I have been meaning to share a post on teaching inference for some time now. Extra time seems as elusive as ever,but I am determined to start blogging on a regular basis. More importantly, I am determined to start sharing ideas, questions and problems.
A few years ago my colleague and I were pouring over our student data. We found that many of our students struggle to make high level inferences. Fast forward three years later, and we notice this is a recurring problem.
Which reminds me of something else I want to speak on. There is a common dialogue I hear among some educators when faced with this situation.
It goes a little something like this:
"Ugh..weren't they supposed to learn this in plug in any grade you like. Why should I have to teach this?"
Let me repeat..this is among SOME and not ALL. And, as an educator I get the frustration one feels when wanting to move forward rather than look back. This situation often forces teachers to work with content or skills less familiar, it requires more work, and naturally leads to more stress. This creates the negative relationship most educators have with said situation.
The world of education is changing drastically, and so with it the student body. Teachers much constantly work to close gaps, make new connections and rebuild fractured intellectual structures.
And so, this is why I want to share. I hope I encourage some of you to share. Also, please tell me how I can improve on lessons!!
I think we can help each other feel less intimidated by our jobs and the idea of teaching the old or unknown. But, we can only do this if we make our task less daunting. I see great educators come and go all the time. Some leave forever because the job has just become too much. So here is my first step at keeping my peers healthy and in the game. I hope you can find a way to use this.
Now to the lesson: Created by myself and Shelby Acevedo
I am just going to outline it and tell you about the resources. If you need any extra details please let me know.
Objective: Students will understand what an inference is. Students will understand how to make and inference and will know the difference between "zooming in" and "zooming out".
Resources Needed: Zoom: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lhYblhdhQ1M
See the Ocean: http://www.amazon.com/See-Ocean-Estelle-Condra/dp/0977814300 This book is out of print but can still be purchased. It is wonderful!
Step 1: I begin the lesson by posting a picture from CNN's Week in Pictures. This is a great place to find interesting pictures that really engage the students. I pair it with the question "What has happened to this person or what is going on?" The students are given 3-5 minutes to generate a response. I then let them share. We discuss how they know what they know. We leave it at that.
Step 2: I put the kids in groups of about 4. I tell them that they will be competing against each other in a challenge. They are told to assign a scribe, and that they will have to work together quietly to figure something out. Now, if you have an administrator that insists they all be "doing something" (which they are..thinking, practicing effective communication, analyzing images) then you can have them all write. I like to focus on the thinking and discussing, so I assign one scribe.
Step 3: Begin by going through the book page by page, and make sure you include the cover.
Ask them "What is this?" I give them 1 minute to discuss and write an answer down. Repeat over and over. It is so fun to listen to the kids.
Step 4: Debrief with the students. It is very important to talk about the process. I like to go to a particular page (one with girl and play village, they always refer to her as Snow White). I explain that what they were doing was making an inference or analyzing something. I tell them it is the same thing we have been doing with texts. I remind them that analysis is just breaking something down. I then reference the warm-up and we discuss briefly.
We discuss how they immediately applied background knowledge, but that they were zooming in on the girl. We then talk about zooming out and looking at the entire page and then making a guess at what is on it. I tell them that they do the same thing when reading and analyzing a text.
And this is when they have their aha moment. Most are able to make the connection and realize that they often zoom in and focus on one thing without applying it to context when analyzing text.
- The group who correctly identified the most pictures wins candy.
The first year we taught this lesson, and then we then moved to See the Ocean. The students read the story and were asked to find parts of the story where they could infer that the character was blind. There are many hints. Some students figure it out right away, but others don't get it till the end of the book. However, the text is accessible and the students can focus on the skill more easily. I seem to have deleted my old file, but it would have looked something like this..
Text Says: When she could talk, she asked endless questions about the ocean.
“How old is it? How big? How deep? What’s the color? Why the waves? Why the sound?”
Inference: The story says they travel to the ocean often, but Nellie still asks a lot of questions. In particular she asks "what color". This is weird and makes me thinks she can't see or something. If she can, why would she ask what color it is.
I think one year I had them identify and analyze 2, and then they had to get with a peer and take notes on theirs.
Ahh..wow. I really need to start recording like my colleague Del Villar.
Now I reference zooming in and zooming out with my students when we are revising and editing their writing. I even have students say "Ah..ya. I zoomed in.."
Keep up the good fight:)