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At School: Making Inferences with T-Chart


Strategy: T-Chart

Rationale: We cannot assume that students are automatically reading between the lines. Students must be taught explicit strategies for making inferences. As Dr. Marybeth Crum illustrates in her course Reading Strategies for Content Areas, reading can be looked at like baseball. Just as a player must be coached to hit the ball and make it to first base (reading the words within the text) or second base (comprehending the words on a literal level), they must also be guided to third base and score a homerun (reading between the lines and beyond). Modeling strategies for reaching those higher levels of reading and understanding are just as necessary as coaching students through the beginning stages of reading. The T-chart strategy is an effective way to model making inferences while reading.

Objective: Helping students make inferences while reading.

The Idea: In order to truly understand difficult text, students write down lines from the text on one side of the chart and their inference on the other side.

Model first with the first paragraph of the text.

Continue with guided practice and when you feel comfortable that they've got it, let them do it independently.

**Remember: Model, Guide, and Practice is the key to teaching any strategy effectively. Don't expect them to do it on their own until they show success with guided practice.

T Chart Inferences.JPG


Detailed Explanation of my lesson (for Dante's Inferno lesson):


Copies of Dante’s Inferno: Canto 1


Intro to Making Inferences PowerPoint presentation (I created this to include advertisements, cartoons, and video requiring inference skills)

Description / explanation of the instruction of the strategy including Before, During, and After components of the lesson:

  • Ask students what an inference is and what you need to make inferences.

  • After providing background knowledge on Dante and the time period (previous day), explain that we need to include both textual evidence (the facts) and background knowledge (research we did) to truly understand and infer what Dante is saying in the Inferno.

  • Show presentation slides and explain how we need to make inferences every day, especially when we’re reading. Focus on the idea that without background knowledge or the facts, we may make incorrect inferences (show video at the end of presentation –“The Defective Detective”).

  • Hand out t-chart and model with the first few stanzas of Canto 1. Write the first few on the board.


When I read… (textual evidence)

I can infer… (fact + background=inference)

I found myself within a forest dark,/For the straightforward pathway had been lost (2-3)

He feels lost and in a bad place in his life. The forest is described as dark, so this could symbolize his despair. The pathway might symbolize the path we travel in life. Dante is religious so this might mean the path to heaven.

  • As I read each stanza, I point out words that may symbolize something else, such as “hills” symbolizing heaven and “valley” might symbolize the obstacles we must cross to do the right thing.

  • Continuously bring up background knowledge from previous research to help them make inferences. Ask questions like: Why is Dante in a “dark” place right now? (exiled) What obstacles is he facing? (religious and political opposition)

  • Continue reading aloud Canto 1 and stop every few stanzas to ask what inferences we can make. Have students write down their inferences on their chart. Call on students to share their inferences.

  • Future lessons-scaffolding: Continue same process with Canto 3 (students work with a partner to make inferences this time) and Canto 5 (eventually independently, depending on teacher observation). **Make sure students feel comfortable and are showing proper inferencing skills in groups before independent application.

  • Ask students the following questions:

  • Identify an allegory from Canto One. Compare the physical to the metaphorical interpretations.

  • How does making inferences help you understand the text on a deeper level?

*Next two lessons will be partner practice and class discussion, followed by independent


Suggested modifications for struggling readers and ELL students:

  • Provide vocabulary instruction prior to lesson.

  • Provide summary of Canto 1 for understanding of literal level.

  • Provide translated text in common language.

  • Have students draw what they visualize as they read.

  • Note: In the following lesson, students will be completing a graphic organizer where they add notes about characters, symbols, and imagery, as well as draw a picture to go along with the Canto. This will be done with each Canto they read.

  • When students are working in pair (next lesson) to practice this strategy, pair students who need extra assistance with a strong reader or create a group led by teacher.

  • Provide video or graphic version of text to make inferences about the text.

  • Provide one-to-one assistance for those who need it.

Who dares to teach

must never cease to learn.

~John Cotton Dana

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