Monday, April 9, 2012

Inferences with the Inference Chart

As students work on making inferences, I like to show them how to use an inference chart to record their thinking. The chart I use is based on the one in the Comprehension Toolkit by Stephanie Harvey and Anne Goudvis, with a few minor changes. I put the "Inference" column on the left, with "Text Clues" and "Schema" heading the other two columns. I use the term schema because it's a word that is used in third grade, and is familiar to my students. This column could also be called "Personal Knowledge" or "Background Knowledge".

To model the chart, I have to choose the absolute best book to share with students. With some groups, I use the book The Gardener by Sarah Stewart. This book is loaded with opportunities to make inferences, from the pictures to the text.

But with some groups of readers The Gardener just doesn't work as well. For students with attentional difficulties, there are just too many places to make inferences in this book for it to be effective for whole-class modeling. When I model an inference chart, stopping to write too often can be disruptive to the flow of the story.

This year, I tried The Wreck of the Zephyr by Chris Van Allsburg as an alternative. It worked perfectly! We made about one inference per page. The story is rich, with opportunities for deeper thinking, but not so complex that it was difficult for students to understand.

I modeled the chart on the Promethean board instead of on a chart--it's easier for the students to make the transfer to what they will be doing. Here is what the chart looked like halfway through the story:

Kids often have trouble with the "Schema" column. They don't realize how they have to simply write down what they already know. As I model the chart, I try to show students how the Schema column simply comes from their own minds--for example, the things they know are true, or the explanations for character traits. 

Hopefully students will remember how this works after break! If not, well....luckily Chris van Allsburg has written many books, so I can try the whole thing again. :)


1 comment:

  1. Chris van Allsburg is such a great author to use for inferring. I used his books for some lessons earlier in the year, but I think we're going to have to revisit this again soon. This is one of those topics that seems to be hard for students to grasp -- they make a ton of inferences without even realizing that's what they're doing, and it can be a struggle for some to unpack that. I appreciate you sharing what you're doing in your class on this because it gives me more ideas for what I can try next.

    Hope you have a great break!