Scaffolding a Making Inferences Lesson

inference - an idea or conclusion that's drawn from evidence and reasoning. An inference is an educated guess.
 Common Core: TF.E.5.ELA.LI.01 - Reading Literature - Make inferences using the text as evidence - Literature
Early this week, I had the opportunity to observe and participate in a making inferences lesson at my student teaching placement. The students immediately bought into the lesson from the very moment and stayed engaged throughout the process, I knew that I needed to share what the students and I learned.

First, my mentor teacher passed out a chart that they could stick inside of their dry erase boards. She uses a page protector so that they can have a blank piece of paper to write freely or put in a paper for multiple uses. Since they use them at number corner, I would like to have a clipboard handy to help them write on a flat hard surface rather than on the floor or using their hand to hold it steady. 

Here is a similar chart, I created in google documents:

Then she simply explained that when we see or hear something we often make inferences. They are made when we observe something and combine it with our past learning experiences to come to a conclusion about what is happening. Then she let them know that they will be watching a short Disney Pixar clip and they will make inferences based on what they see and hear. The first one they completed together.

My mentor teacher chose the clip, Partly Cloudy:

She played the first one minute and thirty seconds of the Pixar short. Then when they were able to see the blue cloud (different from the other clouds) she paused and asked the students what they observed in the clip so far. Some students directly went to making an inference, but she wanted them to focus on the observations first: who, what, and when. For example: since they are unable to see sadness, she wants them to focus on seeing blue or a frown. After a discussion of what they saw and what they already know (when I am sad, I often frown) they began to make inferences; the blue cloud at the bottom is sad and lonely.

She then had them watch another portion of the Pixar short and then paused it at 2:17 and the students were asked to fill out the chart with their partner. Then as a class they discussed observations, what they already know, and what inferences are made based on these.

The final pause was made at 4:07 where the students first filled out their chart individually and then shared with their partner. As a class, they shared a few ideas from their charts and conversations with their partners. To conclude, they watched the final portion of the Pixar short and discussed how their inferences were similar and/or different from the last scene. They also discussed how the inferences changed from beginning, middle, and end.

This video and discussion took more time than my mentor teacher expected and used some of their science time to complete the video. When she made this announcement the students cheered! This was surprising, because they often want to finish their language lesson quickly as science is their absolute favorite portion of the day.

Day 2. My mentor teacher asked the students to remind her what an inference was and how we create them. After the quick review, she stated that they would be making inferences on what they saw on a picture. She chose to use the optical illusions of the old lady/young lady and the bunny/duck. The students were to first write on their chart by themselves and then share with their partner. Then they shared as a whole group what observations they made and by what they knew or what they had experiences with they made a conclusion to what was seen in the picture.

My mentor teacher made sure to let the students know that there was no right or wrong answer as long as the students had evidence to back up their claims. The conversation made an exciting turn when those who only saw one thing to begin with began to see what the other students saw. They began to use words that showed the understanding of individual perspectives changing the view in which they saw in the images. This made an easy transition to the final portion of the lesson, a small passage.

My mentor teacher explained that now they understood how to make inferences, they were to switch to coming up with inferences based on context clues rather than pictures.  The students were ready and they quickly began using the skills they learned with the Pixar short and the illusions to answer the questions the text provided. The passage was taken from the Wonders curriculum and the students were to read about two characters. Based on what they read, they were to determine the first characters job and the second characters relationship to the first character. Again, it was told that there were no wrong answers as long as the students used evidence to support their conclusion.  

The students had a variety of responses with supporting facts. They did an incredible job! Today, they will be completing a writing exercise that allows them to show us what they learned by reading a portion of text and responding to the questions with the inferences they make. I am sure they will be extremely successful with this assignment and I am looking forward to reading their responses. 

How have you taught inferences in the classroom? Please share in the comments below. Until next time ...

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Thank you for reading my post. Please comment with any questions, concerns, constructive criticisms, or information you would like to add to this subject. Docendo discimus, by teaching we learn.