Teaching Inference


Today I started my lesson by throwing a Bath and Body bag at one of my students. (Don’t worry, I promise it was very soft). All the students stared at her and the bag.

“What do you think is in the bag?”

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With disgust, she set the bag aside and said she didn’t know. I sighed and picked up the bag, then threw it at another student.

“What do you think is in the bag?”

She tried opening it, but the staples holding it together wouldn’t allow it. “Um….a stuffed animal?” she asked feeling the cushiony bag. I asked why she thought that, and she said it was because she felt something soft and squishy inside.

On the board I wrote her observation and her guess in the chart I made.

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She passed it along and the next student had the opportunity to try to guess what was in the bag. All the students (even the typically less-engaged ones) wanted to feel the bag and make their own guess. I documented all of their observations and suspicions on the chart on the whiteboard.

After five minutes of guessing and feeling, they were chomping at the bit to know what was inside the bag. I asked them to come to a consensus about the contents of the bag. It was a struggle. Some thought it was a stuffed animal. Lipstick. A sharp corner of a pen? They didn’t know and no one could agree. I asked them to come to a personal conclusion before we opened the mysterious bag.

The first student who initially wanted nothing to do with the bag asked if she could be the one to open it. Of course I let her. When she opened the bag in front of the class, she found cotton balls, a pad of sticky notes, and a highlighter.

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We talked about how they used evidence to come up with their own thoughts and then proceed to make a conclusion, or inference, using the evidence and thoughts.

The students loved the activity because they had to question, investigate, and collaborate. Their interest was piqued and I could feel the anticipation in the room growing as time passed.

If I did the activity again, I would fill the bag with things from Bath and Body and then we could infer that whoever owned the bag probably just came from shopping at Bath and Body.

Regardless, a kinesthetic activity once again helped students get interested in a routinely dry concept.