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Making Inferences

I really enjoy teaching inferences. I love how most of the kids start off thinking that making an inference is abstract and difficult, but then later realize it’s something we do everyday. I recently came across Chrissy’s (FREE!) Making Inferences MiniPack – and Wow! What a find! In an attempt to get the kids ready for the Instagram project they will be doing later in the week, I decided to kick off an inference boot camp! We started today with Chrissy’s MiniPack, then later in the week I plan to introduce the mystery Quick Solves. I used the Quick Solves last year during my nonfiction unit, but it works out SO much better now because of Halloween (yay for good timing!).

So, back to the MiniPack. Chrissy suggests handing groups of studens different pictures and asking them where they think they’re going. Each group has a picture that’s relative to camping (sleeping bag, marshmallows, backpack, fishing pole, etc.), but when one pictures stands alone it becomes a bit more vague. The point is to model the idea that the more clues you have, the stronger your inference will be. I loved the idea of this concrete model, but I felt it would be too easy considering the kids and I just got back from a school camping trip. So, instead I put a few pictures on the Smartboard and only spent about three minutes on it.

We then moved on to read a short story about a guy named Frank who saves people in a fire. The story, which I believe Chrissy wrote, is so well thought out – it’s the perfect tool for making inferences. As a reader, you start out being not so sure why Frank is so dirty (Did he get in a fight? Is he poor?), but as the story progresses you pick up more clues and eventually it all fits together. It made for the perfect “Aha!” moment.

For “we do”, I placed the inference task cards around the room and had students, with a partner of their choice, move from card to card at their own pace. Since the cards were laminated, I created a simple answer sheet that prompted students to use the same “I can tell…” format as the cards, though I did add a “because…” to practice citing text evidence. I was originally planning on use the cards for independent practice, but I’m so glad I changed my mind. By having students work in pairs, I was able to hear their discussions as they attempted to solve each card; it was the perfect way to check for understanding as I walked around the room!

To wrap everything up I will be using Chrissy’s independent practice worksheet tomorrow, which asks students to make an inference using their independent reading books. I’m confident the kids will make strong inferences – and it’s only Monday!


Mystery and Nonfiction

What a busy first week back at school! I feel like it flew by! The students and I started the new year by jumping into the nonfiction unit (okay, so they sort of walked….no, crawled.) For my own sanity, I decided to break things up by focusing on a different standard each week. This past week it was standard RI.6.1. “Cite textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.” At the beginning of the year the students and I spent so much time on making inferences about characters and events in a fictional story, but the kids have a hard time translating that skill to nonfiction (understandably so). Which is why I was so happy when I came upon the site, it is filled with mysteries to solve. The site has mini mysteries (quick solves) and longer mysteries (solve it’s). The stories focus on Nina Chase and Max Decker, two kids who like to solve neighborhood mysteries: Who stepped in the wet cement? Who broke into the local snack shack?. The stories are easy to follow, but definitely require quiet a bit of thinking.

Okay, so how does this all relate to nonfiction? Everyday, after each mystery, we worked on using evidence based terms in relation to nonfiction texts. Here’s how it went:


I introduced the unit and a list of “evidence based terms” (you can find anchor charts on pinterest!). As a class, we read an article on germs (hello, flu season!) in National Explorer Magazine.


Screen Shot 2015-01-09 at 10.22.07 PMMystery – The students solved one of the mini mysteries as a warm up.

Nonfiction – We looked more closely at Monday’s article by examining strategies the author used and backing up those strategies with evidence. For instance, “The author connects with readers by using relatable examples”. I provided the strategies and students worked with a partner to find evidence.


Mystery- Students did another quick solve, but this time they had to put to use their evidence based terms and write out who they think did it and why.

Nonfiction – Looking at a new article (from, I provided students with a list of inferences I made and they had to find strong, specific evidence. They worked independently on this and I collected it to grade and provide feedback (They did so well!).


Mystery – Students had to solve one of the longer (and harder) mysteries. It was amazing to see how engaged they were as they contemplatedScreen Shot 2015-01-09 at 10.33.34 PM who stole the “For Sale” signs; the room was completely quiet! For this mystery, I gave them five minutes on their own, then two minutes with a partner. There were so many ideas bouncing around the room – everyone was sure they were right! Again, students wrote out who they thought the thief was and explained why using evidence from the text.

This time I collected their sentences and graded them – not on whether they arrived at the right answer, but on how well they constructed their sentences. I have to say, I’m so glad I did this! They are using the terms correctly and referring back to the evidence, but they are having trouble connecting back to the question. For example, a student might say, “I believe Freddy stole the signs because in the text it says he built a tree house made of wood.” However, it should continue: “….. The ‘For Sale’ signs are made of wood, therefore Freddy likely used the signs to build his tree house.” See what I mean? They are almost there! So, next week I am going to return to this case and we will rewrite sentences as a class.

Nonfiction – Students worked in groups and had a choice of three different articles (again, all from This time, they had to make their own inferences (or Screen Shot 2015-01-09 at 10.28.54 PMcomment on the authors strategy or the text structure) and back it up with evidence from the text. This worked really well – especially allowing them a choice of article! On Monday of next week I will have them meet with another group that did the same article and discuss what they found.

*At one point during this last activity a student was feeling very frustrated because she was having trouble making inferences based on the nonfiction article. I said, “It’s just like solving a mystery, pick a part the sentences.” To this she replied, “Ohhhhh!“, then hurried to jot something down. My favorite part of teaching – the light bulb moment!

Happy Friday!


Good Afternoon My Name is Russel!

In literature, we are learning about how we can make inferences based on indirect characterization: a character’s dialogue, thoughts, emotions, actions, and Screen Shot 2014-09-20 at 9.29.05 PMlooks. When I first introduced this topic I used a clip from the Pixar movie Up (such a good movie!). We watched the clip twice. The first time, students identified character traits of Russell and Mr. Fredricksen and wrote them down in the balloons (I’m pretty happy with the worksheet I created; I found the picture on google images and then made “balloons” in Microsoft Word). Before beginning I did a quick review: “Should we write down that Russell is short?” Nooooo. “Right, because that would be what?” A physical trait! “We are looking for character traits“. The second time we watched, students looked for evidence to back up at least one of the character traits they found. For instance, we said that Russell is persistent because he continuously asks Mr. Fredricksen if needs help, despite the old man insisting he doesn’t.

This was all the perfect prep for the more difficult activity I had the students do next: a characterization worksheet I found here. I let them work in groups for the this one and encouraged them to use the thesaurus to find strong words. I was very impressed with what they came up with!

This clip has stuck with some of my students who now come into class everyday with a “Good afternoon my name is Russell, can I help you cross the street?”. I can’t help but laugh…at least they remember something, right? Haha.