Have you made an inference today?

I have had a great time this week sitting in planning meetings with various grade levels at an elementary school. I was able to share resources and take notes on what they discussed so I could search for other things to share.

Although I heard lots of great ideas, there was one topic that really stuck out for me … making inferences. As a former 4th grade teacher, I know this was something my students struggled with also.

The teachers discussed how we tend to teach the making inferences skill in isolation when it really plays a connected and integrated role in so many areas essential for understanding and comprehension.


What inferences can you make about this image?

Here are a few of their ideas for helping students make inferences:

  • stop teaching the skill in isolation
  • use writing
  • teach along with similes and metaphors
  • focus on visualizations
  • parts of speech
  • text structure
  • the author’s presentation of the story
  • highlight the way it helps create accuracy

Each of the teachers in this meeting taught a different subject to the same set of students (departmentalized), but they all talked about how they could point out when students make inferences in their particular area …. our students make so many inferences all the time and don’t even realize it.

I have found a few resources that I plan to share with them that can be used throughout the curriculum areas and not just in English Language Arts:

  • Here is a 3 column graphic organizer I used in that past: Facts, What does this makes me think, Why. I had my students fold a piece of notebook paper to make three columns rather than running them copies all the time … turn the notebook paper sideways and fold the paper so that all the holes line up … I know the columns are not equal, but it works.
  • High Quality Picture Books are great for inferences. There are a lot of great ideas in this ReadWriteThink lesson that could be use with various authors/books. Your media specialist would be a good resource as well.
  • Even having students write a story to go along with the images in a wordless picture book would be great for inferences and noticing detail … then discuss why student included certain things in what they wrote … what from the image cause you to infer that for the story ….
  • Exploring/Discussing/Writing about images (Historical Images, Advertisements, and even Abstract Art) can be a good way to emphasize making inferences …. mood, action, purpose, feeling, time …. even connecting images with text …. talk about the pictures that form in a student’s mind when they read text, why do those particular pictures form …. what in the text makes you think/see that) The Library of Congress site is a good source for historical images and such (there is even a teacher section that talks about using primary sources).  ArtsEdge is a good place to find images of art and information about the arts.

I plan to keep looking and sharing more things teachers can use to help students with the making inferences skill. I would love to hear the things that have worked for you (technology-related or not) ….

Another idea these teachers had was to have a Daily Inference Challenge for their students …. what do you think about that? What types of thing would you use?

Thanks in advance!

image is one that I took in a photography workshop
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