There is a lot of evidence about Camilla Cream's character in A Bad Case of Stripes. We wanted our kids to learn how to focus on searching for evidence to support their inferences.
First, we started with introducing the strategy and what our purpose for reading was. The questions were charted on the left side of the chart before the teacher began reading the book. The teacher read the first question before starting the book to help focus the kids' thinking.
As the teacher read the book aloud, the kids listened for evidence that would help them specifically respond to the question. As they found evidence to respond to the question, it was charted on the right side. They used the specific details to make an inference and respond to the question. The answer was charted under the question on the left.
Once the first question was answered, the teacher charted the second question to set a purpose for reading the next piece of text. The process continued throughout the book to help kids think about Camilla's character at different points in the story.
Small Group Scaffolding
Sometimes what we do for the whole group doesn't "click" with some kids. They try to understand, but the learning is elusive. Small groups are a great time to differentiate your instruction and provide some scaffolding for students to learn a concept in a more structured way.
This is a tool I've used with small groups to help scaffold their inference-making skills. I chose a text very carefully that had several opportunities for students to make inferences. This can be challenging when you're working with a group of struggling readers. It's tough to find a text they can navigate at an instructional level and still have opportunities to "read between the lines" because the text is often so straightforward. Maybe this is easier for others than it is for me, but to ensure that my lesson is as accurate as possible, I really have to do some thinking!
As students read the text, we hunted for the text evidence. Once they found it in the text, we read around it and thought about what we could "tell" from the evidence. Then we looked at the answer choices - the four inference statements that I typed up on the cards - and decided which one accurately matched the evidence. I had students circle a few words that helped them understand the inference was supported by the evidence.
These are the questions I asked to guide their thinking:
What does the evidence mean?
From the evidence, which inference can we say is true?
Which inference is supported by the piece of evidence?
Do the inference and evidence have similar meanings?
These questions helped focus the kids' thinking and made sure they were being logical in their evidence-inference connection.
Supporting inferences with evidence
I did a similar activity to work on the reverse of the evidence-inference process. I provided the inferences on the table, and the kids had to match the text evidence to explain which sentence from the text best supported the evidence. We read the article first and discussed important ideas. Then we read the evidence on the cards and sequenced them to locate the context of the evidence in the text.
Then we read our inferences on the right side of the column and tried to logically connect the evidence to the inferences on the chart, making decisions about which piece of evidence helped us prove the inference true.
It was more challenging than moving from evidence to inferences, and required more time the first time I taught the lesson. But these scaffolding strategies helped our kids become more deliberate in their inference-making and inference-justifying. I used them with kids in grades three and four; special education students and general education students, too!
What do you do to support kids' inference-making?