Adventures in Literacy Land: Inference

Showing posts with label Inference. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Inference. Show all posts

Making Inferences Outside of the Text

Do your primary students have trouble making inferences?  Try teaching them to make inferences outside of the text first!  Use these daily opportunities to teach students what it means to make an inference.
Most of the classrooms at my last school were down side hallways.  But the music class was in the main hallway on the way to the cafeteria  and gym so we walked by it at least four times a day.   Since the teacher’s door opened outward into the hallway, she had some tape on the floor and a cone placed where the door opened so that students would walk around it and she wouldn’t have to worry about anyone being hit with it.

Without fail, every day at least one of my students (all of them at the beginning of the year!) would walk right through the taped off area, over the cone, or behind the cone.  I started telling them to make an inference.  Why was the tape there?  Why was the cone there?  Look at the door...which way does it open?  Eventually most of them picked up on it but it become a running joke that whenever anyone ignored the tape or cone, my students would tell them to make an inference.

I did things like this with my students ALL THE TIME.  Working with English Language Learners, I knew it was important for my students to understand the meaning of the academic vocabulary they were being taught in class.  What better way to do this than to teach it in fun, real life situations?  My students totally knew what it meant to make an inference...use the clues and what you know to FIGURE IT OUT!

Here are some other simple experiences that you can use to teach making inferences to primary students without any texts or materials:

  • It's raining outside.  What will you be doing during recess?
  • The teacher next door just brought in a kid with a paper and sat him in the back of you classroom.  Why?
  • Part of the playground is marked off with yellow tape.  What does this mean?
  • You walk into music class and you don't see a teacher who is not your normal teacher.  Where is the music teacher?
  • The principal just walked in your room with three other people dressed in suits and talking very seriously.  What should you do?
  • Your only pencil broke, you can't sharpen pencils in the middle of the day, and the pencil jar is empty.  How can you get another pencil to use?
  • A parent walks into your classroom with balloons and cupcakes.  What is going on?
  • Extra students from Mrs. Smith's class joined your class for the day.  Why?
  • You arrive at the cafeteria and the doors are still locked.  Why?
  • The entrance to the bathroom is blocked off with cones.  What does this mean?
  • You walk by Mr. Hark's classroom and see his kids yelling loudly.  You see someone who is not Mr. Hark at the front of the room.  What inference can you make?
  • Another teacher picked your class up from recess.  Why?
  • Your teacher tells the kids in your reading group that they have to share books.  Why would this be?
  • A boy is sitting alone on a bench at recess time.  What should you do?
  • Your teacher is sitting at her desk with her hand on her head.  What can you infer?
  • You walk into gym class and no one is there.  You see other classes heading out to the playground.  What can you infer?
  • Your principal always does the announcements, but today they were done by the secretary.  Why might this be?
The list goes on and on!  There are SO MANY times during the day that our students make inferences without even realizing it.  Take advantage of these opportunities to teach the academic vocabulary that goes along with making inferences.  This will make the task so much easier for students when working with text.


Using Word Clouds as a Pre-Reading Activity

Do you use word clouds in your reading classroom?  Check out this post on how to use a word cloud of a picture book as a pre-reading activity with your students.  It’s a fun way to help students identify the topic, genre, important vocabulary, set a purpose, develop questions, and access prior knowledge before reading.
For whatever reason, I came across a pin of this item (below) in my Pinterest feed and it caught my attention.  
Do you use word clouds in your reading classroom?  Check out this post on how to use a word cloud of a picture book as a pre-reading activity with your students.  It’s a fun way to help students identify the topic, genre, important vocabulary, set a purpose, develop questions, and access prior knowledge before reading.
It's a word cloud from a 7th grade social studies teacher.  She makes a word cloud of her state's standards to share with her students at the start of the year so they can make inferences about what they will be learning.

I'm always looking for different ways to teach inferring, so I thought about how this could be used with younger students as a pre-reading activity.  I decided to make a word cloud with the text of a picture book to see if it would in fact pull out important words.  

I made two word clouds with two different spring themed books and I was pretty happy with how they turned out.  For the most part, they both seem to pinpoint the important vocabulary from the text and I think they definitely give students insight about the text they are about to read.
Do you use word clouds in your reading classroom?  Check out this post on how to use a word cloud of a picture book as a pre-reading activity with your students.  It’s a fun way to help students identify the topic, genre, important vocabulary, set a purpose, develop questions, and access prior knowledge before reading.
Do you use word clouds in your reading classroom?  Check out this post on how to use a word cloud of a picture book as a pre-reading activity with your students.  It’s a fun way to help students identify the topic, genre, important vocabulary, set a purpose, develop questions, and access prior knowledge before reading.
Do you use word clouds in your reading classroom?  Check out this post on how to use a word cloud of a picture book as a pre-reading activity with your students.  It’s a fun way to help students identify the topic, genre, important vocabulary, set a purpose, develop questions, and access prior knowledge before reading.
Do you use word clouds in your reading classroom?  Check out this post on how to use a word cloud of a picture book as a pre-reading activity with your students.  It’s a fun way to help students identify the topic, genre, important vocabulary, set a purpose, develop questions, and access prior knowledge before reading.
So how could you use these word clouds with younger readers during a pre-reading activity?  

Note: Since these texts are mostly nonfiction, I am focusing on those skills.  In the future, I'd like to try a fable or another genre and see what the results are.  

Identify the topic:  Easy right?!  What is this text going to be about?  What makes you think that?  The kids need to go beyond just saying seeds or plants.  They should be able to figure out that the first word cloud is for a book about a tiny seed growing into a flower, for instance.

Make inferences about the genre:  Students should be able to figure out that the texts are non-fiction or informational once they identify the topic.  

Set purpose for reading:  Following above, once identifying the topic and genre, the next natural step is to set a specific purpose for reading (to gather information about how a seed grows into a flower or plant).  Likewise, ask students to determine the author's purpose (to give information).

Access prior knowledge:  We do KWL's or concept maps before reading all the time.  Students looking at a word cloud of a text before reading would have a little bit more to go off of versus just a single word (i.e. What do you know about plants?).  The presence of other words will tip them towards other concepts they may not have thought of and their responses will be more detailed.

Develop questions:  Have students ask questions that they have about the concepts on the word cloud.  Another idea is to have students ask questions  that they believe will be answered in the text, even if they already know the answer (such as, What is a seed?).  Sometimes kids just need practice developing relevant questions. 

Introduce vocabulary:  While doing the above activities, assess how familiar your students are with the shown words and pre-teach necessary vocabulary that your students are not familiar with.  

As a side note, I made these word clouds using  There are lots of other options but this was free, easy, and what popped into my head!  It did take me about ten minutes to type in the text for the book but it wasn't that much of a hassle, especially if it's for a book you would use every year.  I tried making them with Tagul too because you can do shapes, but I felt like it was a bit harder to read with so many words. 

Do you use word clouds in your ELA classroom?  Share your ideas with me! 


Reading Between the Lines

Typically my teaching takes place in a small group format.  That is the life of a Title I teacher...and I love it!  But there are a couple weeks within the school year that my teammate, Karen and I, co-teach together.  This past week was one of them.

We LOVE Tanny McGregor's book, Comprehension Connections and many of the lessons that we co-teach begin with her ideas.  Tanny's chapter on inferring sparked the most recent lessons with our first graders.  She lays out some great ideas about bringing in trash and shoes to infer.  The anchor charts that are recommended are great visuals.  We found great success when we used these lessons last year.

To put these new inferring skills to work, we ended each lesson with a book.  Since we teach first graders, we wanted to choose books that would help them to feel successful with inferring.  Wordless books by Lita Judge, as well as, some alphabet books were both used this year.

My focus today is on the alphabet books because they can be a great place to start when inference, evidence, and schema are first being introduced.

reading between the lines

These four titles: A Is for Salad, Q is for Duck, Tomorrow's Alphabet, and A is for...? all encourage students to "read between the lines" in order to understand what the author is trying to say.  For each of these books the students need to use their schema and evidence from the letters/text or pictures to determine what the alphabet letter actually stands for.  Our questions for each page:
What can you infer?
What is your evidence to support that?
Our first graders would also include schema or background knowledge into their answers and we would point that out immediately as we referred to the evidence within the book.

Tomorrow's Alphabet by George Shannon

This text is really interesting because the students have to think about what the object will become in the future.  For students that do not have a lot of schema on that particular object, they have to rely heavily on the evidence within the pictures.  Here is an example:

I would show only the page that states "C is for milk--."  My question was, "What can you infer the author means by C is for milk?"  I loved this because some students wanted to immediately answer, "Cow-milk comes from a cow and cow starts with c."  Then I would remind them that the title is "Tomorrow's Alphabet" and that piece of evidence tells me that this milk will turn into something.  This prompted more inferences about cake, cookies, or cupcakes because the milk may be part of the batter.  

Yes! Yes!  The evidence is there and so is their schema!

But then I show them that the author actually decided upon the word cheese.

The book continues on in this manner.  Some answers require more thinking, schema, and evidence than others.  It is interesting to see what they come up with for some of the letters.

Q Is for Duck by Mary Elting and Michael Folsom

This text relies on the schema of students but there is evidence with the pictures to help them infer what the letter ACTUALLY stands for.

On this particular page, my classes inferred that the "F" actually stood for feathers, feed, fly, and flamingo.  Each of these inferences were backed up by evidence from this page and their schema on what they know about birds.

When we showed the next page, we covered up the answer just to see if they would change their inference based on the new evidence shown.

And the new evidence led them to infer that "F" actually stood for fly.  They were correct!

A is For Salad by Mike Lester

This text provides the evidence for what the author is inferring on one page, where the two books above use two pages.  For this reason, I believe this book is a bit easier and would be perfect to use with kindergarten students or beginning of the year first graders.

As you can see from this illustration, the author is not talking about pajamas.  We can infer that the E really stands of an elephant because we see an elephant in the illustration.

A is for ...? A Photographer's Alphabet of Animals by Henry Horenstein

This text has even less text for students to use as evidence.  They must use a lot of schema, the beginning letter, and the photograph to help them infer what the author is really trying to show them.

Students must look at the photograph (such as the one above) and try to figure out what animal it is.  That is it.  I have to admit...I fell in love with this book the moment I saw it.  The photos are beautiful.

Reading between the lines or inferring is a skill that students do everyday.  They do it when they see your "teacher look" or when they get dressed in the morning.  The tricky part for us as teachers is getting them to understand that they also do this when they read.  AND that they use evidence throughout the book to make those inferences.

My hope is that some of these alphabet books can help our youngest readers begin  to infer and provide evidence when reading.


See It. Hear It. Do It.

I am so honored to be blogging with Adventures in Literacy Land this year!  My name is Sarah from Simply Literacy.  Literacy Land is celebrating their 2nd birthday and this month is filled with new and old bloggers highlighting their expertise in teaching.  I am so excited to introduce myself!  

For the past 9 of my 11 years of teaching, I have been at the same district, teaching third grade reading....and I have LOVED every second of it.  But I have not always had a love for reading.  In fact, it was quite the opposite.  In elementary school, I struggled so much in reading that I tried my hardest to avoid it at all costs.  Of course my parents and teachers did not let that happen.  Not only am I am a product of Reading Recovery, but I also received a lot of one-on-one support during the school day, plus a tutor in the evenings and on the weekends.   I disliked hated reading.   Luckily, all of the extra reading support helped me academically....but unfortunately it didn't change my feelings about reading.  My LOVE for reading didn't actually start until I went through my education classes in college.  After graduating, I entered the education world determined to help all students not only become successful, life-long readers, but I wanted to make sure I was able to help students build a love for reading.....especially the struggling ones.  I wanted students to change their minds from thinking reading is impossible to possible. do I help my 3rd graders become successful readers? Each lesson I teach is thought out carefully.   Everyday I ask myself, "would the struggling-eight-year-old-Sarah from 25 years ago understand this lesson?"  I have found that it is as simple as incorporating learning styles that are appropriate for ALL students.

Let me show you how I include multi-sensory lessons in my teaching each day.  

Every year, I focus a lot on teaching my students how to make inferences while reading.  I stress the fact that authors do not always give readers all the information and that good readers have to infer or draw conclusions in order to understand a text.  Before starting this skill with stories, I emphasize to my students how we make inferences in our daily lives without even realizing it.   I start with a crime scene in my classroom.  This activity is taken from Tanny McGregor's Comprehension Connections. This crime scene usually takes place at the beginning of the school year. The students walk into my room on a Monday morning and see this in our classroom library:
Of course I always use my best acting skills, and show how upset I am that someone would leave this mess in my classroom.  I explain that we were going to be detectives by using the clues and activate our schema (background knowledge) in order to solve this case.  Little do the students know....but they are learning all about making inferences!  As the year continues, I have the students dig deeper by teaching inference through some multi-sensory lessons below.

-Who are my neighbors?- I create a story about a new family that moved in next door to my house.  I ask my students to help me learn information about my new neighbors by digging through some of their trash. This activity is a twist on Tanny McGregor's lesson in Comprehension Connections.

-Flocabulary- Flocabulary is a website that creates educational hip-hop videos, interactive activities, and online assessments for students in grades k-12. My students love to sing and dance along to the hip-hop songs.  Flocabulary is a multi-sensory approach that uses music, rhythm, and rhyme to increase student engagement.  The songs are so catchy!

-Picture Books-There are so many picture books that I enjoy reading to my students to practice and increase inference skills.  Such books include Tops and Bottoms by Janet Stevens, Enemy Pie by Derek Munson, and Animals Should Definitely Not Wear Clothing by Judi Barrett.  But my favorite books for inferring are wordless picture books such as Window by Jeannie Baker.

-Poems-"Impressive Inference" poems are great to use when teaching inferences.  When read aloud, poetry is rhythm, music, sounds, and beats which can be great for the kinesthetic learners.   This activity was found here.

Videos-  There are several short animated videos that I use to practice inference.  Check out my Pinterest board of videos here .

Comic Strips- The students love getting in groups and filling in the speech bubbles for certain comic strips.  This is a good activity for students to work together with peers and make inferences.   I took this lesson from Speech Room News.

Tic-Tac PowerPoint- I use this PowerPoint in several different ways.  Sometimes I will break the students up into two groups and we play as a class.  I've also played this game during small groups, intervention groups, and in partners.  I have a Tic Tac PowerPoint for almost every reading skill.

Games-Throughout the years, I have purchased a large number of board games that review reading skills.  These games are an exciting and engaging way for students to practice and apply reading skills.  My students really like to play Crack the Case! Inference Center.  In this game, they like to become detectives, piecing together clues to solve mysteries. 

The example lessons and activities listed above focus only on one reading skill.  I do my best to teach all my reading skills with this kind of variety.  Students rely heavily on their senses to process information when they are leaning.  I think a multi-sensory environment will increase my students' focus, attention, concentration, awaken their memories/schema, and possibly improve creativity.

I am so excited to be a part of this group and share more lessons with you this year!


Apps to Support Reading Comprehension

Hey everyone!  It's Bex here from Reading and Writing Redhead. There are SO many apps out there to wade through so I wanted to take a look at a few that could support your students as they work on reading comprehension skills. It is easy to find apps for phonics and vocabulary but trying to find apps for comprehension or ways to use apps to support it is not such a piece of cake. 

And of course as with an app or technology, it won't work for everyone in every circumstance so please comment and let us know what you like and what works for you and your kiddos! Additionally, for most of these I have the free versions but there are paid versions so if you have the paid versions let us know what additional features you can access!

First here are a few apps that are straightforward and your child should be able to use it independently.

Inference Ace

Inference Ace is one of a series of apps from Happy Frog. Inference Ace has a cute and simple interface. In it, students are presented with a series of situations and asked to think about "when", "where" etc.

Here are the levels and as you finish level one, yes you unlock level 2. A level can be repeated so a student who needs more practice could do that or this app could be used by multiple students.

Here is an example of  situations and the options for students to decide when it is happening.

I like that if the student gets it wrong, they prompt her, much like a teacher would.

Occasionally I think you would get a situation a student might be confused by like this one. If you have no background information about camp, you might be stumped, but cafeteria is a big clue here and might make up for that.

The only thing with this app is that it does not give an option where the question/responses can be read aloud so your student needs to be a pretty fluent reader. Also of course, no app like this can ever replace skilled instruction from a teacher, but this is a nice option to supplement what you might be doing in the classroom.

Inference Clues is of course another one of the series of apps from Happy Frog. It has a similar interface. On this app, if you click on the person icon, you can sign in so students can play under their names.

Inference Clues asks students to look for clue words or phrases that help them figure out when or where things or happening. Oh, and by the way, the circles on top fill up as students answer questions right. 

There is a user management tool with these but it is not passcode protected so students might access it; however this could be handy for a teacher! 

Here are some apps that may involve more support from you, the teacher and a little more management and supervision but are still possible uses in small groups, independently or even whole class.

Story Creator
I am new to this app but it is great and has a lot of possibilities! If you want to try it, I highly recommend you search for videos on all the ways to use it because I will barely be able to scratch the surface here. But in any case, you can have students read a story - for example an ebook, and respond to it in in this app. 

So let's say you had your students read the ebook Tuggy and Friends (free by the way) in iBooks.  Have them snap some screenshots while they do this. Then you can have them open Story Creator and start by having them either post their name on the cover or post a screen shot of the cover of the book and their name. See how they can add text, images from the camera roll, take pictures, or do drawings? Neat!

Then they can turn the virtual page and add pictures,  text etc. in whichever way you direct them. You can have them summarize the book, respond based on character and setting and so much more. Sky's the limit with this one!

Want your students to have a virtual version of notetaking when they read an ebook, like when you give them post its to take notes? Or maybe note taking on  a tablet is more motivating for reluctant readers? Here are a few apps that may help!

Mental Note
Mental note allows you to type notes, (it gets saved under the first few words of the note so students should type their name first) and then also draw pictures or handwrite notes. The notes can be saved as PDFs, pictures, text, or just in the note app.


Note Master

This is a favorite because students choose a title for their notes and then can type and insert pictures from the camera roll. So if  your student read Tuggy and friends and took some screen shots, she can type a response (here she is giving evidence of how she knows Tuggy is friendly) and then paste a picture! These notes can be uploaded right to dropbox, icloud, emailed, or opened in word or a a .txt file.


I love Popplet. Right now I have the lite version on my phone but my iPad which is at school has the full version. This would be a great way to create a story map, character maps, and endless other reading responses - Cause and Effect, Setting....

I don't have tons of screen shots but when you start a new one you can type text or insert images.
You can add a lot of popples and you can set them up in all kinds of way. This is a very basic one!


And when done, students can save as a jpeg, or email it. There are lots of ways  to customize them too with colors and  themes!

BONUS: Reading Island #1 
I couldn't put it with the others because it is not really for reading comprehension but it is really fun and teaches lots of different reading skills in a fun way.
Here is part of its short vowel sounds section! It has a combination of videos and games. I ran through it for a while and did short vowel sounds, initial, medial and final sound replacement, and spelling. 

So again, these are not thorough descriptions but i just wanted to give you all an idea of what is out there. And not all of these will work for everyone. Comment and let us know below what apps you like for comprehension and  how you use them. Have a great blog post or have you seen a great youtube video for an app? Let us know! Thanks so much!