Igniting Excitement for Inferences: “The Black Cat” Inferences Challenge!

One of the standards that students struggle to master in 8th grade Language Arts is ELAGSE8RL1:

Cite the textual evidence that most strongly supports an analysis
of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

This standard involves abstract thinking, and for 8th graders whose brains are still developing, this task can be daunting at times.  Equally challenging is how to teach this skill to students in a way that is accessible, interesting, and meaningful.    Enter “The Black Cat” Inferences Challenge!  I found this fabulous resource from one of my favorite educators on Teachers Pay Teachers, and it is worth every penny (plus a fabulous bargain!).

We started with the warm-up activity in which students were asked to analyze a passage, identify their claim, and support it with textual evidence.

After reviewing and discussing together (which was also a great opportunity to model a think aloud as a group), we reviewed our task at hand:  “The Offenses of Mr. Grisham” challenge!  After reviewing the instructions, students decided if they wanted to work alone, with a partner, or as a table group of 3-4 people.  Students received the graphic organizer and Text #1 with a paraphrased passage from “The Black Cat” by Poe.    I asked students to find at least 3 facts,  develop at least 3 inferences, and come up with 3 questions for the first text . Once they finished their work, my young “police officers” investigating the case came to me and read aloud their work and thinking.  As their police chief, I either cleared them to get the next set of clues and text (four texts in all), or I redirected them to revise their work in a specific areas.

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As you may have guessed, students at first struggled to differentiate between facts and inferences, but once they got the hang of it, most students took off like wildfire with their work and thinking.  The positive energy, excitement, and enthusiasm was refreshing, and even the most reluctant learner was really into the challenge at hand.  We needed two days to complete our work, and it was the perfect way to get us ready to read “The Black Cat” yesterday and today in Actively Learn.  I loved this activity as a teacher, and it was great opportunity for us to have a meaningful learning experience “unplugged” and not using technology for the first time in many weeks; the students appreciated this format of learning, too.

Have you ever done an inferences challenge like this?  I would love to use this strategy for another story in the not so distant future!

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