A Sword Is Stuck In The Rock! Make Inferences About the Plot

4 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


SWBAT ask and answer questions about the plot of a story, using information from the text and schema, to make inferences about the story elements.

Big Idea

King Arthur! A Sword in a Rock! Let's Infer What Happened By Asking Questions!



I chose this book because it's a classic fable that the kids may or may not be familiar with. I LOVE doing classics with my kids because they are universal themes that occur again and again in literature. My students were familiar with the movie version of this book, but had not heard this story. This is a simplified version for 2nd grade with some great opportunities for inferences about the story elements.

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 ask questions to help us. We answer with our schema and evidence from the book. Sometimes we use questioning to help us understand the story and make better inferences."
  • "Today we'll read a fable about a famous king named King Arthur and ask some questions that help us make good inferences how he became famous - the plot of the story.


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: 

  • "I drew a giant question mark on the board. What are some question words I can put inside?" Take ideas on 'who', 'what', 'where', 'when', 'how' and 'why' plus 'other words' (so you don't have to list all of them.)  Here is how I explained about adding question words to the board and what the question mark looked like.
  • "We'll read the this literature story today and ask some questions to learn more about the plot of the story. All of the question words will be used. We can ask some literal questions, but most of our ideas about this plot will be inferences."
  • "I'll use my inference starters on those answers that I'm inferring about."
  • "When we're done, we can do a 'plot sketch' to describe what happened, based on our inferences." 


Introduce strategy - teacher models

  • Read through the first few pages.  I have a question to ask and answer about this what happened. 'Who are those men?'  It does not say the answer in the text, but my schema tells might help me.  I'll write the answer with an inference starter (from the poster) on my post-it note 'I think they were soldiers'  with an 'I' for inferential."
  • One student noticed that the author had switched descriptions from page to page. The comment was off topic but he made a good point.
  • "Let me try another one - read through the next page.  'Who is that man?'   That's a 'literal' 'L' answer - it's in the text so I'll write 'He is Merlin' on a post-it note."


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. 'Why did they have a war?" 
  • Who can help me answer that? It says 'they have a war 's I'll infer that 'Maybe they all wanted to be king." See how I used an inference starter. I'll put that on the post-it with an 'I' because I labeled it inferential."
  • This is our discussion sounded like.


My goal in this lesson is to get the kids asking questions as they read and reflect if the answers are inferences or literal. Asking a variety of questions as they read deepens their understanding of the story. (RL.2.1)  I want the kids to make lots of inferences, but ultimately we are focusing on inferences about the plot.  I want to encourage lots of inferencing, but then we'll go back and think about that we learned specifically about the plot. We are using post-it notes so we can go back and pick the questions and answers that best describe the plot.

Students Take a Turn

20 minutes

 Assign task

  • "Let's continue reading on the Elmo. Use your post-it notes to ask and answer more questions."
  • "Remember that we are focusing on ideas about the plot, what happened to the characters in the story."
  • "Write 'I' for inferential and 'L' for literal answers." Here's how I reminded kids about using all of the question words.
  • "Don't forget to start your inferences with a phrase from the 'inference sentence starter' poster."  (see resources)


Read and give them time to ask/answer questions

  • I continued reading, pausing for the kids to ask and answer questions about the characters and events, using a variety of question words. I asked them to write 'L' for literal and 'I' for inferential questions.
  • Students may confuse predicting and inferencing. Although these are both great strategies to use as they write, be sure to 'label' these for the kids. This is an example of an inference vs a prediction.
  • Try to focus on more questions about the plot. 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. 
  • Encourage the kids to write more questions with inferential answers. This is deeper comprehension and will ultimately help them understand the story better.
  • This is a picture of one of my students writing an inference.
  • Help students with labeling 'inference' or 'literal'. This brings them back to the idea of checking the text.
  • 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. 


Wrap up the lesson

  • This was the whiteboard with post-its when we were done.
  • Remember that you need to wrap up the lesson to cement the ideas and concepts in the students' minds. Take a moment to reference what you talked about the activities, and what they've learned. This is what my wrap up sounded like.


Labeling questions as inferential or literal is not the main focus of this unit, but I want the kids to identify the kind of answer they are giving because it makes them go back to the text. Here's an example of helping a student to label. This is a part of close reading, encouraging students to verify what they are learning by checking the text for information. Many times, students read literature to answer the question.  Using information from the illustrations and text to improve understanding and making inferences demonstrates a more focused reading and deeper level of comprehension. (RL.2.7) The Common Core Standards shift the responsibility for this comprehension to students so they will use the illustrations and words to have a better understanding of the the plot.

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 plot." Draw a quick sketch on the board to mirror the worksheet.  
  • Pass out the worksheet.  "I'll look for a question and answer post-it that really tells about what happened."  Pull one off the post-its and put it next to the box on the board."  Kids write the inference on their paper. 
  • Listen and watch at how I explained the project.
  • Reread the other inferences and let the kids help you choose 4 more good ones that describe the plot. 
  • This is a shot of my image with inferences.


Add some color

  • "Now take a moment and color the picture if you want."
  • I walked around and asked the kids why they detailed their drawing in a certain way.  
  • Take a look at examples: student worksheet 1 and student worksheet 2.


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.  As they work independently, check with them to see if they can explain their inferences.

For those with higher language, challenge them to ask deeper level questions. Go beyond 'Why did they ask Merlin?' to 'How could Merlin help this situation?'  Expect the higher level vocabulary they may be able to use. There are some great words in the book that they could incorporate - magical, rule, and observe.