What Do YOU Want to Know? Inferring to Answer Self-Generated Questions

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SWBAT generate questions and infer answers from a nonfiction text

Big Idea

Students are more engaged when they create the question but sometimes they need to infer the answers


5 minutes

This lesson asks students to not only generate questions from the text as they read, but to also infer the answers when they do not directly answer the questions. The book I chose to use is called, The Top of the World: Climbing Mount Everest by Steve Jenkins. I start by showing the cover and reading the title of the book to the students and explain that this book is about the journey to the top of Mount Everest. Students show with a raised hand if they have ever heard of Mount Everest. Inevitably, there a lot of hands. Students share with their partners in order to recall background knowledge.

I share that I remember that Mount Everest is a difficult mountain to climb and that is really dangerous. I'm sure I can come up with some predictions about why it is dangerous using what I know about mountains but there may also be some specific issues that make Mount Everest one of the most dangerous mountains to climb.

As I read, I am going to develop questions and attempt to answer them as I continue to read.


10 minutes

Before I beginning model, I ask the students to help me create a list of questions we might wonder about and look for the answers to as we read. Students turn and talk with their peers and then share out as I write them down.

I ask them if they think the book will come right out and answer these specific questions? They respond negatively. I explain that in this lesson, we are going to look for answers to our questions and infer the answers when the text gives us some related details. We might also develop new questions as we are reading. 

The first thing I do is to take one of my questions and start look at the text features to find the location in the text that might answer my question. My question is, "Why is Mount Everest so dangerous?" I scan the table of contents, index, and then flip through the text. I find a subheading called "The Death Zone" and infer that that title will be talking about the area that people or animals die. That sounds dangerous to me. I will read on to verify my inference and look for answers to my question.

After I finish reading it, I try to paraphrase it and put into my own words. "The Death Zone is a dangerous place because it doesn't have a lot of oxygen and people can get too weak from a lack of it and then die."

Guided Practice

5 minutes

After modeling how I found sections that might answer my question and then read on to answer the question, I ask students to continue to help me answer this question. I ask them if they think that The Death Zone is the only thing that is dangerous about Mount Everest. Of course, they say, "No." Therefore, we have to find out more. 

I flip through the book as I show them the pages under the document camera and ask them to tell me to stop when they think they saw something that might help. I turn to a page with the subtitle Icefall and a picture of a crevice in the ice. Students ask me to stop and I ask them to explain why they think this will help me answer my question. They saw a picture that look dangerous and inferred the meaning of the subtitle to mean something dangerous. I read that section outloud to confirm their inference and it was correct. I ask a student to put it in their own words. "Sections of ice can break apart without warning and create crevices for climbers to fall into."

Independent Practice and Share

15 minutes

In this part of the lesson, students get a chance to continue researching and answering the questions that I collected and wrote down at the beginning of the lesson. They are reminded to also think about what they are reading and they may come up with more questions as they are reading.

I remind them of the steps to infer answers to our questions:

  • Think about the question and where you might find the answer
  • Infer the meaning of subtitles when necessary
  • Confirm inference by reading on
  • If question was answered, paraphrase to verify understanding
  • Possibly continue looking for more of the answer

When they have finished reading, they can share their answers to the question, supporting it with evidence from the text.