I recently shared a warm up activity and lesson plan for Teaching Inferences with “The World on the Turtle’s Back” or any type of Native American oral literature. In this lesson, the guiding question, “What do the stories we tell reveal about us?”, leads my classes to develop the skill of making inferences about an author or culture based on the texts they produce. Last year I developed a Storytelling Analysis Project as an engaging way for students to demonstrate their mastery of making inferences based on evidence by telling their own stories and analyzing stories written by their classmates.
I instructed my students to tell a story about a family tradition, an anecdote, a fictional story that they created, or any story that reflected their views about life in some way. Because I used this project at the beginning of the year, I wasn’t very specific about characteristics of their story, but if I were to use it later in the year, I would require them to incorporate things like dialogue, sensory details, figurative language, strong verbs, etc.
The next part of the assignment was for students to write an analysis paragraph identifying what three inferences others could make about them based on their story. In other words, I asked them to apply the guiding question to themselves – “What does your story reveal about you?” This was probably the most challenging aspect of the project, so I modeled these inferences with my own work. You can download it and use it below, but I always recommend that you share your own work with students! I read the story to them and asked them to make inferences about me and provide evidence from my story before I shared my analysis paragraph with them.
The final part of the rubric required students to make inferences about their classmates by reading and analyzing their stories. My campus uses an online program where students can submit work and be assigned access to classmates’ work, but you could also keep it simple and have them trade papers during class. I required my students to read three different stories and write one inference about the author for each. I graded more strictly on this portion of the project. So, for example, if a student wrote about their experience playing in a soccer game, the student assigned to them could not “infer” that they liked to play soccer. I encouraged my students to push a little deeper and tell me about what kind of person the author was based on their topic, their attitude towards the topic, their language, etc.
I also included on the rubric a requirement to include a visual aspect to the story, such as a photograph, meme, or short video to mimic the customs of oral storytelling. I used this video clip about “The World on the Turtle’s Back” to illustrate this aspect of oral storytelling.
Overall, I was very happy with how the project went. I experienced some technical difficulties since it was the beginning of the year and students were not very familiar with the online software yet, but it was a great opportunity for them to learn how to use it. I also think it really pushed them to think critically when making their inferences, while keeping it relevant and engaging by having them write their own stories and having an authentic audience in their classmates. Download the rubric I used below!
Have you ever done a similar project? Do you have any ideas on how to adapt mine to fit your classroom? I hope you enjoy!