B. Written Conversation: Inferences in “My Own True Name” (13 minutes)
- Ask students to locate their Diversity Discussion Appointment handout and find their Red Hands partner for a Written Conversation.
- Explain that students will be writing simultaneous notes to one another about the reading selection, swapping them every 3 minutes at the teacher’s command, for a total of three exchanges, keeping quiet along the way.
- They are to write for the whole time allotted for each note, putting down words, phrases, questions, connections, ideas, wonderings—anything related to the passage—or responding to what their partner has said, just as they would in an out-loud conversation. Spelling and grammar do not count.
- Set the purpose:
* “What is an important inference you can make from the parts of this article we’ve read so far? Remember that ‘inference’ means ‘an idea you can draw from the hints and clues in a piece of text—the text does not give you the answer.’ When you write your note, be sure to include what evidence you’re using to make the inference. Remember too that we’re looking for important inferences—inferences that help you understand what is going on in the story. ‘I can infer that her boyfriend liked the military’ might be a true inference, but it’s irrelevant—it’s not all that important to understanding the text.”
- Ask the class to begin, with both students in each pair writing a note (e.g., “Dear Jack, I can infer that it must have been difficult for the author to break up with her boyfriend, even though she was ready to move on, because she changed colleges just to be with him at first”).
- After 3 minutes, ask students to exchange notes.
- Remind them:
* “Read what your partner said, then take 2 minutes to answer just as if you were talking out loud. You can write responses, feelings, stories, make connections of your own, or ask your partner questions–anything you would do in a face-to-face conversation.”
- After the planned three-note exchange is complete, say:
* “OK, now you can talk out loud with your partner for a couple of minutes.”
- You should notice a rising buzz in the room, showing that students have plenty to talk about.
- Next, conduct a short whole-class discussion. This should be engaged and productive, because everyone will have fresh ideas about the topic. Ask a few pairs to share one highlight or thread of their Written Conversations as a way of starting the discussion.
- Use the whole-class discussion to give feedback to the students about what a strong inference looks and sounds like (e.g., “Wow—I can tell you really used your evidence to back that inference up!”) and how to improve weaker inferences (e.g., “Where did you draw that inference from in the text? Let’s look at it again together”