My students know the concept of inferencing. They can define it for me. They can even tell me the difference in an inference and a simple observation. But when I looked at the data from last year’s test, I saw they performed poorly on questions that required inferencing. I know that I need to have my students practicing this skill regularly and that we need to work on making more complex inferences.
To introduce the topic, I played them a couple of Weezer songs that I have always wanted to use in class. “In the Garage” and “Pork and Beans” provide a great contrast in speakers and an opportunity to read into the lyrics to visualize the person behind them.
In the Garage and Pork and Beans
I gave them the lyrics to “In the Garage” and had them read them, then I played the song. I asked my students to write down a few things. I told them to get a full picture of the person singing. Who is he? What is he like as a person? How does he dress? What can you infer about him based on what he talks about in the song?
Since we are still practicing mood and tone, I had them give me two mood words and two tone words for the song as well.
When they finished, I asked them do the same thing with “Pork and Beans” that they did with the first song. Make inferences and try to see the person speaking. I also told my students to pay attention to the difference in the attitude of the speaker. His tone is much different than the speaker in the first song.
After my students made inferences about both songs, I gave them an assignment. I asked them to draw the two people they “saw” in the songs on one piece of paper. Using their inferences, they needed to show us how they thought the person looked. They were asked to justify their choices with evidence from the song. I also asked them to write the mood words, tone words, and what the speakers were really talking about (more than they just liked to hang out in the garage and eat weird combinations of food).
Assessing the Work
As the students finished their pictures, I had them take a picture of them and upload the images to a Padlet wall. I shared a link to the wall with the students on Edmodo. We went through the images and discussed the inferences made. There were some good ones that had clear evidence from the songs. There were also some that were not so good because they could not be justified with text evidence. In the end, Weezer’s songs led to a productive talk about inferencing.
Nathan Garvin teaches 7th and 8th grade English Language Arts and Reading at Walnut Grove Middle School in Midlothian, Texas. For more great ELA lesson plan ideas, check out his EdmodoCon 2014 presentation “Leveling Up Student Writing With Badges” and follow Nathan on Twitter.