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Teacher Guide to Student Interactive

Summary: In this interactive, students try to infer meaning in letters from virtual pen pals. Asia writes about her vacation, and Henry writes about moving to a new city. They try to answer two questions: "WHERE is your pen pal?" (inferences about location) and "WHO is your pen pal?" (inferences about personality). Students search for clues in the text, then choose from three possible inferences for each clue. All three are correct inferences, but only one helps them answer the question. After they finish, they are rewarded with a video chat from the pen pal. If students do both questions for both letters, they will do the activity four times.

Tips for using the student site in your classroom or lab: Download Tips
Download the screen-by-screen preview: Download Preview

Before you start:

  • Remind students to read and listen carefully to the instructions starting on the first screen of the activity. (This really helps!)
  • Encourage students to read the entire letter before they begin to look for clues. They may also click "Play" to have the letter read to them.
  • If you have been working on map-reading skills, ask students to notice the information displayed on the map each time they make an inference in the WHERE activity. For each inference, the map will darken the areas where the pen pal cannot be. When all correct inferences have been chosen, the pen pal's location is pinpointed in bright green.
  • Tell students what you would like them to do when they finish a letter.
    • Continue until you have finished both pen pal letters.
    • Raise your hand and check in with me.
    • Listen to the song.
    • Print or don't print the bookmark.

After you finish:

  • Lead a discussion about the activity. Print a copy of the pen pal letters (Download Letters) to use during your discussion.
    • What were some of the clues you used to figure out WHERE/WHO your pen pal was?
    • How did you decide which inference to choose?
    • How is inferring like being a detective?
    • Why do you think authors write using clues to let you infer, rather than just saying exactly what they mean?
  • Ask students to write a similar letter to an imaginary pen pal, providing clues that will allow their pen pal to infer something.
  • Use a sample reading comprehension test (with inference questions) to show students how good they have become at inferring!

Download the two pen pal letters: Download Letters

A production of Wisconsin Media Labs: