Inferencing with a Shocking Beginning

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SWBAT use figurative language and inferencing to draw out the details of what the author is trying to tell us in the first few pages of the Graveyard Book.

Big Idea

To captivate your class and keep them on the edge of their seat, it is important to hook them from the start. This lesson uses the opening pages of the Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, to begin fine tuning their thinking and is perfect for inferencing.

Prior Knowledge Activation:

2 minutes

This lesson can be done right after the opening lesson that used the white boards to brainstorm their prior knowledge on graveyards and adoption. I had to do this lesson the next day due to time. Before I began my reading I asked them to think back to our brainstorming from the day before. I asked them to predict why they thought I would have them think about graveyards and adoption to help us understand this book. 


Captivating Read Aloud:

10 minutes

For the next ten minutes, I am going to read aloud from the Graveyard Book. In the opening pages, the author sets us up the class to listen on the edge of their seat. You can watch the light bulbs go off as they realize that the first character we meet is in the middle of a murder. Now if you haven't read this book it might seem a bit too much for fourth grade. However, the writing is exquisite and the descriptions captivating as the story progresses. It is truly an amazing book for inferencing and descriptive language. 

For the first few pages we see what is happening through the killers eye and then the next few jump to what is happening simultaneously with what will become the main character. 

These two parts are all I will read for today. I will now stop to introduce inferencing. I explain that this is a strategy good readers do to help them figure out the hidden stuff an author writes to us. I introduce t as clues being left hidden in the words to tell us emotions, explain the setting, hints to what is coming, and for other purposes that the author would rather hide then come out and write. We talk about reading when your older being like a giant game, where you have to read and determine what the author is telling and not telling you. 

Spooky Supports:

8 minutes

Now is where it gets fun and can also be a bit tricky. I want students to now practice figuring out what clues the author was giving to help us better understand the story. I start by modeling this for the whole class with what I figured out about the first character. (The characters do not have names yet in the story.) 

I then pair them up with a partner. Elbow buddies will work, but I like to pair my students for this activity strategically. I want a confident reader who is ready to inference paired with a reader who might not yet be ready strategy development wise. The discussions now are based on the questions I ask, but the students must come up with what they think the inference is, but also support for why they think that. It was really wonderful to watch students work together to determine the hidden meanings. The best discussion they had was about the little boy losing his diaper, they really got into why would the author only tell us that and what did it helps us discover about the situation.