Thursday, April 28, 2011

Big Huge Labs for Vocabulary Instruction

Using Web 2.0 tools like the one I used to create this "motivational poster",, teachers and students can create digital photo projects to increase vocabulary.  Use the "motivational poster" to explain or describe academic words, phrases and idioms that are unfamiliar to students.  There are other creation options at BIGHUGELABS that are fun and engaging for students, like image mosaics, jigsaw puzzles, popart posters, trading cards, billboard signs and magazine covers.  All creations are saved in a .jpeg format, so printing is not necessary, but could easily be embedded into a Prezi, Glogster or Voicethread.

Feel free to right click on the posters if you'd like to save them to your computer.  In the right sidebar of my blog are a list of websites to find public domain images, like the astronaut and leaf used to make these posters.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Making Inferences about the Amazon River

In my 3rd grade reading group, we are revisiting Inferencing and what that looks and sounds like with Question/Answer Relationships.  As we gear up for the EOG's, I want to prepare my students for how we must make inferences when drawing conclusions about answers to multiple choice questions.    I began by explaining to my group that inferencing is really about not ever really knowing what the author intended for us to get from the text, but drawing our conclusions and interpretations based on both, information from the text and information from our head. 
 I used this analogy to explain it to my students and contrasted inferencing with predicting.
If we dump the pieces of a puzzle out onto a table, we can predict what the puzzle will be when it's all put together even though we don't know we begin to work on it, we can revise our prediction based on more of the puzzle coming together and when we're finally done, we CAN CHECK OUR PREDICTION to see if we were right because the final product or answer will be "right there" in front of us. 

When looking at a piece of art, whether contemporary or a famous piece of artwork from history, we can make a prediction about what we think the artist meant for it to mean, however, because we can never check our prediction to know for sure what the artist meant for it to mean, it is an inference.   We can only interpret what we think the artist's message was, as is often the case with author's and their stories.  Inferences not only use "In the Text" information, but they also use "In My Head" information, that go unchecked or unconfirmed, predictions can be checked and confirmed for certainty. 

So, with the operational definition and analogy clear in our mind, we began to work on an article about the Amazon River.  Read Works is a fantastic free source of lessons for 20 Comprehension Concepts, separated and graduated by grade level.  Drawing Conclusions is the closest skill for inferencing that the site has. 
So, using the non-fiction passage and question set for The Mighty Amazon River, we began to work our way through each question and answer and filling in the missing information on the Making Inferences Sheet. 
I am also including a blank Making Inferences template to use with any passage and question set.  

The key to guiding students through this activity is questioning and digging deeper with the questions. For example, the first question is "The source of the river was a mystery because...." the correct answer choice is "The source was hard to get to."  The key piece of understanding when locating correct answers when inferencing is knowing understanding that not only will the wrong answers not be stated in the text, the correct answer will be explicitly stated in the text either.   Therefore, the clues around the correct answer will have to be explained by the students.  So, the line of questioning that would occur is:

"Why was the source hard to get to?"
"What are clues that indicate the source was hard to get to?"
What information in the text leads us to believe the source was hard to get to?"

At this points, students will begin to locate information "in the text" like "High on Nevado Mismo" and "18,363 feet" and "in Peru" and "a team of 22 people"....When students produce this information from the text, like "high on a mountain" our next line of questioning should be, "....and what does that mean?" When they started to answer with "that means you need hiking experience and special equipment" should immediately slap a label on their "inferences" that they are making. It was like light bulbs going off and it was very cool.