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Teaching Inference to Big Kids with a Picture Book

I have to admit, I love a good picture book. I may teach upper elementary (actually, fifth is considered middle school in my district) but let's face it- fifth graders are still kids. They love sitting on the carpet and listening to a story as much as the younger kids do! I try to read at least one picture book to my students a week as a mentor text. They are interested, engaged, and have fantastic conversations about the texts. It's incredible how one piece of literature can be adapted for many different grade levels, isn't it?

Last week, I decided to try something new while I was teaching inference. A co-worker had shown me a beautiful book called The Lion & The Mouse by Jerry Pinkney. It's an absolutely gorgeously illustrated version of Aesop's famous fable, which won the 2010 Caldecott medal. What sets it apart from every other book? It has no words.

The story is told almost exclusively in pictures, with the only words being sound effects on a few pages like "screech" or "hoot". The illustrations are incredibly detailed and well drawn, however, and let the reader do so much with the story.  In my classroom, we used this book first to discuss inference. We had learned about it earlier in the year, so it was a review before our big state test- but it was a valuable one!

I brought my kiddos down to the carpet and had them sit with their reading buddy. I showed the pictures and asked the kids to discuss what they thought was happening in each picture, and to be sure to include WHY they thought that was happening. I heard some incredible conversations about what was happening in the story and why they thought that. My kids were discussing the story without even reading words. I was blown away!

We stopped a few pages in and worked together to complete a graphic organizer with evidence.

We used the Claim Evidence Reasoning (CER) method. We've been using this a lot this year, and it's fantastic! It can be adapted to just about any topic in just about any subject. I've used it in math for constructed responses, in social studies for chapter end comprehension and discussion questions, in opinion writing to help organize thoughts, and in reading to prove students responses. It breaks down to:

Claim- what you know
Evidence- how you know it
Reasoning- why you know it

Click here to download the graphic organizer freebie. 

To wrap it up, I had my students finish reading the book with their reading buddy. Then, they chose one page of the book to rewrite with words in their reader's response notebooks. It was a great way to practice incorporating dialogue in writing, and a quick formative assessment for me to judge their comprehension of the story and their ability to inference. 

So, do you use picture books in your "big kid" classroom? I'd love to hear about it- leave a comment and tell me how! 

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