I chose this book because it's a classic fable that the kids may or may not be familiar with. I LOVE doing classics with my kids because they are universal themes that occur again and again in literature. My students were familiar with the movie version of this book, but had not heard this story. This is a simplified version for 2nd grade with some great opportunities for inferences about the story elements.
Underlined words below are lesson vocabulary words that are emphasized and written on sentence strips for my Reading & Writing word wall. I pull off the words off the wall for each lesson, helping students understand this key 'reading and writing' vocabulary can be generalized across texts and topics. The focus on acquiring and using these words is part of a shift in the Common Core Standards towards building students’ academic vocabulary. My words are color coded ‘pink’ for literature/’blue’ for reading strategies/’orange’ for informational text/'yellow' for writing/’green’ for all other words)
Common starting point
In this lesson, I contrast the idea of inferential and literal questions and answers. My students are comfortable with these kinds of questions because we finished a unit on questioning. For your reference, the first lesson where I covered the kinds of questions was The Big Question with Informational Text. I used similar techniques of having the students identify the kind of question. This helps them to realize how much information comes from the text and how the inferential questions require schema and background knowledge built upon what the author offers.
Give the purpose of the lesson:
Introduce strategy - teacher models
Practice strategy - guided practice
My goal in this lesson is to get the kids asking questions as they read and reflect if the answers are inferences or literal. Asking a variety of questions as they read deepens their understanding of the story. (RL.2.1) I want the kids to make lots of inferences, but ultimately we are focusing on inferences about the plot. I want to encourage lots of inferencing, but then we'll go back and think about that we learned specifically about the plot. We are using post-it notes so we can go back and pick the questions and answers that best describe the plot.
Read and give them time to ask/answer questions
Wrap up the lesson
Labeling questions as inferential or literal is not the main focus of this unit, but I want the kids to identify the kind of answer they are giving because it makes them go back to the text. Here's an example of helping a student to label. This is a part of close reading, encouraging students to verify what they are learning by checking the text for information. Many times, students read literature to answer the question. Using information from the illustrations and text to improve understanding and making inferences demonstrates a more focused reading and deeper level of comprehension. (RL.2.7) The Common Core Standards shift the responsibility for this comprehension to students so they will use the illustrations and words to have a better understanding of the the plot.
As I continue to teach more and more reading strategies, I am excited to see the kids bring knowledge to the text. They are predicting to anticipate events, using imaging to 'see' what is happening and making great connections. When I see them using these reading strategies, I 'call them out' on this. I want the other kids to hear these great models and see that while we read, we should continue to use multiple strategies to deepen the comprehension of text. In this example, a student make a great connection to Social Studies. This shows me that she understands what is happening in the text we are reading and can generalize those ideas across the curriculum.
Focus the inferences
Add some color
Scaffolding and Special Education: This lesson could be easily scaffolded up or down, depending on student ability.
Students with language challenges may need help with the formation of questions and inferences. You can pair them up with a partner or prompt them as needed. As they work independently, check with them to see if they can explain their inferences.
For those with higher language, challenge them to ask deeper level questions. Go beyond 'Why did they ask Merlin?' to 'How could Merlin help this situation?' Expect the higher level vocabulary they may be able to use. There are some great words in the book that they could incorporate - magical, rule, and observe.
I received a gift during this lesson, but the kids didn't intend to give it.....
As we were finishing the project, a student mentioned that their inferences were getting really long! She didn't really like having to write that much, but I changed it around to show them that their long writing shows me how smart they are becoming! I gave them some perspective that the longer writing and deeper thoughts are getting them ready for 3rd grade.
This is how that conversation about longer detailed inferences went.