Pigeon Finds A Hot Dog... Let's Infer What Happens!

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SWBAT use the text and illustrations to make inferences about how the characters and plot develop.

Big Idea

That crazy pigeon!! Can you infer when he finds a hot dog?


  • The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog by Mo Willems
  • Lesson vocabulary words from the Reading/Writing word wall: inferring, literature, evidence, schema, characters, setting
  • Set up the whiteboard (write the evidence in ahead of time)**
  • Pigeon Finds an Ice Cream Cone worksheet
  • 'Inference' poster (I'm using this throughout my inference unit)
  • post-it notes for the kids to add inferences
  • put a snack in a paper bag - make it something you have to open and that has a smell


I chose this book because my students love this character. The wording is limited, although there is some high level vocabulary (morsel, splendor, celebration, sensation, experienced). The characters are great for inferencing because the story is very predictable and the plot line (someone else wanting to taste a person's food) is something my students can connect to.

**This is the one of the first lessons I've taught about inferencing, so I'm giving lots of clues and help, especially with the evidence. In future lessons, I'll hold them more accountable for describing the evidence and their own schema to create an inference, but that's a lot to expect from a 2nd grader who is just learning about inference. By scaffolding this skill (modeling and providing support early on and the weaning them off this support), I'm building a foundation for the students of how to describe characters and other parts of a story by focusing on how they respond to major events and challenges. (RL.2.3)

Let's Get Excited!

5 minutes

Underlined words below are lesson vocabulary words that are emphasized and written on sentence strips for my Reading & Writing word wall. I pull off the words off the wall for each lesson, helping students understand this key 'reading and writing' vocabulary can be generalized across texts and topics.  The focus on acquiring and using these words is part of a shift in the Common Core Standards towards building students’ academic vocabulary.  My words are color coded ‘pink’ for literature/’blue’ for reading strategies/’orange’ for informational text/'yellow' for writing/’green’ for all other words)


Common starting point

  • Keep your special food in a bag, but open it, smell it, shake the bag, and talk about it. Use the words 'morsel', and 'splendor', 'celebration', 'yummy' and 'taste sensation'.  You don't actually have to eat it, just talk about eating it.
  • "Can you infer what I've brought to eat today? Did you hear what it sounded like?  Did you smell it?  Did you see how big it was?  What words did I use to describe it? This is the evidence - how it smells, tastes, looks.  Do you have some schema to bring to your guesses. Have you had this snack before?"
  • "It's not 'a snack, it's my snack...'" (quote from the book)
  • "Maybe if you guys work REALLY hard today, I'll share my special snack with you!"


I chose to front load some of this vocabulary (expose the kids to it before the lesson) because it's difficult. I want the kids to see how I use it with my snack, so when we get to the story, they'll recognize it better. I also want to get them excited about this book.

Teacher's Turn

15 minutes

Give the purpose of the lesson

  • "Today we are going to talk about what inferring means and how it helps us understand what we read better."
  •  "After we make a poster, we're going to read a literature story about a pigeon and duck and infer what is happening."


Introduce strategy - teacher models

  • "When we infer, we use our schema and some evidence from the book. What is schema?"  Take ideas.  "What kind of evidence does our book have?"  Take ideas.
  • "Inferring is what the author did not say. Some people call it 'reading between the lines'.
  • "We can use inferring with lots of other reading strategies, such as connecting, predicting, connecting, and questioning."
  • "Let's try some inferring with the characters and setting in this book. I made a chart that will help us remember to use evidence and schema."
  • "I'll read and then add an inference to the chart."
  • Read to the page that says, 'Yummy, yummy....'  "What is the evidence on the page of what's happening? - the pigeon is saying 'yummy'. My schema tells me that 'yummy' means 'he likes to eat something', so I'm going to infer that 'the pigeon likes hot dogs'."


Practice strategy - guided practice

  • "Let's try one together. " Read through the page that says, 'Not a hot dog...'  
  • "What evidence do we have on the page?"... Take ideas (the word 'my' is underlined and the pigeon really looks like he is leaning into explain to the chick) 
  • "Our schema tells us what?"  Take ideas.  "When authors underline words, they want you to say them louder. The pigeon thinks the hot dog belongs to him so he yells it."
  • "What can we infer from this?"  Take ideas. "Let's write 'pigeon does not want to share'."

Students Take a Turn

20 minutes

Work as a Group

  • "Let's try some more and you can put the inferences on the board."
  • Read through the page that says, "If you've never..." Talk about the evidence ask the kids about their schema (what they've tasted that was good before) and have one of the kids add an inference on a post-it (pigeon ate a hot dog before)
  • Here's an example of the post its.
  • Continue to read through the pages below, talk about and show the evidence, discuss the schema and have kids take turns adding an inference.
    • 'Can you believe this guy?'
    • 'That's it!'
    • 'What am I supposed to do?'
    • 'You know...'
  • This was the completed whiteboard when we were done and all of the post-its.

Show What You Know

15 minutes

Share what you know

  • "Now that we know the pigeon likes hot dogs, let's think about another food he might like and have to share."
  • "I brought a page for you to do more inferring. There's a picture of the pigeon and the duck with some wording and an illustration (evidence). It's your job to add to the illustrations by adding the background knowledge (what do you know about sharing ice cream) and add an inference - what do you think happens?"
  • Here's one of the kids' ideas for the picture.
  • "Take a few moments to add your ideas and then we'll share as a group."


Scaffolding and Special Education: This lesson could be easily scaffolded up or down, depending on student ability.

Since most of the lesson is group work, students with academic challenges should be able to participate, but may need help writing out the inference. With the worksheet, perhaps they could work with a partner to make the inference and draw the images.

Those with great academic abilities should be able to use higher level vocabulary when making the inferences ('Pigeon had tasted a hot dog in the past' vs 'Pigeon ate a hot dog'). Challenge those students to add their own ideas and language.