I’ll never forget the worried little faces of the first 24 nosy little students I answered my phone in front of. It was so unlike me. I never even look at my phone during class.
Once they got over the shock of me answering my phone, their eyes darted around at one another as the clues started pouring in. “Is the gate broken?” “Do you have just the one? Or do you have both of them?” “Can you watch her until I get home?” “I’ll post in the neighborhood group to see if anyone has spotted the other one.”
My students, who knew very well that I had two dogs (They really know everything about us, don’t they?), were so worried about them getting out. Especially the one who hadn’t been found yet. Whispers of, “Which one do you think is lost?” and “Oh no!” and “I hope she’s OK!” bounced around the room.
I (almost) felt mean. Almost.
Of course, I told them right away that it was a fake phone call. That I had simply changed an alarm to a ringtone and had a fake conversation for their benefit. Oh, the relief. Followed by a few “Mrs. Heinen…” groans.
But when I asked them what they had thought was happening while I was on the phone, they were full of insight.
It was the perfect inferring activity.
They knew at least one dog had gotten out of the yard because I mentioned the gate being broken and asked the person on the other end if they could watch her. They knew I was speaking to a neighbor because a neighbor would have been close enough to my house to have found my dog. This was made even more clear with the mention of the “neighborhood group.” They knew the other dog hadn’t been found yet because I was going to ask “the group” if anyone had seen her.
This is inferring at its best.
And it was a great introduction to our inferring unit as we discussed the evidence from the call, the background knowledge they were using about me, my dogs, neighborhoods in general, and what they were inferring about the conversation.
While I used it as an introduction that year, I’ve also used it as a refresher when my students started relying more on schema than evidence. It’s a great way to illustrate the concept at any point in the year.
What I love best – the conversation includes everyone, regardless of reading abilities. We all got to practice the skill.
Try it out with your kids.
Set the ringtone of a phone alarm to that of your regular ringtone. Then set that alarm for the perfect interruption that will shock your class.
Their nosy little minds won’t be able to help themselves. They’ll be hanging on to your every word trying to figure out what you’re talking about, who you’re talking to, and why in the world it was so important that you’d actually answer your phone in the middle of class.
Your students will infer what the other person is saying by analyzing the “evidence” and their background knowledge on the topic.
Click below to download this free inferring activity and put your students’ nosiness to use.
It includes detailed directions, a list of possible phone call topics, a graphic organizer for students to record their thinking (after the fact), and a mini-anchor chart/handout.
Looking for More Inferring Activities?
Try these engaging Inferring Task Cards. My favorite thing about them is that 2 of the 3 digital options include oral admin. No more running around the classroom like a crazy person trying to provide accommodations.
Each card has a short passage and a text-dependent question. The printable (PDF) task cards include both color and black and white options to help you save ink if necessary.
- Digital Option 1 – BOOM Cards with optional oral administration. Play them on Smart Boards, computers, and tablets. See this free preview to try them out!
- Digital Option 2 – Inferring Digital Task Cards with oral administration of each question and answer choice on Google Forms.
- Digital Option 3 – Inferring Digital Task Cards without oral administration on Google Forms.
Click here to get the Inferring Task Cards and make your life easier.