Monday, October 22, 2012

Inferring with Chris Van Allsburg

I loathe a reading textbook. I am sure that is an awful thing for a teacher to say, but I have my reasons. I made a commitment a long time ago to be the kind of teacher that gives MORE to my students than just what is in a reading basal series. With that said, I still do use the reading series as required by my county, however, no one ever said exactly how we have to use it. Enter creative teacher thinking here. ;)

After pleading my case with my new 4th grade team, they were all on board with my idea! We simply rearranged the stories in the series to work for us! I know...we are so smart! ;) As we were coming up on the inferring strategy, I selected a story out of the textbook, which is one that I consider one of the better stories in the series, and one of my personal favorites- The Stranger by Chris Van Allsburg. Now, I may be a little biased as Mr. Allsburg is probably in my top 3 children's book authors, but that is beside the point.
The Stranger is a wonderfully mysterious story of a man who is hit by a truck one autumn day in the middle of the country, and loses his memory. Many strange things begin to happen around the farm that he's taken into after that day. The story is a PERFECT story to teach the strategy of making inferences. As the students listened to the story read aloud, the light bulbs began to burn bright! Hands were shooting up in the air with all sorts of ideas as to who this "stranger" could be. 

The students were put into pairs and asked to provide their theory for who they thought the stranger was, and to support their theory with evidence from the text. I was so impressed with their inferences! I learned however, that I definitely need to preface this story next time with a lesson about autumn and how Florida's autumns are much different from those in other places around the country. In the end, only 3 or 4 students made a correct inference, however, I'll take what the others inferred (the stranger was fall or autumn) because I don't know if I've ever seen "Jack Frost" here in Florida...especially during the fall! :)

In the days to follow this lesson, we used several other Allsburg books, including an interesting story from the perspective of ants- Two Bad Ants, to continue with our making inferences strategy practice. All in all, I am so thrilled as to how we're doing with making inferences! I can INFER that my student's heart Chris Van Allsburg just as much as I do now! 

Stay tuned for more inferring activities this week as we begin our Mystery Genre Study! :) ...

Loving our kids,