Common Core Connection:
When you think that the average 6 year old enters school with a 10,000 word vocabulary, and it is estimated that there are 100,000 different words in books that children read from Kindergarten to Sixth grade - it can be mind boggling. And many students enter first grade far below the 10,000 word threshold! It would be easier for children if these were single words with one meaning, but that is not how language works. That is why the Common Core requirements are so demanding: words and word meanings are not simple. To increase students' abilities to engage with text, we must teach them strategies for comprehending those texts like predicting, but we also need to focus on expanding their vocabularies by helping them use context clues to discover meaning. Using such clues is one way of making inferences.
This week we have been exploring making predictions and making inferences. In this lesson, I taught my students strategies they could use to make inferences about the meanings of words they didn't know in a text through the read aloud, Two Bad Ants. They then worked in groups of four to complete an activity sheet that allowed them to use several of the strategies they learned about.
I began today’s lesson by reviewing Duck for President, and reminded my students that the author’s clues helped them make their predictions about Duck being happy as a farmer, governor, and the president. I continued by stating that the more they read and found out about Duck they were able to make more reasonable predictions. I told my students that today they would continue exploring using inference to figure out word and word phrase meanings. I continued by explaining an inference is when we take clues from a story plus what we already know from our own experiences to decide what the author means.
I then held up a copy of Two Bad Ants and asked my students to make a prediction based on the title what this story might be about. My students’ all called out this story was about two ants that were bad, because that is what the title said. Very good, I agreed. I then explained that they needed to listen carefully as I read and think about the type of information the author is giving. I read the story through, showing the pictures as I read. I then used the magic cup (Demonstration: Magic Cup) to select three students to retell the beginning, middle, and end of the story. As these three students retold each part of the story the rest of my students showed they agreed by holding up a thumb (Demonstration: Thumb Up, Thumb Down).
When the selected students were finished retelling the story, I said: ‘In this story there were a lot of words that I was not sure what they meant.' I then asked: ‘When you come across a word or phrase you don’t know, what can you do to figure it out?' I gave my students a moment to think about this, and I then used the magic cup to select students to share their answers. These selected students shared their strategies: look at the pictures, re-read, think about what already know, and ask a friend. The rest of my students showed me they agreed with these answers by showing a thumb up.
Before transitioning into the collaborative part of the lesson, I told my students I agreed with them and that today they would have the opportunity to practice all those things when they made inferences about the meanings of words in the story.
Before starting this activity I instructed my students to partner up with their reading partners. Once they were re-settled at a desk, usually the partner’s desk they are closest to, I displayed the Two Bad Ants: Inference activity sheet on the Promethean board. I explained they were to work together to decide what the underlined words mean on their copies of the Two Bad Ants Inference Activity Sheet. I further explained each student pair would get a copy of the pictures and text that go with the activity sheet to use to help them complete this activity.
I gave my students a moment to talk with their partner about what they were going to do. To check for understanding, I used the magic cup to select a student to restate the directions to the class. When I was satisfied my students understood the directions I gave each group a copy of the Two Bad Ants: Inference activity sheet and the corresponding pictures.
As my students began to work I met with each group to make sure they were working on the project and understood the directions. In the Sparkling Crystal and The Woods videos, both sets of students understood how to finish the activity sheet, however, they needed a little more questioning to explain their inferences. This tells me I need to dedicate some time to teaching my students to express their thoughts, especially when they are making an inference.
Once most students were done, I had them re-group on back to the whole group, and, as I displayed each group’s activity sheet on the doc-u-cam, I asked them one at a time to talk about and compare answers. As my students shared their papers the students listened and showed with a thumb up if they agreed with the inferences.
Once all groups were finished sharing we moved to the independent part of the lesson.
During the independent practice I have my students grouped in leveled reading groups, and they rotate every 15 to 20 minutes through different activities. Journal writing is one activity I always include during this time because journal writing helps students to further understand and apply what they just learned during the guided practice and collaborative activities.
For today’s journal, I pointed out that to make an inference they needed to use many strategies, and that they were to write about some of the strategies they used today to make an inference.
The prompt I wrote on the Promethean board: Explain some of the strategies you used to make inferences about words in your book today.
As my students rotated to my differentiated reading group, I checked each journal.
I gave my students a sticker when they answered this question: What does it mean to make an inference?