What's Under the Slide? Making Inferences Using Microscopes

3 - 5
Lesson Plan Type
Estimated Time
50 minutes
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This lesson uses science to engage students in the process of making inferences. First, students work through a series of activities about making inferences. Then they read a booklet of descriptions of a series of mystery objects that are placed under a microscope. Finally, they look through each microscope and use the formula of schema + text clues = inference to make their own inferences about the identity of each mystery object.

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Common Core Standards

This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.

State Standards

This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.

NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts

  • 3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
  • 7. Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems. They gather, evaluate, and synthesize data from a variety of sources (e.g., print and nonprint texts, artifacts, people) to communicate their discoveries in ways that suit their purpose and audience.

Materials and Technology

  • A leaf and other mystery objects that students are able to identify, such as dog food, sugar, or cinnamon

  • Five or six microscopes

  • A Birthday Mystery PowerPoint presentation

  • LCD projector and computer



  1. Review the A Birthday Mystery PowerPoint presentation, and prepare the projector.

  2. Choose five or six mystery objects, including a leaf. Prepare the mystery objects as necessary and place each one in a microscope slide.

  3. Set up five or six microscopes around the room, and insert the slides with your mystery objects under the microscopes for viewing.

  4. Using the Making Inferences Case File booklet, prepare information booklets written from the point of view of the mystery objects. In the booklets, leave clues about the identification of the mystery objects, but do not directly come out and say what each object is.

  5. Place each booklet beside the corresponding microscope.

  6. Print out the Detective Recording Sheet, and make enough copies for each student.

Student Objectives

Students will

  • Add to their schema about a topic by using text clues from a reading passage

  • Make an inference about the identity of a mystery object displayed under a microscope with the help of their own schema and text clues

Instruction and Activities

  1. Show the first slide of the A Birthday Mystery PowerPoint presentation, and tell students that it was recently your birthday. Say that you were not expecting any gifts, but you received this delicious-looking cake delivered to your home. Then there was a knock at your door.

  2. Advance to slide 2, and tell students that when you opened the door, you saw this package on your front porch.

  3. Advance to slide 3, and read the text clues to the class. Ask students to list some possibilities of what might be inside the box. Solicit explanations as well as answers.

  4. Advance to slide 4, and have students assess their previous answers.

  5. Advance to slide 5, and explain to students that the process they just unknowingly went through is a skill called making inferences, or inferring.

  6. Advance to slide 6, and explain that inferring is also called “reading between the lines.” Making inferences means you take what you already know (schema), add it to clues given to you in a story (text clues), and end up with a realistic possibility for the inference. Tell students that by using this skill we are able to become better readers and to better comprehend story elements.

  7. Advance to slide 7, and lead a discussion about the variations of the word inferring that the students might say, hear, or see on state tests. Discuss the differences between these variations.

  8. Ask students if they have ever used the skill of making inferences in their everyday lives. Discuss this as a class. For those who doubt that they have or ever will make an inference in their lives outside of the classroom, advance to slides 8–10 and read through the story.

  9. Discuss as a class what inference can be made from this story. Be sure to use the schema + text clues = inference model.

  10. Continue to slides 11–15. Read and allow students to discuss in small groups.

  11. Go through slides 16–20. Review each slide and ask student groups to discuss inferences that can be made by looking at the pictures.

  12. Assign new small groups for rotation through the microscope stations. Instruct them to review the Making Inferences Case File page that appears next to each microscope for textual clues. Give each student a copy of the Detective Recording Sheet to record their individual inferences.

  13. Allow time for each student to rotate through each of the stations. Have students read the booklets, look under the microscopes, make an inference, and record their inferences on their own Detective Recording Sheet.

  14. Ask students to return to their seats for a debriefing and reflection time that you facilitate. Have them hand in their Detective Recording Sheets at the end of the class for assessment.


  • Have students make an online poster using Glogster EDU. (It is helpful to bookmark the site before beginning this activity.) Students can use pictures of their own mystery objects and write short accompanying descriptions for text clues. Once students complete their glogs, have the class view each others’ glogs and make inferences about the mystery objects shown.

  • Have students read the poem “Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout Would Not Take the Garbage Out” by Shel Silverstein and complete the Making Inferences Graphic Organizer.

Student Assessment / Reflections

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