How to Teach Making Inferences: Comprehension Strategy

There are few lessons I love to introduce more than making inferences! Kids love to be detectives so when I come out from behind my desk in my trench coat and detective hat, holding my oversized magnifying lens, and hum the Mission Impossible song as I furtively sneak up to the board, it’s always a big hit!

It’s ok that my hat is really a plastic safari hat. And that my “trench coat” is really just a rain jacket. It works, and they get so excited to become inference detectives!

Making inferences is a skill we use constantly and it’s so important for reading comprehension!

This is why we need to teach making inferences in an explicit way, giving opportunities for lots of practice, breaking it down into easy steps, and gradually becoming more complex. Here are my best tips for how to teach making inferences to students in kindergarten, first, and second grade.

Making inferences is such an important comprehension strategy, but can be difficult for beginning readers. Read tips and ideas for introducing this comprehension skill to your primary students and my favorite resources to use! Your kids will be excited to be inference detectives when reading!

How to Teach Making Inferences

Kids need to learn that making inferences can involve more than one source of information. They can use pictures, text, and background knowledge to make inferences. It’s also important to be able to support an inference with reasons!

Use Pictures to Make Inferences

I like to start with simple pictures. Show students a picture of a doghouse or hamster cage with some clues (dog dish and bone, or hamster wheel) and ask who lives there. Based on the picture and what they know, they’ll be able to make an inference. Be sure to ask them to support their inference by stating the clues they used.

Wordless picture books are GREAT for this, too! Chalk by Bill Thomson is one of my favorites! A group of kids finds a bag of chalk and whatever they draw on the sidewalk comes to life! Great for inferring, as well as making and revising predictions.

I recently added a digital version of my Making Inferences pack and love these inferencing pictures! Kids look for clues to infer about the person who lives there!

Add Some TExt!

After making inferences from pictures, practice making inferences from a text. You can read a text from a big book or make up your own.

My PowerPoint to introduce this comprehension strategy has simple stories that you can use to have kids make inferences. When you click, the picture will appear to confirm/disprove their inference.

Apply to Everyday Life!

Tell kids they use inferencing skills every day! When they go outside and see the ground is wet, they can infer it rained or that the sprinklers were on.

After introducing this lesson, I will often stop throughout the day to make inferences. For example:

  • If someone has sauce on their shirt after lunch, I might infer they had spaghetti or pizza for lunch.
  • When a student comes into the classroom panting, I might infer they were running in the hallway.
  • If someone is wearing a character shirt or shirt with a ball on it, I might infer they like that character or sport.

Getting kids to be more aware of their surroundings and observant will surely help them become more observant while reading!

Opportunities for Practice

Of course, you want to allow plenty of opportunities for practicing this skill and it’s important that you differentiate the practice so that students at all levels are successful and challenged. Here are some activities included in my Inferring Iguana- Making Inferences Bundle:

  • Differentiated Reading Passages: color-code or answer the questions
  • Making Inferences task cards- These cards are self-checking (copy 2-sided), so they are great for centers! You can extend the activity by having kids write to support their inferences in a notebook.
  • File Detective– We love these differentiated file and lens cards! The easy level has simple sentences, while the harder level has a short passage. Kids match the lens to the clues.
  • Match ’em Up! In this differentiated printable, students cut and paste to match the clues to the correct occupation. I also included a blank one to make your own.
  • Writing Inferences- Students use clues from the picture to write an inference. Sentence frame option included for support.
  • Graphic Organizers

I also have a NEW digital version!

In addition to all of the above, the bundles include several options of posters and bookmarks. Display these in your classroom, keep a copy in your conference binder and give students the bookmarks for easy reference.

*In keeping with my Decoding Strategy resources, and because associating the fun characters with the skills helps kids remember them better, I created animal mascots for each skill. However, these are optional and you can certainly use the resource without relying on the characters.

Comprehension Strategy Bundle

This Making Inferences bundle is part of a larger Comprehension Strategy Bundle, which includes all of the above components for the following 4 strategies and skills:

Also available is a bundle for Cause and Effect. This one is not included in the bundle above.

Thanks for reading! If you liked this post, please consider sharing with other teachers!

For more reading comprehension tips, read the following posts:

Teaching Main Idea and Details

Teaching Comparing and Contrasting

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