lesson 1 | lesson 2

Instructional Techniques

Lesson 1
submitted by Kathy Wechsler

Objective: Students will learn how to make inferences using a variety of newspaper cartoons.

Overheads with a variety of newspaper comic strips.**

Introduction: Over the next couple of weeks we will look at newspaper cartoons and decide what inferences we need to make to allow us to perceive the cartoon as funny.  I'll think aloud about the first few cartoons; all of you will bring in cartoons and some of you will tell about the inferences you needed to understand why the cartoon was funny. Then all of you will look at the remaining cartoons on your own and write down the inferences needed to find the humor in them. 

Teacher Modeling: 

This cartoon is called "The Duplex" and is drawn by Glenn McCoy.  The first frame shows a man sitting on the sidewalk holding a sign in one hand that says "Need Help" and holding out a cup in his other hand.  Another man is walking toward him.  In the next frame the man that had been walking is sitting down on the sidewalk and he is now holding out the cup.  The original sign/cup holder is still sitting, has turned his sign upside down, and is looking kind of upset, to say the least.  

The inferences I need to help me make the cartoon humorous are:  People who sit on the sidewalk holding help signs and cups are usually asking for money because maybe they don't have a job or a place to live.  Most people do not sit down next to these individuals and offer to hold the cup up for them because that is not what these individuals want; they want money.  The man that was walking took the sign literally and was helping, as he saw fit, by holding the cup.  The grimace on the original cup holders face lets me know that he is unhappy.  Turning the help sign over let me know that this individual may be feeling like giving up!

Student Guided Practice:  All Students bring in favorite cartoons and are prepared to share what inferences they needed to help find the cartoon funny with the class. After the sharing of a student's cartoon is complete, other students will be allowed to share additional inferences that they noticed. (At least 4-6 students should share their cartoons/inferences.)

Summarize and Reflect:  Now let's review. Talk to your partner about the inferencing we've done so far with these newspaper cartoons.  When the teacher is satisfied that students have had enough time to share, she asks for students to volunteer their definitions for inferencing.  The teacher writes the definitions given on the overhead and then asks the class to combine these all into one succinct definition.  This definition then is mounted on a large sheet of paper to be hung up for daily use.

Independent Practice: Students whose cartoons have not yet been shared with the class turn them in to the teacher.  She then puts them on overheads.  now the students look at the cartoons on their own and write the needed inferences in a journal.  With each new cartoon students volunteer to share their inferences with the class as the teacher records them on a separate overhead.  

Evaluation: The teacher collects the inferencing journals to ensure that each student is able to make the needed inferences for each cartoon.  Students that may be struggling can be pulled for 1:1 with the teacher as time permits.

** The idea of using cartoons to teach inferencing came from Kylene Beers "When Kids Can't Read-What teachers Can Do."

Later, challenge the students to bring in political cartoons that they can't figure out.  Give extra credit if the rest of the class can't figure the cartoon out as well.

(Click here to link to a daily political cartoon site with teacher instructional helps.)

Lesson 2 on Inferencing
submitted by Ellen Phaneuf

In their book, Strategies That Work, Stephanie Harvey and Anne Goudvis describe the use of short text to teach reading strategies.  One of the lessons they mention teaches the concept of inferring using the picture book, George and Martha Rise and Shine.  The book has several short stories one of which is titled The Scary Movie.  The story is about George and Martha going to see a scary movie.  Martha thinks she’ll be scared and is a little afraid to go, but George tells her scary movies are great.  As it turns out, George is the one who gets scared.

The teacher reads aloud the text of the story, showing the pictures to the students.  Much inferring takes place by viewing pictures, so point this out to students.  As George says and does things during the course of the evening, the reader needs to infer the real meaning of what he’s said and done.  For example, as the two characters are watching the movie, Martha notices George hiding under his seat.  He tells her he’s looking for his glasses.  Martha comments that he doesn’t wear glasses.  

As you read the story to the students, ask them what George’s comments and behavior are really telling the reader.  Point out to them how they used their own background knowledge about what certain behaviors and comments mean and combined them with the context of the story in order to correctly infer the meaning of the story.



What is an inference?

An inference is the ability to connect what is in the text with what is in the mind to create an educated guess.  

There are 2 basic types of inferences: text-based and knowledge-based.

Text-based: information the author supplies in the text.

Knowledge-based: knowledge that each of us have about the world.

(Taken from: When Kids Can't Read - What Teachers Can Do, by Kylene Beers, p. 62-63, ©2003)




Poway Unified School District
13626 Twin Peaks Road
Poway, CA 92064

last updated: 09/15/2008