Time to review the meaning of inference. After the first two lessons in this unit, the kids are not thrilled with this "now tired" question. They are unfortunately looking at inferencing as confusing and boring, and I give no indication that this lesson will be any different than the first two. It's time, however, to get out of the classroom and do a lively inferencing activity to alter that perception.
First things first, though, and we need to review that meaning. I put forth a situation to the kids: A man was in the drive-thru lane at McDonalds. After giving his order, he pulled forward and expected to pay at the first window. Moments passed, and no one showed up at the window. The man became increasingly annoyed and decided to proceed to the second window. His son was in the back seat and noticed his dad relax and smile. Infer as to why his attitude changed so quickly.
The kids may go for the easy answer first- something like, "He was able to pay and get his food/the cashier was there." I agree that this is a good possibility, but then ask what else may have caused his anger to go away. A multitude of answers shower down as the kids feel the freedom to speculate about all kinds of things: "He was told since they were late his food was free!" or "The lady smiled at him so he smiled back." and "There was a flat screen tv by that window so he could watch a show while he waited!"
An inference is based on evidence, so students will speculate and can then confirm their inference based facts. For instance: Was there a flat screen tv by the window? or Did the lady smile at him?
My objective is to raise their confidence in the skill of inferencing, especially after the difficulty some of them had the day before. A basic and relatable instance, such as the irritated man in the drive-thru is a good way to accomplish the goal.
I'm looking forward to giving them the details of the next assignment. I ask them, "When you look around the room, what inferences can you make about some of the things you see? For instance, paying closer attention to the carpet I see rips and long carpet strands. What can you infer about that?" They need to phrase their answer with the words, I infer that...followed by their idea. Some answers for my example: I infer that someone will trip and get hurt...I infer that this is an old carpet...I infer that the desks and chairs made the rips...I refrain from adding, I infer that the district doesn't have enough money to replace the carpet. The kids then offer some inferences of their own, and I write them on the Smart Board (in the same format as the upcoming activity.) All in all, this is perfect modeling for what we're going to do next. It's time to go outside.
I've prepared an Inference Incident Index (I-3) for each student. This will be what they use to record the inference incidents they discover on our Inference Escapade. The Inference Escapade event can be done with absolutely no preparation -certainly there are countless things to be inferred about out there -or interesting props can be placed ahead of time to spice things up. Most school campuses are kept clean, so coming across the unexpected is great for inferencing.
Objects or even people to have ready: a dog food bowl outside of a classroom door; a fast food bag stabbed on a cactus needle or tree branch; notebook, textbook, pencil strewn across an area- though not too far apart; a baseball inside a glove on a bench; a teacher or the principal sitting on the playground; random plant in the walkway; sign for a yard sale posted on a fence. The ideas are endless. The trick, of course, is planting the props and hoping that no one messes with your things as you introduce the lesson. This happened to one of my favorite props- the notebook/textbook/broken pencil. I thought it would be a fabulous inference situation, especially because of the broken pencil point, but a 4th grade teacher cleaned it up before we got to it. Though it's optimum to spread all of these things out so as to make it less obvious, if that element isn't important, keeping them in close quarters is the way to keep control.
As the students move around the campus, discovering these and "non-placed" inference opportunities, they fill out their I-3 page with each inference based observation. I tell the kids it would be great for them to find at least ten inference incidences, but to find fifteen would be even better. It doesn't take much encouragement because they are having a blast. They're motivated and many meet and go beyond the challenge. After we've exhausted our possibilities, or the kids are starting to get off task, it's time to go in and review.
With I-3 in hand, the kids return to the classroom and their desks ready to explain their findings to their group. Depending on the amount of time this has taken, the whole class may enjoy hearing the various speculations, but I'm usually ready to wrap this up without too much fanfare. Discussing in small groups and highlighting some of the favorites is totally adequate.
With about twenty minutes left in the day we had a surprise visit from our Assistant Principal. During the Inference Escapade the kids discovered him sitting at the top of the slide. He was interested in hearing what they had inferred about him. It was a fun conversation. This was a really cool addition that I hadn't expected, but next year I'll definitely make the request. Most of them hadn't been aware that he was a "plant" though he looked so out of place sitting up on the equipment, I was a little shocked at that!