Inferring Mentor Text

Dear Juno by Soyung Pak. I felt like I won the lottery when I found this book in my school library! We were bringing our unit of inquiry into visual language to a close when I discovered it, and Dear Juno is PERFECT for teaching both- visual language and inferring. I'm linking up with Collaboration Cuties to tell you all about it!

Amazon's summary:
Juno's grandmother writes in Korean and Juno writes in drawings, but that doesn't mean they can't exchange letters. From the photo his grandmother sends him, Juno can tell that she has a new cat. From the picture he makes for her, Juno's grandmother can tell that he wants her to come for a visit. So she sends Juno a miniature plane, to let him know she's on the way. This tender tale is a perfect introduction to the concept of foreign cultures and far-off lands. 

"The messages that can be conveyed without words, language differences between generations, and family ties across great distances are gently and affectingly handled in this first picture book." (Kirkus Reviews)


Throughout the book, there are examples of Juno making inferences:

  • he infers that the letter he receives comes from far away because of he air mail envelope and foreign stamp
  • he infers that it's not a good time to ask his parents to read the letter because they are washing the dinner dishes
  • he infers that his grandmother has a new cat because she included a photo of the two of them together

The reader has many opportunities to make inferences about Juno and his family. We infer that Juno cannot read (words) because he asks for his parents' help (Juno can certainly read the pictures, and we discuss that, remembering how we learned that way at the beginning of first grade when we started "read to self".)

Visual Language

We're at the end of a unit of inquiry into visual language, or how we communicate without words. Dear Juno is perfect for demonstrating this:
  • Grandmother's photos communicates information (she got a new pet)
  • Juno's pictures serve as a "letter" to grandma
  • The colored pencils Grandmother sends Juno are a symbol representing her wish that Juno continue to send her letters.
I used this book for about a week's worth of Reading Workshop mini-lessons. Here are a couple photos:

I first used it to model how strong readers use questions to propel them forward through a text. I initially read the book of two days, just splitting it in half so that the lessons were truly "mini". On the second day, I showed students that readers don't always have lingering questions... and that's okay (I left it blank on the anchor chart). I think if we "force" them into thinking that they always come up with really great questions, students start to tell us what they think we want to hear- and I don't want that! 

I just introduced theme through the "author's message". I was so proud of how some of my firsties shared their thinking about what Soyung Pak was trying to communicate to them through the story; I think their ideas are really on point! As part of our unit, we discussed the what it means to be a good communicator, one of the Learner Profile attributes. Students acknowledged that communicators don't always need to share their ideas through words, and that they don't always have to listen with their ears; communicators need to infer much of the time in order to understand others. (The poster above is part of a set I created; if you are interested in checking them out, click HERE). We all agreed that Juno is a good communicator because he was able to communicate with his grandmother without reading or speaking a single word!

OK, so can you tell that I LOVE this book?? :) I think it's appropriate for 1st - 5th- check it out!

What are your mentor texts for teaching inferring? Don't forget to check out Collaboration Cuties for other great language arts mentor texts.

Thanks for stopping by!
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  1. I am always on the lookout for new texts that are ideal for inferring. I have added this one to my list! Thanks so much for sharing your wonderful ideas and examples.

    Sarah @ Hoots N' Hollers

    1. So glad you found it helpful :) I appreciate your sweet comment!

  2. Wow! This looks amazing!! I've never heard of this book! What a great way to end the unit! I'm definitely going to have to check into this book!! Thanks so much for linking up!!

    1. It'd be great for 3rd or 4th! You probably wouldn't have to give as much "think aloud" support as I did with my first graders!
      Happy Teaching :)

  3. Thanks for posting about this book! My 4th graders always need practice on inferring and this seems like such an interesting book. It's going on my library list now.


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