short texts on a single topic, each of which suggests a different authorial intention or tone, for example fear, celebration, anger, humour. Students are then given a list of titles that represent those intentions or tones and have to match them to the appropriate text. Depending on their proficiency level, students could also be asked to produce their own short text and a title that represents the intention or tone of that text.
- Regularly discuss ideas in texts with students, particularly those that are not directly stated and require students to infer or interpret. Ask open-ended questions (using beginnings such as ‘what’, ‘why’ and ‘how’) and encourage students to explain their thoughts.
- Let students practice answering items that have two parts to respond to, getting students to identify the two parts and give a complete response.