Making Inferences in the Elementary Classroom

Making inferences is one of the toughest skills to teach, and you'll find lots of support here. Check out this post for a round up of teaching resources and ideas.

Making inferences is one of THE toughest skills for children to grasp, and finding new ways to teach the skill can be challenging for teachers. In this post, I'd like to share strategies you'll find helpful as you navigate this skill with your students.

I believe in starting simple and gradually moving to the more complex.  I begin teaching inferencing with simple sentences. I present a simple sentence like, "She blew out the candles after everyone sang her a song."   I ask the students what this reminds them of.  We talk about how even though it doesn't say that it is someones birthday, we use our background knowledge or experiences to help us understand the sentence and what is happening.  For most students, a birthday comes to mind because they have all experienced what is happening in the sentence.

My next step is to move my students to using pictures and making inferences based on what we see in the picture and what we might already know.  I love using real pictures vs. clip art type ones as I feel my students can relate better to them.   Along with the picture, I begin with giving them a chart that looks like the picture below.

 Once my students are proficient with this graphic organizer I moved them into taking their work from the organizer and putting their words into a more organized way, forming paragraphs.  We work a lot on this, even taking an entire week to work through the process to end up with a nicely written inference in paragraph form.   I find working on the skill of how to write a paragraph blends nicely with this skill. 

Here is what that week looks like:
Day 1:  Using the picture and graphic organizer.
Day 2: Stating our inferences
Day 3: Supporting reasons
Day 4: Conclusion statement
Day 5: Putting it all together

When talking about paragraphing, I learned this simple trick from a colleague that I always share with my students.  I think it gives them a nice visual of what a paragraph should look like to the eye at first glance.  It is a rectangle with the top left corner cut out.  

That is just a quick intro to how I begin helping my students with making inferences.  I will cover this topic again as I talk about how I move from inferencing from pictures to making inferences based on text!  Until then...

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