Teaching Students to Make Inferences

Teaching students the differences between making inferences, drawing conclusions, and predicting outcomes may be one of the most difficult skills to teach.  This series of three posts includes definitions, examples, and activities.

Inferences

An inference is a conclusion reached on the basis of evidence and reasoning. Readers infer many topics. For example —

• reasons for a character’s actions
• the author’s message
• causes and effects
• problems and solutions

The reader must examine the facts in a novel or real-life situation to make an inference. Here is an example.

Bill walks into the Verizon store wearing a wet bathing suit. He carries his iPhone in his hand. The screen is cloudy with condensation. A drop of water falls from the iPhone to the floor.

You can infer that Bill most likely damaged his iPhone by dropping it in water while swimming. He is in the store to get it repaired. These are facts drawn from the information provided.

Inference Hook Activity

When making an inference, readers use facts to determine other facts. Have students complete this exercise to help explain this. Write the six words from the box on the board. Read each description listed below the box. Ask students to tell what the sentence you read describes.

 Battle of the Bulge chariot delegation Hindenburg chameleon taxation
1. This lizard can change the color of its skin to look like the colors that are around it.
2. This zeppelin exploded when trying to land on May 6, 1937 in New Jersey.
3. This was the last major German offensive campaign on the Western Front during World War II.
4. This is a two-wheeled horse-drawn vehicle used in ancient warfare and racing.
5. This is the action of making a payment of a percentage of a person’s income to help support the government.
6. This group of people votes or acts for someone else.

Inference Anchor Chart

Common Core State Standards require students to back up inferences with textual evidence. This anchor chart provides a flowchart to help students think through the process.

Activity #1 – Brochure Fold Graphic Organizer

 Go over the definitions and examples of inference using this FREE foldable organizer. Click here to download the pdf file. Be sure to collect all three.

Activity #2 – Making Inferences – YouTube

Vanessa Miller created this great video that explains inference. In the description found on YouTube, she includes a link to a quiz (an excel file that works with the app Socrative.)

The video shows a touching story with a good message. The teacher took a three minute commercial from True Move in Thailand and embedded great questions for students to answer.

McGraw-Hill provides this quick animation to introduce inference.

Activity #3 – Using Animated Shorts to Teach Inference

If you are looking for some high interest activities, try using animated shorts to teach inference skills. This post contains the animated short film “Lonely Island” found on Youtube and inserted in this post. A printable practice accompanies the video.

Activity #4 – Picture Inferences

Use photos for students to make inferences. The ones below were taken at school.

The New York Times has a “What’s Going On in This Picture?” Each Monday the Times posts images stripped of all captions. On Thursdays, more information is revealed about the photo. Teachers can download photos individually or a slideshow with 40 Intriguing Photos to Make Students Think. The photos make great discussion pieces for inference.

Activity #6 – Online Games and Activities

 Inference Riddles Quia – Inferences and Drawing Conclusion [Who wants to be a millionaire? style game.] Quia – Inferences Jeopardy Free Lessons and Activities the Florida Center for Reading Research