When I think about my favorite kinds of books to read, I see that those books challenge my thinking. I wonder where the author is going to take me next. I am making connections between characters to try to figure things out. I use your experiences to help me in making sense of the text. My mind is always actively engaged. I need to use the skill of inferring to help me.
I always tell my students that if authors told you every little detail, there would be nothing for your brain to figure out and the story would become boring. There would be no point to reading because your brain wants to be challenged. When students infer in a fictional story they are trying to make sense of the characters, settings, and major events in the story. If students are reading a nonfiction piece they are trying to find the connection between two individuals, events or ideas. In order to achieve either of these standards, students need to take their life experiences and combine them with the clues from the text.
My class has already completed a lesson on inferring by looking at pictures. Today's lesson focuses on inferring by text clues. I purposely made a packet of short texts with no pictures for my students to read so they could infer solely on the text. I didn't want to use a book that contained pictures because I wanted to hone in on just text today. By giving them the packet with short pieces of text, I knew they would be inferring solely on text clues. Eventually we will combine the two skills.
I like to find my resources in a variety of places. I found a great website called The Curriculum Corner. This website was created by two teachers and they have some great reading units. To view their inferring unit just click here. I originally got the idea for the student work for this lesson with their "what can you infer" cards. I wanted to make this lesson a bit more rigorous though so I made my small paragraphs a bit more complex. Just know that you could go to the site and have another resource for inferring.
For this lesson you will need either the Smartboard Inferring With Text Clues.notebook or Activboard Inferring With Text Clues.flipchart lesson. You will also need to copy enough student work Inferring From Text Passages for each child in your class. I have differentiated the work based on skill level for your students. I have made work for a challenge group, on-level group, and approaching group.
I started the lesson by reminding them of the lesson from yesterday. I said, "Yesterday we learned how to infer from pictures. We looked at the pictures and thought about what experience we've had in our lives that might be the same. Then we combined what we knew from the picture along with our experiences in order to make our inferences. Well, we can get clues not just from pictures. Authors give us clues in the words as well. Today we will be taking clues from a text and combine them with experiences from our lives in order to make an inference. It is important that we learn how to do this because authors sometimes leave things for us to figure out. If we don't learn how to infer, we won't be able to understand the story."
I like for my students to work in diverse groups. I partnered up my students before the lesson started and had them sit next to each other on the floor in front of the Activboard. I opened up the Smartboard lesson and I began to model. The first story on the Activboard lesson was about how it was almost 3 o'clock and I put away my materials and folder and then sat down to wait. I read the clues and then did my think aloud:
What do we usually do at 3 o'clock? Why would I be putting my materials and folder away? Why would I sit down to wait?
After asking those questions I had partners talk about this. The students understood that they were getting ready to go home from school for the day. We had a great class discussion about this. Then I modeled how to answer the prompt. The prompt was: "Where Am I? How Do You Know?" I showed the students how to start with clue words that show an opinion such as "I think, or I feel." I said, "Do you remember when we did our opinion writing on clouds and we started with those clue words? That's how I want you to start when you answer these questions." Then I showed the students how to cite their evidence. I showed them to start their sentence with "My clues are ..." and then cite their clues.
You can see how this part of the lesson went in the video here: Guided Practice - Inferring With Text Clues.mp4.
We practiced the 3 remaining stories on the Smartboard lesson. Then I said, " Now it's your turn to read some short stories and make inferences just like we practiced here." I passed out the passages based on my students reading level and they went back to their seats to work.
This part of the lesson was challenging for me. I was continually walking around asking my students questions to help lead them into making an inference. This is what I've been working on this year. There are 3 major aspects I want to improve in my teaching practice: Thinking, Problem Solving, and Questioning. I believed this lesson really touched on these aspects.
I kept questioning my students about the text. Some struggled at first but I kept at it. I wasn't going to give them the answer just because it would be easier for me. The students really had to think and problem solve as they worked to think about the experiences in their life and how those experiences pertained to the text. Even though this was hard for both my students and myself, I kept in mind that if I took the challenge away from my students that it wouldn't benefit them at all. What I did notice from this part of the lesson is that by the 3rd and 4th passages I could really tell that the students were improving with this skill.
I love my closures to be short and sweet. My students were tired from how hard they worked on their independent texts. So my closure was a simple class discussion.
I asked several questions:
These questions summed up our lesson and it reminded the students why it was important to infer and what they have to do in order to accomplish the skill of inferring.
View the video here Student Work Inferring With Text Clues.mp4 to see how my students did and my thoughts on a few samples of student work.