Standards and Objective
Making inferences is often difficult for children, but building this skill can add greatly to listening and reading comprehension. This activity can help third, fourth and fifth graders identify and use story clues and their own experiences to become active listeners and readers.
- Small squares of paper
- John Brown, Rose and the Midnight Cat
- Owl Moon
- Zen Shorts
- The Invention of Hugo Cabret
- Doctor de Soto
With a class or small group, give some examples of how inference works, such as “Juan stayed home from school and spent all day in bed. His mom made him soup for lunch. Why didn’t Juan come to school?” Or “Molly’s mom put an umbrella in her backpack today. Why?” Talk about how students can gather information and come to a conclusion. Explain that students can also collect facts and make observations that will help them draw conclusions about the characters, places, and information as they read or listen to books.
As authors often explain a character’s actions rather than feelings, explain to students the importance of focusing attention on details that help the reader understand how the character feels. Talk about looking for clues in what characters say and do and how students can think about how their own experiences match with the evidence they find.
Listen to together to John Brown, Rose & the Midnight Cat. There are many themes to discuss in this story. In your discussion, talk about what you understood about John Brown and Rose’s relationship that was never explicitly stated. Model the types of questions you asked yourself about character traits, dialogue and actions to make your inferences, find evidence, and reach conclusions.
Listen to the story again. Then ask students to think about how John Brown and Rose feel about each other and write it on a note. On a separate note, have them write their evidence that led them to that conclusion. On a third note, ask them to write what personal experiences or knowledge helped them understand the characters’ feelings better.
On the board, make the heading: Evidence + Experience = Inference. Have students put their notes in the appropriate columns and then share with the group how they worked the inference equation.
Extensions and Variations
After listening together to John Brown, Rose & the Midnight Cat or another story, have students write short paragraphs of their own about their feelings for a close relative, friend or pet. Ask them to not state any of their own emotions explicitly, but give a specific scenario (or young children can draw detailed pictures) that shows how they feel or what their relationship is like. Have students share their writing (or drawing) and briefly discuss each piece. Use the inference equation to talk about what details helped readers understand the writer’s feelings.
Inferring goes beyond tone and text. Have imagine the body language or facial expressions the characters in the story might use. Ask for volunteers to share these expressions and see if other students can identify the emotions and the character.
Comprehension is the ability to grasp something mentally and the capacity to understand ideas and facts. Listening to the audio books on Tales2go increases the comprehension of the student by allowing them to hear stories in the appropriate context, and to concentrate on the meaning of what is read. By just listening, barriers such as decoding are eliminated. As students use Tales2go to comprehend biographies, poems, plays, fables and more, their increased ability to comprehend literature motivates them to learn more and encourages them to read. Increased comprehension also makes it possible for reluctant readers to participate in classroom discussions in a meaningful way.