- Fourth Grade
- 75 minutes
- Standards: RI.4.4
Teach your class to develop strong inferencing skills by focusing on clues and hard evidence. In this lesson, students will play a game of “What’s for Breakfast?” to help them link context clues with word meaning.
After finishing this lesson, students will be able to identify context clues within a text to define unknown words or phrases in informational text by combining their background knowledge with textual evidence.
Introduction (10 minutes)
- Begin the lesson by having the students sit and gather around you near a comfortable spot in the classroom.
- Explain that over the weekend, your family had breakfast without you because you decided to sleep in.
- Tell them that breakfast is your favorite family time and that you wish you could have shared that special moment with them.
- Share that you wish to recreate the breakfast they had without you for the following weekend, however, you are not sure what it was.
- Bring out the mystery breakfast trash bag and explain that even though you weren't able to see what they had for breakfast, that you still think you can figure it out by checking the contents of the trash bag from that day.
- Ask your students to help you guess what the mystery breakfast was. As you pull each item from the bag, stop to ask questions such as: What do you think this was used for? What does this smell like? Have you ever used these things when cooking before? What kind of food was it?
- Stop when the students discover that your family had blueberry pancakes for breakfast.
Explicit Instruction/Teacher Modeling (5 minutes)
- Tell your class that today they acted just like professional detectives by combing two very important solving skills.
- Draw a Venn diagram on the board and write “Background Knowledge” on the left circle and “Evidence” on the right.
- Explain to the students that when a person such as a police officer, detective, or a lawyer, is able to combine their background knowledge with tangible evidence, they are able to come up with some very clever educated guesses that help them solve mystery crimes.
- Tell them that this skill is known as “Inferencing” and write that word in the middle of the Venn diagram.
Guided Practice/Interactive Modeling (15 minutes)
- Practice inferencing with the students by writing or displaying the following sentence: Bees are important to the environment because they spread seeds and help flowers grow. Without bees many important plants would not thrive because they cannot move and plant their seeds on their own.
- Tell students that today you want to practice inferencing by having them discover the meaning of unknown words in a similar way they discovered the mystery of the unknown breakfast.
- Draw and write Table 1 on the board (see Tables document for reference).
- Tell your students that the formula for successful inferencing is Background Knowledge + Evidence = Inferencing.
- Explain to the students that today they were able to correctly discover the mystery breakfast because they were familiar with the recipe and the smell of pancakes, which is their background knowledge. Today they will find evidence in text and use their background knowledge to reveal the meaning of unknown words.
- Point out that the word thrive has context clues that can help readers discover its meaning.
- Ask students to think-pair-and-share with a partner about the clues that come in the sentences before the word and after the word, and what kind of background knowledge they might have about the topic of the sentence that might help them discover its meaning.
- Allow them to participate in filling out the remaining boxes on the board. Answers might look like the image on Table 2 (see Tables document).
Independent Working Time (30 minutes)
- Inform the students that today they will be practicing this new inferencing skill of combining background knowledge and evidence by reading “Zheng He” and predicting the meaning of the following vocabulary words: ethnic group, dynasty, exotic, and latitude.
- Issue a copy of the Zheng He worksheet to each student, as well as a blank sheet of paper.
- Have your students fold the blank sheet of paper into a 4 X 4 by having them fold the paper in half vertically and then horizontally twice. The paper should open up and reveal a total of 16 squares.
- Have the students write a replica of Table 3 on the top row of the paper (see Tables document).
- Tell them to use this paper as a tool to help them write their evidence and develop a personal inference of the word meaning, then have them fill out the rest of the handout with the help of a dictionary.
- Enrichment: Challenge above level students by having them write new sentences using the vocabulary words they just learned.
- Support: Allow the below level students to work backwards by allowing them to use a dictionary to define the vocabulary words first and then draw a picture to give context clues and evidence to others in the classroom.
Assessment (10 minutes)
- Take the last 10 minutes of class to have the students exchange their papers and grade them as a whole group.
Review and Closing (5 minutes)
- Allow students to think pair and share as they discuss the answers to the following two questions: What is the formula for inferencing? What questions did you ask yourself when trying to figure out the meaning of the words today?