1000 Words

Tuesday, February 3, 2015
your wordsmith, Suzanne

A picture is worth...all together now...1000 words.  Good!  So what is that supposed to mean anyway?!  I don't know if I am expert enough to answer that question, but I can show you two strategies that unlock those 1000 words and practice that illusive skill...inferencing.

I thought you'd like that!

We throw around words like infer and conclude in our written and verbal questioning, as we should.  However, for a struggling reader, there is nothing automatic that fires off in their brain to approach this type of question.  That's where we come in.

This first strategy is called It Says-I Say-And So by Kylene Beers.  I can hardly talk (or type) about this strategy without chuckling.  This is one of Lori's least favorite strategies.  She struggles with it because she has strong inferencing skills.  Show off!  But that is a good take away: this strategy is not for all.  Strong readers might be frustrated by it.  Let's talk about how it can be used to scaffold struggling readers' thinking.

Show students a picture.
In our "It Says" column, students will list only the "facts" in the picture (things they can point to).  Students might be tempted to write something that goes beyond the picture.  Praise this and show them how naturally they are making inferences, but stress that this column is only for things that they can see with their eyes.  

"I Say" is where we are able to go beyond the picture.  Examples might include thoughts and feelings.  Encourage them to combine facts.  If this is your first time with this strategy, model your thinking aloud.  For example, I know that when I'm in bed with a box or tissue and thermometer, I'm sick!

Finally, we are able to combine our thoughts into an inference.  Continually point out that this inference is not something stated but is based on the clues I found.  I have to make this picture make sense, tell why is matters.

The finished product:
Ohhhh! Ahhhh!

Here's another variation:

The power in this strategy lies in the conversation.  The first time or two the teacher will largely explain their thinking.  You are creating those neural pathways for students.  (I'm sorry- how scientific did that last sentence sound?!)  Work to turn conversations over to students.  When students feel comfortable with the pictures, try either strategy with  a brief, targeted passage.

Despite Lori's reluctance, I love this strategy because it's easy buy in, and students don't realize what powerful work they're doing.  You know I love being sneaky!


  1. I love this idea! Have you ever tried this with text? I have many students who really struggle with inferring, while it comes so easily to the others. This seems like a great way to differentiate for those who do struggle with inferring.

    1. I have used this successfully with a text. Especially at first, make sure that it is a brief text so that students can look carefully for clues on which to build an inference. I love this cognitive routine to build inferencing skills!

  2. OMG. Love. This is great!

  3. awesome...used this strategy a little bumped up for grade nines today...thanks:)