How to Teach Students to Make Inferences

Inference is the process of using what you know to make a conclusion about something that is not directly stated. When you make an inference, you are using your prior knowledge, experience, and understanding of the world to fill in the gaps in a text or image.

For example, if you read a sentence that says, “The dog was barking,” you can infer that the dog is probably excited or angry. You know this because you have prior knowledge that dogs bark when they are excited or angry.

Inference is an important skill for both reading and writing. When you are reading, you need to use inference to understand the text that is not directly stated. When you are writing, you need to use inference to help your readers understand your meaning.

How to Teach Inferencing to Elementary Students

There are many different ways to teach inferencing to elementary students. Here are a few ideas:

Use picture prompts

 Picture prompts are a great way to introduce inferencing to young students. Show students a picture and ask them to make inferences about what is happening in the picture. For example, you could show students a picture of a boy and a girl playing in the rain. You could then ask them to infer how the boy and girl are feeling, what they are doing, and what the weather is like.

Here are some images for our library that would be good to practice inferencing. Each image on Kids Think Wide have questions to stimulate discussion and encourage inferencing before writing.

Use story prompts

Story prompts are another great way to teach inferencing to elementary students. Read students a story and then ask them to make inferences about what is happening in the story. For example, you could read students a story about a boy who is lost in the woods. You could then ask them to infer what the boy is thinking, feeling, and doing.

Use games and activities

There are many different games and activities that can be used to teach inferencing to elementary students. For example, you could play a game of “20 Questions” where students try to guess an object by asking questions that can only be answered with yes or no. You could also play a game of “Would You Rather?” where students have to choose between two options that are not directly stated.

Tips for Helping Students Make Inferences

Help students identify clues in the text

When you are reading a text with students, help them to identify clues that can help them to make inferences. These clues can include:

Specific details: Specific details can provide clues about what is happening in the text. For example, if you read a sentence that says, “The dog was barking loudly,” the specific detail “loudly” can help you to infer that the dog is excited or angry.
Word choice: The author’s word choice can also provide clues about what is happening in the text. For example, if the author uses phrases like “tail wagging” and “bouncing joyfully,” you can infer that the dog is feeling happy or excited.
Tone: The tone of the text can also provide clues about what is happening in the text. For example, if the text is written in a happy tone, you can infer that the dog is feeling happy.

Encourage students to ask questions

When students are reading, encourage them to ask questions about what they are reading. These questions can help them to identify clues in the text and to make inferences. For example, a student might ask, “Why is the dog barking?” or “What is the dog thinking?”

Provide opportunities for students to practice making inferences

The best way for students to learn how to make inferences is to practice. Provide students with opportunities to practice making inferences by giving them different types of texts to read and by asking them to make inferences about what is happening in the text.

Conclusion

Inference is an important skill for both reading and writing. When you are reading, you need to use inference to understand the text that is not directly stated. When you are writing, you need to use inference to help your readers understand your meaning. There are many different ways to teach inferencing to elementary students.

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