It’s no secret that higher order thinking skills are in demand in education now more than ever, whether that demand is created due to the standardized testing world we tolerate, or the growing technology-centric world we live and thrive in. Critical thinking is a necessary skill that many students graduating high schools today are lacking. Inferencing is a priceless skill for elementary-aged youngsters, middle school tweens, college-aged rebels, the working adult, and beyond: it helps us determine whether someone is making fun of us or not, what the next course of action should be, why someone continues to act the way they do…the possibilities are endless.
I can’t tell you enough though: when you practice inferencing for the first time (or for the 80th time and it FEELS LIKE the first time) with seventh graders, inferences slightly resemble one of the following:
- a train wreck of epically disastrous, smoky, smoldering proportions
- a herd of students with that deer-in-the-headlights, dazed, glazed look
- chickens with heads cut off, and then sewn back on, and then the zombie-chickens, I mean poultry-geists, try to speak for the first time after the surgery
This list could go on, but the memories of the infernal inferencing attempts are painful. However, this time we may have hit the jackpot!
We concocted a plan where students would be named Detectives. They would read O. Henry‘s “After Twenty Years.” They would begin to understand and search for foreshadowing, or clues that the author uses to hint at coming events. After finding the clues, in teams of Holmes and Watson of course, students learned to follow this simple equation:
Evidence/Clues from the text + My Knowledge/Experiences = My Inference! (Educated Guess)
Now, I’m not usually one to think a lesson is an overwhelming success, but when a student who normally is checked out is able to help another student the following day after the lesson, I know we’re getting somewhere.
“What’s inference? I can’t do it.”
“Oh come on, you remember. We did it yesterday. It’s when you get evidence from the story and add your knowledge. Then you make an educated guess. Right, Ms. Ochman?”
I couldn’t have explained it better myself.
Without further ado, the worksheets that made it happen: AfterTwentyYears_InferencingLesson
If you’d like more information, or ways to adapt the above lesson, feel free to comment below. Otherwise, enjoy the surprises you encounter in this lesson, both in the short story itself and in the inferences that follow!