Making Inferences

The other day I tried an activity from Deeper Reading by Kelly Gallagher about making inferences. What I did is post a few sentences, have my students find the ten possible inferences, and then I showed them to them and had them score themselves. I discovered that my 7th graders struggled greatly at being able to do this. Since making inferences is foundational to reading comprehension, I’ve added inferring activities to my daily work with my students. You can see how this works in my Fever, Plagues, and Mosquitoes unit PowerPoint about An American Plague by Jim Murphy.  We also read Fever 1793 by Karen Halse Andersen.

You can see the inference activity on slides 6,7,8,11,12,14,15.  The other slides have activities for inferring word meaning using context clues.  Enjoy!

Revolutionary War/My Brother Sam is Dead/Social Studies Textbook/Roots Mash-up

roots-vol-i-DVDcoverI’ve just started a unit on slavery, the Revolutionary War, and the Civil War, leading to a study of the Civil Rights and Human Rights.  I know, I know.  Sometimes I bite off more than I can chew.  I keep explaining to the students that it is all intertwined and we can’t separate these issues of freedom and slavery.

Our word for the unit is dilemma. We’re trying to look at the dilemmas that the slaves faced, the people faced leading up to and during the Revolutionary War, the slave-owners faced, and the people faced leading up to and during the Civil War.  What would they have done?  Would they have chosen to throw themselves off the slave ships as some slaves did or chosen to survive if at all possible?

We’re reading My Brother Sam is Dead to get a taste of the Revolutionary War.  Not all of the students are spell bound, but many are due to the extreme engagement of a few deep thinkers who are also class leaders.  We had an extended discussion on whether Sam was right when he said we need to be ready to die for our principles.  What a dilemma.  (Many preferred the idea of speaking against their principles rather than dying.)

We’re reading sections of the social studies textbook and then summarizing using sticky notes or writing about the dilemma faced in that particular section.  Then, we watch Roots–the perfect movie to build background knowledge and show how these events are intertwined.

I know after we finish building background knowledge using these resources that we will involve ourselves in some sort of inquiry that will have us focusing on non-fiction reading and writing for a while.  I’m not sure where we’re going with this, but the ride is more than satisfactory.

Note:  I have to spend quite a bit of time covering up frontal nudity in the first movie and masters bedding “wenches” in other sessions, but it is quite worth it.  We also have to discuss some of the language, but I feel this is a good thing for my students to know.

Update #2 on Using Harry Potter Book and Video

Harry-Potter-And-The-Chamber-Of-Secrets-Oh my gosh, this is the best thing I’ve ever done to engage students in reading.  Even my non-enthused ELL students, and my new ELL student who hardly understands any English have been engaged.  We read through Harry Potter 1 and 2:  Officially known as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Doom. We read several chapters, then watched that portion of the movie.  In between we worked on vocabulary using the Latin roots of spells and names to jump start us.  I got the idea from an amazing web site by Susan Jones.

Although reading has always been the highlight of my day, using Harry Potter brought it to new levels.  I focused on teaching the strategies of inferring and visualizing during these two books.  Every once in a while after a read aloud I asked them to draw what we had just read.  Thanks to the background knowledge provided by the movie, all students improved in their ability to visualize.  Sometimes I let them know that they were going to draw after I read, and sometimes I told them afterwards.  Soon, the results became quite similar as they improved their active listening skills and their engagement.  We connected implying to inferring and so the questions I asked varied from, “What is J.K. Rowling implying here?” to “What do you infer from what I just read?”  Students were able to make a transference to their writing.  Joy!

I was tempted to throw my historical fiction curriculum to the wind and continue reading the series, but my students revolted.  With the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, my students wanted to read the books as quickly or slowly as they wanted and in the order they wanted.  I count that a success.

Inferences: readers’ detective work

imagesWe’ve been reviewing Dr. Goodreader as we near the end of the school year.  Today we talked about inferences.  First, we discussed types of inferences:

  • Inferring word meaning from context clues,
  • Pronoun resolution:  For example, who does “he” refer to?,
  • Anaphoric resolution: For example,  knowing that computer and Dell refer to the same thing.,
  • Predictions:  inferring what may happen (these need to be reasonable, but it is not necessary that they are accurate),
  • Who’s talking inferences:  determing the speaker when dialogue isn’t labeled,
  • Spatial inferences:  inferring the spatial relationships of people and things,
  • Cause inferences:  inferring the cause of an event,
  • Time inferences:  inferring where you are in time whether involving flashbacks and flashforwards or simply a straight timeline,
  • Emotional inferences:  inferring the characters’ feelings and emotions or what happened given the feelings and emotions of the character,
  • Stretching inferences:  inferring the “whys” and the “what-do-you-think-happens-after-the-book-ends”,
  • Authorial inferences:  why do you think the author wrote this the way he/she did?

We didn’t call them by these names, necessarily.  We gave examples from books we’ve read and are reading.  Then we discussed WHY good readers make inferences.  I thought the kids came up with a pretty good list:

  • To be more involved in the book (especially with predictions),
  • To understand the book,
  • To learn about people,
  • To learn about writing.