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Three Mini-Lessons for Teaching Students to Make Inferences with Pictures

As your readers continue to dig deep into text, making inferences is an important skill for them to practice.  We make inferences every day without realizing it, but applying that to text can be a difficult task.  Breaking down the process and modeling as you make inferences will help students not only develop the habit of making inferences as they read but also be able to identify those inferences using their schema and clues from the author.

3 mini lessons to teach inferences

Students may easily confuse inferences with predictions because they have similar qualities; they use what they already know (our schema) and the information from the text to make predictions as well as inferences.  Students already know that they can confirm our predictions; they can predict what they think will happen next and can read on to confirm or adjust those predictions.  Making inferences helps figure out something that the author is not telling and students can use what they know to read between the lines

Making inferences involves a lot of questioning and thinking.  By asking questions while reading, students are actively thinking about the information that the author is giving about the plot, setting, and characters.  When students activate their schema, they are then able to make inferences.  By modeling aloud the process of thinking, questioning, activating schema, and making an inference; students will create habits that will transfer to their independent reading as well.

3 Mini-Lessons to Teach Inferences:

1. What is an inference?

Wordless picture books are a great way to introduce inferences to your students. Here are some of my favorite wordless picture books that you can consider for your mini-lesson

a variety of wordless picture books to teach inferences

I Walk with Vanessa” by Kerscoet is a favorite to share when making inferences because the photos, the characters, and their expressions are ones that your students will be able to draw on from their own personal experiences and knowledge.  It is not only perfect for teaching inferences but also has a wonderful lesson about a small act of kindness.  It is a beautiful book that will lend to amazing conversations about making inferences by using our own knowledge along with the clues the author is giving us.

Teaching inferences gives students a chance to actively think about the information the author is giving them.

You can choose any wordless picture book that you love to share and as you share the book, discuss it with your students.  Stop to ask questions, look at the pictures, and discuss what they notice or think is happening.  As you begin to craft a story from the pictures, your students are making inferences…and they may not even realize it! But don’t worry, you can tell them!

Discuss how looking at the pictures is just like looking at clues that the author is giving us.  You can make an OBSERVATION by pointing out something that we notice or see.  Take it further than simply making an observation by taking that information from the text and our own experiences and knowledge to make an INFERENCE. 

Inferences and observations student pages

Students are reading between the lines and making a guess about the characters, setting, and events in the story. 

2. Inferring Using Pictures

Many times, pictures can give us clues from the author just as much as the text gives us clues.  When looking at pictures, ask students what they notice.  

I Walk with Vanessa book and inference lesson plan

Refer back to your wordless picture book and look at details in each picture that help you make inferences about what is happening.  A wordless book is a perfect opportunity to make inferences because you must create the story as you look at the pictures.  Each student may notice different things that can add to the inferences that students make.

Inferencing with pictures exit ticket

The author’s clues are through the pictures in the book.  You can look at the setting, the characters, their expressions, body language, and interactions in the pictures to help figure out what is happening throughout the story, even when there are no words.  

3. Predictions vs Inferences

When students look at predictions and inferences on paper, they look SO similar…we use our schema and information that is in the text to form predictions and inferences.  So what is the difference?  

Continue to read your wordless picture book, and think aloud to point out when you are able to make predictions and when you are able to make inferences.

inference vs prediction lesson plan

Discuss how when making inferences you must read between the lines.  We get more out of the story as we dig deeper with our thinking, and not just by making predictions.  Inferences may never be confirmed, which means there really is no right or wrong inference.  The big difference with predictions is that we can confirm our predictions as we keep reading.  We KNOW for certain if our predictions are correct or need adjusting.  When we infer, we are reading between the lines and when we are predicting, we are thinking about what will happen next.

inference and prediction student notebook pages

If you have readers that are struggling to make inferences, model using the information in the text and what you already know from your own knowledge and experience.  Making inferences about characters is a good place to start, character trait inferences can be a good starting point for a struggling student.  Give example inferences about the type of person a character is based on the small actions described.  Discuss how sometimes the author does not tell us everything and we must read between the lines.

a boy reading a book

Inferencing should become an automatic skill for students and is one that is not easy to assess, it is hard to determine “right or wrong” when making inferences.  Check in with students and ask, what questions do you have?  What clues is the author giving?  Share your own idea of a character or a setting and ask students to do the same.  

I hope you found some great ideas to help as you are teaching inferences!

a free 5 day calendar for teaching inferences

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Happy Teaching!

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