Asked and Answered - Use Inferences and Text

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SWBAT ask and answer questions about the character's life, making inferences using evidence in the text and schema.

Big Idea

Questions and answers help us understand better. Are the answers in the text or do we need to make an inference? In this lesson, we turn to a famous genius to find out ...



I chose this book because it was a great biography about Albert Einstein. The story is very sweet and really shows who the character changes. We were studying atoms and energy in science, so this really played into our science topic. It has a lot of great vocabulary and really focuses on the character, which is the subject we are making inferences about.

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

  • "We have been talking a lot about making inferences. We make them as we read to help us understand the story better."
  • "When we make inferences, we can use questioning to help us and answer with our schema and evidence from the text in the book. Sometimes we choose questions that will help us understand something particular about the story."
  • "Today we'll read a biography about a famous man named 'Albert Einstein' and ask some questions that help us make good inferences about his life.
  • I modeled for the students how to make connections to this book between the front cover and the whiteboard.


In this lesson, I contrast the idea of inferential and literal questions and answers. My students are comfortable with these kinds of questions because we finished a unit on questioning. For your reference, the first lesson where I covered the kinds of questions was The Big Question with Informational Text. I used similar techniques of having the students identify the kind of question. This helps them to realize how much information comes from the text and how the inferential questions require schema and background knowledge built upon what the author offers.

Teacher's Turn

15 minutes

Give the purpose of the lesson

  • "What are some question words I can put inside my giant question mark?" Write 'who', 'what', 'where', 'when', 'how' and 'why' plus 'other words' (so you don't have to list all of them) in the question mark and take ideas.
  • "We'll read the story today and ask some questions to learn more about this character. Try to use all of the question words. We can ask some literal questions, but many of our ideas about this character will be inferences."
  • "I'll use my inference starters (reference the poster from 'materials' ) on those answers that I'm inferring about."
  • "When we're done, we can do a 'character sketch' to describe him."


Introduce strategy - teacher models

  • Read through the page that says, "His parents worried..." I have a question to ask and answer about this character. 'Why is Albert not talking?'  It does not say the answer in the text, but my schema tells me that  'Maybe he learned in a different way when he was little.'  I'll write the answer on my post-it note with an 'I' for inferential." Put it next to the 'why' word on the whiteboard.
  • "Let me try another one - read through the next page.  'What toy did Albert love?'   That's a literal answer - it's in the text so I'll write 'L'.  There is evidence in that text that says 'He loved the compass because he knew there were mysteries about the world.'  I'll write that on a post-it note and put it up."


Practice strategy - guided practice

  • Remind kids to use a variety of questions on the post-it notes.
  • "Help me with another one. Read through the next page. Let's use the word 'How' - How did Albert feel about the other kids?"  
  • Who can help me answer that? It says he was different and didn't behave like them so I'll infer that 'Perhaps Albert felt different than the other kids." I'll put that on the post-it with an 'I' because I inferred that answer."
  • Here's a discussion that we had about using questions to help us understand more about the character.
  • My students made lots of good inferences in this lesson. Here are some inferences that they volunteered. 


My goal in this lesson is to get the kids asking questions as they read and reflect if the answers are inferences or literal. I want the kids to make lots of inferences, but ultimately we are focusing on inferences about the character. Many times, students will need to read informational text to simply find answers about a certain topic. This kind of focused reading encourages them to ask and answers questions about a particular topic in the text (RI.2.1). I want to encourage lots of inferencing, but the we'll go back and think about that we learned specifically about the character. We are using post-it notes so we can go back and pick the questions and answers that best describe the character/topic.

Students Take a Turn

20 minutes

Assign task

  • "I'll continue reading. Raise your hand if you have a question and I'll pick someone to use their post-it note to ask and answer more questions."
  • "Remember that we are focusing on ideas about the character so try to use the post-it questions for that."
  • "Write 'I' for inferential and 'L' for literal answers."
  • "Use the 'inference sentence starter'."


Read and give them time to ask/answer questions

  • I continued reading, pausing for the kids to ask and answer questions about this character, using a variety of question words. I asked them to write 'L' for literal and 'I' for inferential questions.
  • They put up the post-its on the whiteboard question mark.
  • Try to focus on more questions about characters. This will help the kids focus their inferences. There are SO many inferences to make and my kids have gotten really good at this skill, but I wanted to focus their question in this lesson. Here is how I explained about choosing character inferences.
  • Encourage the kids to write more questions with inferential answers. This is deeper comprehension and will ultimately help them understand the story better.
  • This was the completed whiteboard with postits.
  • As students work, walk around and ask them about their thoughts. This formative assessment will tell you how well they can explain what they know. Here is a student explaining her question and inference.
  • This was one of the completed worksheets.


Wrap up the lesson

  • Don't forget to 'wrap up' the discussion. What did we do? What have you learned?  This is my wrap-up for questioning. Help the students remember what they learned, why they learned it, and how they might use it again.

Share What You've Learned

15 minutes

Focus the inferences

  • "We have some GREAT inferences now!  Let's focus on the ones that tell about our character, Albert Einstein."  Draw a quick sketch on the board to mirror the worksheet.  
  • Pass out the worksheet.  "I'll look for one that really tells about him."  Pull one off the question mark and put it next to the box on the board."  Kids write the inference on their paper.  Take a look at my explanation of the project.
  • Reread the other inferences and let the kids help you choose 5 more good ones that describe the character.
  • Here's the whiteboard when we were done and a completed worksheet.


Add an illustration

  • "Now take a moment add an illustration. Can you detail the picture to make it look like Albert Einstein?  What color were his favorite clothes?  What did his hair look like? What about his socks and shoes?"
  • I walked around and asked the kids why they detailed their drawing in a certain way. 'Why did you not draw shoes?'  Here's a great comment from one of my students about his connection to the character.
  • "Now we have a great character description. Inferences about his life and a picture!"


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

Students with language challenges may need help with the formation of questions and inferences. You can pair them up with a partner or prompt them as needed. I put up words on the whiteboard to help with spelling. As they work independently, check with them to see if they can explain their inferences. Here's some help that I gave a student with language challenges.

For those with higher language, challenge them to ask deeper level questions. Go beyond 'what did he wear' to 'why did he wear those baggy clothes?'  Expect the higher level vocabulary they may be able to use. There are some great words in the book that they could incorporate - gravity, matter, atoms.