The adventures of a fourth grade teacher in East Central Illinois.

Predictions, Inferences, and Authenticity

If there is any one thing I am more passionate about than anything else when it comes to reading, it is that everyone, children, parents, teachers, adults, everyone, needs to read more often. (And that includes me!) If there is anything else that I am almost as passionate about, it is that reading needs to be authentic. There are times that I use a short text to assess specific reading skills and other times that I will use passages that students would not select on their own to emphasise a specific writing trait or a specific comprehension skill but, by and large, I wholeheartedly believe that the reading we do needs to be authentic.

What do I mean by authentic reading?

I mean reading that is real. Reading that is done because the title, the author, the illustrator, or the story interests you. Reading that is done not because you have to do it but because you want to do it. Reading that is done with a purpose that is not just because it is required. That purpose may be for learning, understanding, entertaining, persuading, and/or thinking. I don’t think that either a writer’s purpose or a reader’s purpose has to be limited to just one thing.

The best thing is when I can use authentic reading to assess literacy. To find a story that I know will be of high interest to my students, a story that they would read on their own if given the chance, a story that they would want to talk about it after they have read it, and to be able to use that story, that text, that passage as a tool to understand where my students are at in their literary skill development, that is the best.

I was able to do that today with a story I had heard about for a couple of years, by an author I absolutely love. The story is This Is Not My Hat and the author is Jon Klassen. I first became acquainted with Mr. Klassen not through one of his actual books, but through a parody of one of his books that was based on characters from Doctor Who. The parody was called I Want Mah Roes BackBeing the Whovian I am, I loved this, but then I realised that it was based on a real book and so I hunted down a copy of I Want My Hat Back and absolutely loved everything about the story and the illustrations. Then I learned that Mr. Klassen had written another hat-themed book, This Is Not My Hat, and I finally picked up a copy earlier this week. I loved it and knew that my students would love it, too.

I also realised that it is a perfect text for making predictions and also for making inferences. The story is simple enough: a small fish has stolen a hat from a much larger fish and then goes off to hide with the grass is tall and very close together and where no one can find him. As I read it, I had the students write down what they predicted would happen in the story and then, as we got to the end, I had them write down what they thought had happened. Because the most brilliant part of the story is that the author never tells us what actually happens at the end. We can guess, we can use clues, but there are many possible reasons. After they wrote down their inferences, I had them turn them in and their share. These were some of the responses they gave:

  • The big fish ate the little fish.
  • The big fish scared the little fish and got his hat when it fell off the little fish’s head.
  • The big fish snuck up on the little fish and snatched his hat back.
  • The hat fell off in the thick grass and the big fish found it.
  • The big fish talked to the little fish and told him that the hat was his favourite and so the little fish gave it back.
  • The little fish fell asleep in the tall grass and the big fish stole his hat back.
  • The little fish realised the big fish was a lady and so he gave her back her hat.

After sharing this book with my class, I shared it with several of the other teachers in the building and talked to my fourth grade partner about how I used it. She thought it was a great idea and decided to use it the same way with her class! If you haven’t read anything by Jon Klassen, I definitely recommend him! His stories are quirky, fun, and very, very, very engaging!

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