Lesson: Inferences with background knowledge

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Lesson Objective

Students will be able to make inference using evidence from a text and background knowledge.

Lesson Plan

Connection (3-5 mins): Readers, today we will begin working on a new strategy.  All of you did a great job identifying details in a text, now you are ready to take your thinking a step further.  Today we will practice making inferences.  Readers make inferences to help build a better understanding of stories and create a deeper connection with characters.


Teach (10-12 mins): Students should be seated on the carpet with a partner.  They will be expected to turn and talk to this partner throughout the lesson.  We can think of inferences like an equation.  Teacher reveals teaching chart for the day that has the equation: Inferences = evidence from text + background knowledge.  In order to make inferences we have to pull evidence from the text we are reading plus what we already know about the topic. 


We can follow three steps to create inferences.  First we must read a text to gather evidence.  Second, we use our background knowledge to think about the evidence.  Last, we put everything together to create our own thought.  Let’s practice this idea together.


Teacher reads aloud from The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson. 


That Summer the fence that stretch through our town seemed bigger.  We lived in a yellow house on one side of it.  White people lived on the other.  And Mama said, “Don’t climb over that fence when you play.” She said it wasn’t safe.


If I stop here to think, I can make an inference.  My evidence from the text is that white people lived on the other side of the fence.  I know using my background knowledge that fences separate things from each other.  So if I add those two thoughts together, I can infer that whites and blacks were separated because they were on separate sides of the fence. Let’s keep reading.  Teacher reads aloud following paragraph.


That summer there was a girl who wore a pink sweater.  Each morning she climbed up on the fence and stared over at our side.  Sometimes I stared back.  She never sat on that fence with anybody, that girl didn’t.  Once when we were jumping rope, she asked if she could play.  And my friend Sandra said no without even asking the rest of us.  I don’t know what I would have said.  Maybe yes.  Maybe no.


Thinking about this example, I can use evidence from the text that Sandra told the girl no.  I have background knowledge that I don’t like to play with people that I don’t know or that are different from me.  Now I want you to think for a minute about those two ideas and try to infer what the author is telling us.  Turn and tell your partner.  Students should turn and talk.  Teacher calls on a partnership to share and adds the share to class chart.  You are right, I can infer that Sandra said no because they are different.


Let’s try one more example before you read on your own.  Teacher reads aloud the paragraph below.


It rained a lot that summer.  On rainy days that girl sat on the fence in a raincoat.  She let herself get all wet and acted like she didn’t even car.  Sometimes I saw her dancing around in puddles, splashing and laughing.  Mama wouldn’t let me go out in the rain.  “That’s why I bought you rainy-day toys,” my mama said.  “You stay inside here-where it’s warm and safe and dry. “  But every time it rained, I looked for that girl.  And I always found her.  Somewhere near the fence. 


I am going to select the evidence from the text this time and let you do the rest of the thinking.  My evidence from the text is that “you stay inside here, where it’s warm and safe and dry”.  I want you to turn and tell your partner what background knowledge you have about rainy days.  Do you get to go outside and play or do you have to stay inside?  One you have turned with your partner, stop and jot what you can infer based on evidence and background knowledge.  Teacher calls on students to share out responses and adds them to the chart. 


Readers, you did such a great job.  I know you are ready to try to make inferences on your own.  Remember inferences are important because they help us think deeper about a book and create connections to characters.


Active Engagement (15-20 mins): Students return to their seats to finish reading the book (text attached).  As they read, they are prompted several times to add background knowledge and infer about highlighted evidence.  Teacher should conference with students during this time and help students who may struggle with the reading assignment. 


Exit Slip/Share (3-5 mins): Teacher should collect reading selection and use as an exit slip.  These can be quickly sorted to determine what students need more practice with the skill.


Reflection: This lesson was a struggle for my students.  They were able to create inferences while on the carpet with me, but independently often were not able to monitor their own background knowledge to ensure it fit with the story.  I addressed this issue in a future lesson to help clarify misconceptions.

Lesson Resources

The Other Side Inferences.doc  


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