Who's Your Inventor?

2 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


SWBAT research inventors by answering questions about key details in an informational text.

Big Idea

Is the proverbial saying true? Is necessity the mother of invention? Do ingenious solutions come from difficult situations? Come find out.


5 minutes

Summary and Context:

We know that many students suffer a big slump in 4th grade with their reading comprehension. One shift in the Common Core State Standards that seeks to alleviate this problem is by asking teachers to have students work with informational text from the early grades. That is one reason I am engaging my students with this material. Thankfully, our anthology does include an informational selection on inventors, specifically, African-American Inventors. Today, my students will be able to choose one of the inventors in their anthology or choose one from our classroom library. They will spend time reading their text to find out why their inventor is important. They will work collaboratively because some of the material is somewhat challenging and I want to give them support. It is also early in the year, and they benefit from learning to work together at this point. As they read, they will be talking with each other about what they are reading. Once they are done, they will write about what their inventor did.

Before reading their texts, I will model what type of information I am asking them to find. I am using the life of Garrett Augustus Morgan to model. I use him as an example because getting a patent for a traffic signal is an invention they can understand.

Opening Activity:

I briefly review our objective and what we are doing today.

Modeling with Garrett Augustus Morgan: American Inventor

15 minutes

To model, I use the informational sheet on Garrett Augustus Morgan that I used yesterday. Except, today, I am using it differently.

I have a subscription to enchantedlearning.com, and I have found lots of good material on the site. You can use any short informational text that you deem is a good level to model with your class. I have a chart paper on the easel to model where and how I am writing down the information. They will be doing the same independently.

As I move through the sheet, I read slowly and reread certain parts. I tell them, "Let me share my thinking with you. I know I am reading about an inventor, and I am looking for specific information about what he invented. I know I can use the words in the text and the photos/pictures to find out important details." 

I show the students the text. When I find the information I am looking for, I am dramatic about it, and then I proceed to write that information on the chart. I remind them that it is not important to read everything in the text they may have selected and that they should look specifically for the inventor they chose/what he or she invented and how we use it today.

Choosing Their Inventor

5 minutes

Still on the rug, I have my students choose the inventor they want to research. Yesterday, I had the students practice writing questions about an inventor, and, today, I tell them that they may choose that same inventor to continue to learn about or they are free to choose another one. In letting them choose another inventor, I seek to build breadth and depth about topics they are studying. These are English Language Learners, and I know I must work on exposing them to various sources of information.

My students benefit much from having different types of conversations. Therefore, I ask them to pair-share about what inventor they want to choose. In doing this, I also help them be accountable to their choice, and it informs me of their choice.

Reading About Inventors

20 minutes

Students sit around the room and are grouped according to the inventor they chose. They are to share the sources they have on that inventor and look for information about him or her and what he or she invented. I am allowing up to 4 kids per group and I am making sure the students in each group are compatible. If I see students bickering, I ask them to solve it quickly. If it continues, I change the group. I don't let them waste time.

They read with the purpose of finding out what their inventor invented and why. I am looking for them to work collaboratively and help one another with the reading since the text can be challenging for some of them at this time of the year. I let my students sit all around the room because I want them to feel like this is their room, and they should feel comfortable in it.

To make sure they know their task, I repeat the questions:

  • Who is the inventor?
  • What did the inventor invent and why?

In asking them to think about the why, I am challenging them to synthesize the information they are reading to generate a response. At this time of the year, this may be to hard for some, while others will rise to the challenge. I am curious as to who rises to the challenge. 

As students work, I walk and monitor their behavior. It gives me an opportunity to ask them questions to get a sense of where they are at and how I can help. Also, this allows me to hear what they are discovering:

I work with a Small Group because, at this time of the year, these three students benefit from this type of support. I guide them step by step.

Writing Independently

15 minutes

Students now spend time writing about their inventor. While they worked collaboratively reading about their inventor, their writing is an independent task.

I am looking for them to use complete sentences and to go back into their text to provide evidence about who their person was and what their person invented. I did ask them to write about the important parts of the inventors' lives. One way in which I helped them to understand how to look for what was important by looking at what the person invented and how it helped people.

Here are some of their work samples:


10 minutes

Students need many different opportunities to communicate/share their work with different audiences. My students are English Language Learners andI like to give them as many opportunities to use the academic language they are learning. At the end of most of our lessons, I have some students share out their learning with the whole group, and I have taught the rest of the students how to give feedback.

This is the feedback system I use:

  • Two Stars: Two different students share what they specifically like about the content of the writing.
  • A Wish: Another student shares specifically how they think the writing can be improved.

Here are the speakers for this lesson: