Adventures in Literacy Land: Inferring

Showing posts with label Inferring. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Inferring. 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.


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.


Word Callers Book Study - Chapters 7 & 8

I love the title of Chapter 7, "Connecting the Dots" because it is a great way to think about inferring, which is difficult for word callers.

Kelly Cartwright categorizes inferences into two types:  text-connecting and gap-filling.  Text-connecting inferences require a reader to connect two ideas from a text to construct an idea that is not explicitly stated in the text.  Gap-filling inferences require a reader to connect their background knowledge to a piece (or multiple pieces) of text information to construct meaning.  Word callers have trouble with inference because they have to connect MULTIPLE bits of information and talk/think about things that are not in the text.  What can we do to help them?  We need to "make students aware that there are hidden meanings in the text that must be discovered. (Cartwright, 2010, p. 98).

Working with students on an individual basis allows the teacher to provide more specific, feedback to that student.  Using the two-story clue hunt, helps students make text-connecting and gap-filling inferences by using clue words in the story to create those inferences.

How it works:
  • Explain to students that you will be solving a puzzle today as they read a story.  To solve the puzzle we are going to look for clue words.
  • Read the first story.  Identify the clue words and explain what the clue words reveal about the story.
  • Read the second story.  The student helps you identify the clue words and explains what they tell about the story.  For any clue words that the student doesn't identify, tell the clue words and work WITH them to develop an explanation.
Because word callers don't recognize reading as a meaning-making process, they need to be nudged in the right direction.

Three-step inference building is an intensive process that spans six to seven small-group lessons that result in students becoming active thinkers.

How it works:

  • Finding Clue Words (lessons 1, 2, & 3) - Students find clue words in sentences and discuss the meanings provided by the clue words.
  • Question Generating (lessons 4, 5, & 6) - Students become the teacher and ask questions using the clue words that will help their fellow students make inferences.
  • Making Predictions (lesson 7) - Use a story that has one sentence covered.  Have students use clues from the rest of the story to determine the meaning of the sentence covered.

Without explicit instruction in how to comprehend texts, we cannot expect word callers to become active readers.  We need to give these students a glimpse into the mind of a proficient reader by "actively engag[ing] students in a running conversation about texts' meanings and their own thoughts about those meaning while reading a text. (Cartwright, 2010, p. 113).  We can do these through a process called Transactional Strategies Instruction where strategies are blended into a meaning-making experience rather than taught and practiced in isolation.

How it works:
Gather a small group (this a conversational type strategy) and pick a common text to read.

  • Good Strategy Users - As you read the text, emphasize that good readers use strategies we can't see, highlight various strategies during the reading and explain the reasoning behind using that strategy
    • MEANING IS ALWAYS THE PRIMARY FOCUS not just using a particular strategy
  • Gradual Release of Responsibility - Provide a specific strategy for students to use.  Before asking them to use it, explain the reasoning behind using the strategy - How does it help a reader make meaning?
  • Collaborative Learning - This is a student-centered approach because the teacher releases responsibility to the students quickly.  Asking questions like "What makes you think that?" and having students explain their thinking to each other.
  • Interpretative Discussion - Teachers guide students' thinking by prompting them with strategy use questions instead of giving evaluative feedback.  Students contributions are valued and supported.
"TSI is about changing the way you teach, not just changing what you teach. (Cartwright, 2010, p. 114).

Questions to Consider (please use the comment section below to share your thoughts!)

Consider the difference between text-connecting and gap-filling inferences.  Have you noticed that your students find one ore the other more difficult?  Why do you think this is the cause?

How is TSI similar to your current comprehension instruction?  How is it different?

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Pictures are Worth a Thousand Inferences

Wow!  What a fun launch week!  I hope that everyone had fun!  We really love all of the comments, which helped us work on ideas for posts.  We noticed a lot of our royal followers felt like comprehension was a hard are to teach, so we have been working on some ideas to post about comprehension and vocabulary, as well as other areas of literacy.  Stay tuned throughout the month as we focus on different literacy skills.

Prize packs were emailed out last night.  If you do not see it in the email you entered with, check your spam folder.  If it is not there, please let us know by leaving your email here.  We had some emails bounce back.  Thank you so much for your patience!

This past week I was working on making inferences with my second graders.  This is always a tough concept for students to grasp, and it definitely takes more than one lesson.  Every year I reread and use my favorite professional book Comprehension Connections: Bridges to Strategic Reading by Tanny McGregor.
This book is full of great ideas to give students real-life strategies to grasp comprehension concepts.  One of my favorite chapters to review is the chapter on inferring.  Tanny makes this concept much more fun through real-life examples like people's trash and shoes.  I wrote an entire post about it, if you go {here} you can read it.

One of the other real-life examples she gives after the concrete examples is to use advertisements to help make an inference.  I couldn't find any advertisements that I liked, but I did have some wonderful pictures from a calendar I had gotten for free.  Do you have any of these hanging around?  This calendar was one of Norman Rockwell paintings.  They are FULL of clues for making inferences!  If you don't have any on hand, Wikipaintings is a perfect place to find some to project onto a whiteboard.

I let the students look at the pictures and tell me what they think might be happening and why.  The key is to get them to talk about why they say those things.  As they told me their thoughts, they changed their minds to make a clearer story.  Here are the pictures and their thoughts.

Here is the first picture with my kids' thoughts:
{Sorry about the glare, crazy lights!}  I love this picture, especially for this time of year!  I asked the kids what they thought was going on.  They went way beyond the literal.  Their thoughts:

The boy is scared because he might be in the man's yard.
The man might be his grandpa.
The boy wants the man's picnic basket because he is hungry.
The man is telling him he did a good job.
The boy may not know who the man is.

When I asked them about their thinking (super important), they told me things like that is how their faces look when they feel that way or that picnic baskets usually have food. Wow!  And I said almost nothing other than, "Hold on, let me write that down!"

Now for the second picture:

And their thoughts:
She is an artist because she has art stuff.
She is running from someone who wants to take her stuff.  (Love this one!)
It is raining, and she does not want her stuff to get wet.
Her art supplies are in the case because I have a case like that with my art stuff in it.

Again, I said very little!  Oh the power of their words!  I love when they teach me to stop and listen, and studies show that kids learn more when THEY do the talking.  We all have to remember that sometimes!

After looking at the pictures, we talked about how they drew the conclusions about the pictures.  We made this anchor chart to help them remember how we make an inference.  

Once we did that, we started looking at various passages and finding key words that helped us draw a conclusion.  I thought this would be mundane, but they loved doing it.  They really enjoyed talking about the why.  And that is the important part, the why.  Kids learn so much better when they can explain their thought processes.

What are some strategies you use to help students grasp the concept of making an inference?  How do you get students to explain the "why"?  What else could help you teach your children about making inferences?

Come back tomorrow when Carla talks more comprehension!