A Lesson on Inference

Inference, or Teaching how to Read Between the Lines using “The Weather” by Giulia Caterini

Benefits:

  • Many students must be taught how to infer and the difference between an inference an opinion.
  • Students will practice inference by learning to search for clues as they read “The Weather” by combining textual evidence and background knowledge.
  • Students will read a piece of literature by a teenage writer.
  • Students will apply their knowledge of inference by writing a short piece of fiction where inference is utilized in dialogue.
  • Students will reflect on their own writing process.
  • Students will have the option to submit their writing to YARN.  Be sure to advise them to read and observe the Submission Guidelines before submitting.

Hard Rain at Night

Photo courtesy of AlmazUK (flickr.com).

What you’ll need:

  • The Weather” by Giulia Caterini.
  • A computer with Internet that can be viewed on an overhead screen.

To prepare:

In Class:

  1. On the board or overhead write: “Opinions can be right or wrong. Example: Cheesecake is the best dessert, ever.”
  2. Point out how while cheesecake may be the best dessert for you, there is no evidence that it’s the best dessert for all people. Opinions are emotional and defy logical evidence.
  3. On the board or overhead write: “Inference: logical conclusions founded upon evidence. Example: Soda is a favorite drink of Americans. “
  4. Point out how this idea can be inferred due to the evidence that soda accounts for 10% of all calories consumed by Americans, according to government data. Additionally, many students probably have personal experience that supports this idea. Ask them how many have friends or family members who drink a lot of soda.
  5. Tell students that when we read, we must sometimes infer conclusions that the author doesn’t confirm for us. We must use textual evidence in addition to our own personal experiences to complete the picture.
  6. Read “The Weather” out loud as a class. Pause frequently during reading to answer the following questions:
  • Stop after: “Maybe it will stop in a couple of hours, you should just wait a little.”
  • Ask students if they think the father really called the narrator in and sat him down to discuss the weather. What clues in the text tell you this is not the case? What personal experiences do students have to support the idea that people try to avoid difficult conversations?
  • At the end of the story, discuss the last line. Does the narrator actually care about the weather? What does the last line tell you about how the narrator might feel toward his father and about the divorce? What clues in the text support your thoughts? What personal experiences support your inference?

Assignments:

Ask students to craft a short story about a conversation where the people involved fail to say what they really mean. Tell students that their story must include clues so that the reader will be able to infer what the characters are really saying to one another based on textual evidence and personal experience.

  • Brainstorming–Allow 20 minutes for students to brainstorm ideas.
  • Drafting–Ask students to craft a first draft of their story at home for homework.
  • Revising–Pair students up and have them read their stories to a partner. Ask partners to comment on the strengths and weaknesses of the story. Partners should make an attempt to infer the meaning of the conversation involved in the story and give suggestions for strengthening the story’s message.
  • Editing–Partners may also help with copyediting the story.
  • Publishing–Encourage students to submit the final draft of their stories to YARN!

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