By Dr. Geraldine Haggard, Reading Recovery Teacher Leader, Guest Blogger
This is the second part of a blog post series about helping your students broaden their inferencing repertoire to make meaning. Today I'll give recommendations on how to help your students infer to make meaning with a narrative text. Be sure to stay tuned for the upcoming third part in which I'll provide details on how you can do the same with an informational leveled reader. If you missed the first part on how to build inference skills with a wordless book, you should read Steps to Help Students Make Inferences, Part 1.
Helping Students Make Inferences with a Narrative Text
The Man Who Was Afraid of Ants is one of 122 fun narrative texts in the Kaleidoscope Collection. Illustrations vibrantly portray a character who overcomes his fear of ants to help a child. This level F book is appropriate for guided reading groups of students who have the ability to read the book with almost complete accuracy. The Spanish version can also be used to improve reading in Spanish.
This leveled book also gives students opportunities to make inferences about words with multiple meanings, define characteristics of characters, make predictions, and draw conclusions. Helping students use their background knowledge as they discuss the different parts of the story will be very helpful during your lesson as well. Keep reading for a page-by-page guide to help students develop inference skills that you can use with a fiction book.
Introduction: Have students give their definitions of fear and afraid by asking what scares them. Show the cover of The Man Who Was Afraid of Ants and ask the following questions: What do you think is happening to the man? Why do you think this? Have you had a scary experience with ants? Does this help you understand why the man looks afraid? Then have students read the title with you.
Title page: Read the title again and draw students' attention to the picture in the circle by asking the following: Does the person in the picture look like the character on the cover? Who could this character be? What do you think is happening to him in this small picture? Do you think this is a clue about something that may happen later in the story?
Page 2: After you read the first page, help your students familiarize themselves with the main character by asking the following questions: What does the picture tell you about the man? How is he feeling here? Is this different from how he feels on the front cover? How could someone be afraid of an ant and not be afraid of a fire? Do you think the man may change? This last question is a good way to help students make predictions as they read.
Page 3: Encourage students to think about where else they may have seen this picture. Ask them to share ideas they have about what the author wanted them to know before they continue reading the story.
Pages 4 & 5: Help students make real-world connections about the events in the story by using these questions: What are Jake and his friends doing? How do you know that? What can happen to food at a picnic? Has this ever happened to you and your family? What do you think will happen to the chocolate cake?
Pages 6 & 7: You can help students make inferences by asking to use evidence from the illustrations to support their answers: Why is Jake running away? Do you think Jake is mad, afraid, or maybe both? Why does he leave in a hurry? Why is the ant by the cake? Do you think Jake saw the ant? Children can discuss these two pages in pairs to practice the skills you model.
Page 8: This page offers an opportunity to think about different types of homes and pets, so consider using the following questions: What do you know about an apartment? What do you think Jake will need to reach the boy in the apartment? If you were the boy, would you be afraid? Why? What do you think the boy’s pets could be?
Page 9: Consider reading what Jake asks, but have the students read the boy’s answer. Then ask the following to encourage predictions: Who guessed what the boy's pets were? Do you think Jake will be afraid to rescue the pets? What do the faces of the two characters tell us?
Pages 10 & 11: Read the last page to the children with great expression and then use the following questions to help students think critically about the words and illustrations: What words tell us how Jake did not feel? What does Jake think when he feels the ant on his hand? Do you think that Jake isn't scared of ants anymore? How did that happen?
Page 12: After you finish reading the story, be sure to ask how students feel about the ending. Even if their opinions differ, helping students express their opinions is another great way to build inferencing skills. These questions are tools you can use to model essential strategies for struggling readers.
For additional practice with inferencing, ask students to write about a fear they have. Some might opt to write about a fear they had in the past and how they overcame that fear. Remind students that they can create their own illustrations to support their ideas as well. You can collect everyone's writing and illustrations to create a hand made book for your classroom library, or you can have students share their work by reading aloud.
Be sure to stay tuned for the last part of this blog post series because I'll provide a page-by-page guide to help students infer with an informational book.
Dr. Geraldine Haggard is a retired teacher, Reading Recovery teacher leader, author, and university teacher. She spent thirty-seven years in the Plano, TX school system. She currently tutors, chairs a committee that gifts books to low-income students, and serves as a facilitator in a program for grieving children. If you like what you read here, you can enjoy more from Dr. Haggard elsewhere on our blog.