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Making Inferences: A High School Musica. (English) Lesson Plan

By Jessica Cook

This is an introductory learning lesson about making inferences. Using musical selections, teachers can introduce the concepts of making inferences to students. Then later, students can practice this skill with the literature they read in their English classes.

If your students are going to be better readers, they are going to need reading strategies. Teaching students to make inferences shows them how to read between the lines and comprehend the implied meaning of a text. In this lesson, you will use music - a medium already very familiar to your students - to introduce the basic concept of making inferences. Once your students understand how to use this strategy, they will be able to apply it to the literature they read for your English class.

Materials Needed

For this lesson, you will need the following:

  • LCD or Overhead projector
  • A selection of 2 or 3 CDs (different genres)
  • Lyrics from some of the songs on each cd, ready for LCD or overhead projection
  • paper and pencils (students)

Teach the Lesson

Tell your students that you are going to play them a few CDs from your collection. If you aren't comfortable sharing your musical interests in the classroom, just play CDs from some anonymous donor. Ask students to listen to the samples from each CD and think about what kind of music it is.

Play the first sample. I like to choose some really distinctive music for this lesson, so I usually start off with a Marilyn Manson CD. Play a few seconds of a few songs from the CD.

- Ask students to tell you about the music. What kind of music is it? Describe it using adjectives.

- Ask students about the type of person who (they think) generally buys this type of CD. What kind of person owns a Marilyn Manson CD? Describe the typical Marilyn Manson fan.

- Tell students to write one to three sentences about the type of person who would enjoy listening to this music. Tell them to also explain how they know this, using examples from the music. Example: Marilyn Manson fans are psychotic and deranged. I know this because they listen to songs about killing and destruction.

Play the second sample. Again, I like to go for diversity here, so I generally like to play a country music CD after Marilyn Manson (hey, I'm a woman of diverse musical interests).

- Ask students to repeat the process from above, using only the country music CD as an example.

Explain to students about inferences.

- An inference is an educated guess based on the facts available. They made inferences when they took what they knew (their knowledge of the CDs based on the selections you played) and extended that knowledge (inferring about the personality of the owner of these CDs).

- Tell students that they will use this skill when they read literature in your class.

Have students practice on their own.

- Play a new CD or have students read a short story and make their own inferences. Collect and assess.