Epitaph Character Inferencing

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SWBAT infer about a character by reading epitaphs.

Big Idea

To infer is tricky and using fun poems and epitaphs can help students practice inferencing about a character.

Defining Epitaph

10 minutes

To begin this lesson it is important to make sure the class understands the word epitaph. I also make four boxes on board, and remind them of the Frayer Model we used previously. I label the boxes to remind them what goes into each one. I then ask them to get out their white boards.

I start by asking my class to help me figure out how to find out what a word means. I ask them to pretend with me that I have just come to the word epitaph and I do not know the meaning of it. My students begin to tell me that  I need to use chunking to figure out the word. I clarify that I already have figured out the word, but need to find out what it means. 

I am excited to have my class give me a good list of what to do. Their ideas include asking someone else, looking it up in a dictionary, using a thesaurus, and using the internet. I choose the dictionary and have them walk through how I would find the definition. Once we have found the word, I call on a student to come up and read the definition to the class. I have them read it more than once, and then have him ask the class what he read to check for understanding. It is now up to the class to create their own definition. I step out of the way and have the class reword the dictionary definition and fill it in on the Frayer Model I created. 

This might take a few minutes, but it is worth it. The definition means more when the students come up and shape their ideas with the help of their peers. 

I ask the class to also try and come up with some facts that might be on an epitaph. Students add these ideas and then we need an example. A student comes to the board to draw an example to help us get a visual of the word. 

Epitaph Inferencing

10 minutes

The picture example really helps the class understand the word. I then ask them to remind me what it means to inference. I am surprised that we have to review this in a little more depth. In many previous lessons we practice how to infer. This just reminds me that inferring is a difficult skill to ask many of my readers to do. 

Now that we have the basic pieces, it is time to read some epitaphs. I explain to the class that I want them to try to figure out something the author is implying. I want them to try to figure out something about the character that we can only figure out by reading what the author wrote as clues. They will need to add their ideas to their white boards. We will be sharing our thoughts as we go. 

The book I am reading is Last Laughs, Animal Epitaphs by J. Patrick Lewis. The author writes each epitaph about an animal and they rhyme which makes them more fun. I read each epitaph a couple of times and give the students time to think. This will not be easy for all of them and it is about practicing.

When it looks like each student has written something, I ask them to share. I have students help each clarify and I only step in when it seems like they are on the wring track. I then ask the class to share with me the clues the author used. I want them to see how they had to read what wasn't there to understand the epitaph better. 


Importance of Inferencing

5 minutes

I have read half of the book, and want to save some to practice later in the week. I then ask the class to discuss with their elbow partner what they learned from inferring. Which epitaph was easiest and hardest to figure out. 

I continue the discussion wanting to focus their attention on the importance of inferring about a character. I explain how it is useful and why we need to be careful when we infer and also why we do not want to miss any of the author's hidden clues.