Have you ever had a student talk about what they learned from a text with only their opinion or inferences as evidence? When students start to learn about inferring, they can easily confuse inferring with facts and details in the text.
This lesson is designed to help students pay attention to the difference between fact and inferences as well as infer from the facts they discover.
I introduce this lesson by reading the topic and stating the topic. I ask students to think about what they already know and share it with other students near them so that they can recall background knowledge. The more they remember, the better they will be able to infer. For this lesson, I used a text from a common reading curriculum because my grade level team wanted to review it together. However, I could use any nonfiction text for this lesson. It could be really useful to use a text from a topic that you are already teaching or students have been studying. This way, they are building on what they already know and you can make connections to previously read texts.
I remind students that when good readers infer they use the clues in the text as well as what they already know in order to help them understand the text better. Inferring does not happen separately from the details and facts in the text.
It can be useful to have a guiding question about the topic a reader is learning about to help focus their inferences. A guiding question could be taken from the author's purpose for writing the book, a chapter from a book, or just a question of interest.
I share the question I have with the class, "Could the Sinking of the Titanic Been Avoided?"
As I read, I look for facts that help me answer this question. If I find any facts, I write them down and demonstrate how I stop and think about that fact means and how it helps me answer my guiding question. For example, the fact that I found was that the telegraph conductors were busy sending out personal message of the passengers when a message came through that warned the Titanic of icebergs. The inference I made was that fact helped me understand why no one knew that icebergs were up a head. The crew could have known early enough to change course. That helps me answer my guiding question.
As I read, I continue to stop at places that seem to have helpful facts, think about how they are helpful and what I understand because of them, and then write them down with the inference.
After I model how to find and use facts to infer meaning, I give the students a chance to do it. I continue reading and ask them to look for any new information. After a few pages, I stop and ask them to share any new information with their table group or partner. A few students are called on to share. If they offer an inference, I ask them to share the fact that helped them infer. If they offer a fact, I ask them to infer the meaning or explain why that fact is important. The best example is one with where the student share a fact and an inference, then you can ask the class which one is a fact and which on is an inference.
At this point in the lesson, I have modeled how to pay attention to facts and infer meaning based on those facts. I have also supported students through finding facts and inferring. It is now their turn to read and identify facts and inferences.
Students read their own nonfiction article or book and record facts and inferences. I remind them to make sure they are connecting the two. If they find a fact that they think is important, they should be try to explain why it is important, make an inference. If they find themselves explaining why something is important, they should check on the fact that supports their inferences.
Once they're done, I ask a few students to share what they discovered and the evidence for their inferences.