The Houghton Mifflin reading program includes “making inferences” as the weekly comprehension skill. Their sample lesson concludes with an underwhelming worksheet. Let’s do something better. We’ll ask students to infer from multiple points of view, incorporate visual art, and present their thinking.
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Let’s turn Houghton Mifflin’s reading program into something useful for gifted students.
Idioms were my next target. Houghton Mifflin spends just one week on this concept, yet the only way to learn idioms is to be exposed to a wide variety. I scoured the internet and developed a list of over 200 idioms with definitions and examples.
The year opens with a vocabulary skill analyzing “Suffixes: -ful, -less, -ly.” I adjusted this lesson to examine how these suffixes change the part of speech of words, rather than the meaning.
Like all HM comprehension skills, “Making Inferences” appears yearly beginning in kindergarten, so I know my 6th graders have had practice, and may have mastered, the skill. To differentiate, I turned to Sandra Kaplan’s model of “thinking like a disciplinarian.” Students will be expected to think from the perspective of an expert, making well-informed inferences.
In 6th grade, Houghton Mifflin’s Theme Two begins with the comprehension strategy of “Fact and Opinion.” A quick pre-assessment shows that my class has a solid grasp on the difference between fact and opinion, so how can I up-level my instruction? I realized that my students had an assumption that facts are “good” and opinions are “bad.” So my differentiated lesson became centered on challenging this belief.
By 6th grade, our reading program’s comprehension skills have become a bit basic for most of my gifted students. I’ve been working on increasing the depth and complexity of these skills. In this case, “Noting Details” has become “Explicit Vs. Implicit Details.”
Here’s a “critical thinking” question from the Houghton Mifflin selection “Beneath The Royal Palms:” “Why did Alma’s family decide to make nativity figurines?” To me this is asking for low level thinking, certainly not what I would consider “critical.” Now, let’s transform this into a beautiful and rigorous question suitable for your gifted kids.
Think you’re lucky to get your students to read a story once? Can’t imagine convincing a class to read a story through again? The key is giving your gifted students an enticing purpose for a reread.