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Objective: Students will be able to identify what constitutes a strong inference in order to make evidence-based inferences from informational texts.
My Observations of Maja’s Lesson
Maja did a great job eliciting student responses and helping to shape and direct these responses towards the correct answer. For example, when she asked her students for the definition of an inference, they responded that it is “something you think” and “not a fact.” From here, she was able to help her students to understand that in many ways an inference is similar to an opinion. She also required each student to explain their thinking throughout the lesson, which served to not only validate students’ ideas but also to gage whether or not they understood what an inference is and how to make them.
However, even though Maja required students to justify their thinking, many of the children in her group seemed to rate their inferences somewhat arbitrarily. As a result, I decided to focus on justifying our ratings at the beginning of the lesson, hoping that students would better understand the rating process. Particularly, I planned to emphasize rooting our justifications in both our prior knowledge and evidence from the text and that the rating scale represented how likely the inference is based on those pieces of information.
Another strategy that Maja used, which seemed to be effective, was that she pushed students to make stronger inferences. For example, during her lesson, one of the students finished before the others but had only rated his inference a “2,” or possibly. She then asked him to think of a stronger inference, which I felt was a good strategy to help him further develop the skill and stay engaged in the activity. Consequently, I included this technique in the accommodations section of my lesson plan and used this strategy during my lesson.
Imaan’s Observations of my Lesson
At the beginning of my lesson, I read students a short passage about my Thanksgiving, although I did not explicitly state that I was celebrating Thanksgiving. Then, at the end of the passage, I asked students to infer what they thought I did over the weekend. Initially, none of the students responded, and then one of the students took the passage and read it out loud again to the rest of the group. Imaan thought that the students did not initially understand the question I asked, which is why they did not answer. She also suggested that perhaps having copies for all the students to read would have made this task more accessible.
After my Thanksgiving story, we moved to the main focus of the lesson: making inferences on the primary source document about a slave’s experience on the Underground Railroad. Because it was a primary source document, it contained quite a few difficult words. Imaan thought this advanced vocabulary might have inhibited students’ abilities to make inferences because they were having trouble understanding the text. While I read the text aloud with the hopes of making it easier for the students to understand, I agree that the text may have been too difficult. After the lesson, Imaan and I discussed the possibility of also giving the students a “fourth grade” version of the text, which would be easier to understand but have the same meaning.
During my lesson, the students generally seemed to understand how to use evidence from the text in order to make an inference, but they seemed to have difficulty ranking their inferences and explaining what exactly an inference is. This could be because Ms. H often has them draw conclusions from texts and cite evidence to support those conclusions. Thus, the process of making inferences was not too far from what they had already learned in class. However, rating and defining inferences is something new, so they most likely need more practice before mastering these skills.
For further analysis of student work, see the Reflections on and Analysis of Teaching page.