Teaching Students to Make Inferences

Ideas for 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. 

Get the organizer from this post here.


An inference is a conclusion reached based on 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

More about Inferences

To infer, the reader must examine the facts in a novel or real-life situation. 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 the 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 paying 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. 

Anchor Chart - Inference Flowchart - This blog post also includes teaching ideas and a free trifold organizer on inference.
Anchor Chart - Observation vs. Inference - This blog post also includes teaching ideas and a free trifold organizer on inference.

Activity #1 – Brochure Fold Graphic Organizer

Ideas for Teaching Students to Make Inferences

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.

Ideas for Teaching Students to Make Inferences

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

Ideas for Teaching Students to Make InferencesIf you are looking for 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. National Geographic is an excellent source for finding photos.

Duck and Turtles Photo - Great for an Inference Lesson

These photos were taken at school.

Using Photos to Teach InferenceUsing Photos to Teach Inference

Using Photos to Teach InferenceUsing Photos to Teach Inference

Using Photos to Teach Inference

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. The photos make great discussion pieces for inference.

Questions you might ask about photos include…

  • What can you conclude?
  • What most likely caused ——?
  • How do you know ——?
  • What can you generalize about ——?
  • What might happen ——?
  • How does ——feel?
  • What conclusions can you draw?
  • What clues lead you to believe ——?

Activity #5 – Books for Teaching Inference

Ideas for Teaching Students to Make Inferences
  • Knock Knock: My Dad’s Dreams For Me by Daniel Beaty
  • Duck Rabbit by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
  • Two Bad Ants by Chris Van Allsburg


Finding inferences in the text is a bit more complicated. Often students need to look for signal words that show an inference is coming up. Signal words for inferences include:

  • infer
  • believe
  • guess
  • probably
  • generalize
  • think
  • assume
  • conclusion
  • clues

    Questions Stems for Making Inferences in Text

    Here are a series of questions you might ask students to help them make inferences with text:

    • What is the main idea of the passage?
    • What clues lead you to believe —–?
    • From the title of the article, you can predict —-?
    • What conclusions can be made from —–?
    • Which details from the passage helped the reader to know —-?

Activity #6 – Online Games and Activities

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