A Puzzling Tale: Catch of the Day

Greek folktale retold by Claire Catacouzinos , illustrated by Sylvia Morris

Learning Intention:

I am learning how to use an inference equation so that I can justify my theories about a riddle.

Success Criteria:

  • I can define the term inference and use an inference equation to identify the deeper meaning in a text.
  • I can apply the skills of the inference equation to a riddle in a text.
  • I can present my theory on the answer to a riddle using clues in the text and my background knowledge.

Essential knowledge:

More information on the explicit teaching of inference can be found in the NSW Government’s Education resource on Stage 3 reading – Inference.

Explain to the class that the text they are about to read contains a riddle. Their job as readers is to look for clues and to come up with a solution. Then instruct students to keep their guesses to themselves until the end of the activity.

Read the text as a class. After reading, ask students to identify the quotation that contains the riddle:

‘Well, what we came here to catch, we threw away; what we didn’t want to catch, we kept.’

Explain to students that while this is a very tricky riddle, using a thinking protocol called an inference equation will help them solve the mystery and explain which clues led them to that conclusion.

Define inference: the process of drawing conclusions based on evidence from a text. There are two types of evidence that allow us to make inferences:

  • Background knowledge, which can include: vocabulary, places visited, interests and hobbies, subject specific knowledge, cultural knowledge, life experiences.
  • Clues which are found in texts and include both written and visual components.

By considering these two types of evidence, as readers we can make inferences. Use a Think Aloud strategy and the graphic organiser below to model how the inference equation works. Provide a level of support to suit the needs of your class. For example, you may collaboratively locate the clues as a class and direct the students to individually apply their background knowledge to generate inferences. Some suggested clues are below. (Please note that this list is not exhaustive.)

Clues in the text      +  Background knowledge        = Inference
Wild dogs roamed      + Wild dogs are dangerous because they spread disease and parasites        = They probably didn’t want to catch wild dogs and it is unlikely that they caught them. But the wild dogs could have brought something they didn’t want, like fleas.
Some children itched      + Lots of things can cause itching, like eczema, or lice        = The children had irritated skin, but there is not enough evidence yet to say what is causing the itching
In the image the man has read spots      + Red spots can be caused by pimples, freckles, chickenpox or irritated skin        = As the man is a grown up, it is most likely that he has irritated skin from bites, because he is too old for pimples or chickenpox


Through a gradual release of responsibility, students should complete the latter stages of the inference equation independently. Each step of the inference equation should bring them closer to solving the riddle.

Assessment as/of learning:

After students have completed their inference equation, ask for their theory / answer to the riddle. This can be in verbal, written or digital form (using interactive presentation software such as Mentimeter). They must support their theory with evidence from the text.

Many students are likely to identify that the fisherman have caught lice. This is because itchy skin is referenced throughout the text and the only likely inference for itchy skin is lice. Lice also suits the riddle: the lice caught by the fisherman is thrown away, the lice they failed to catch remained on their skin.