Inferencing and Drawing Conclusions

Inferencing is a very important skill that good readers use as they are reading. Inferencing has a lot to do with reading between the lines and picking up on feelings or thoughts that the author doesn't directly state. This can be very difficult for some students, especially if they are struggling readers. And I have plenty of those in my room with our Hispanic population at almost 50%. 

Here are some strategies to help teach this very important skill to your students. One thing I do when introducing inferencing is show photographs. I like to use old photos from the early 1900's because the kids can learn a lot about the time period at the same time! Have them look at the photo and guide students in making a list of observations. (This is very important!) For example: a tree, children, a train, etc. You want to make sure you are only listing things you see, not what you think is happening in the picture. We'll get to that part!

After you list everything you see in the photo, ask students to use what they see to help them infer what they think is happening in the picture or what the people are feeling. Spend a few minutes inferring a couple of different ideas from the picture. You may need to model this with several pictures. My students get confused sometimes between the observations and the inferences. I have to remind them that walking or talking are inferences because they are things they think the people are doing.

Once students understand how to infer with photos, you can take it to the next level. Show students several statements and guide them in making inferences. For example, During John's math test, he kept staring around the room and tapping his pencil on the desk. He hadn't filled in any answers. What can you infer about John? Guide students in completing several inference type questions like this until they get the hang of it. Make sure to point out the details or facts of each inference that led them to draw their conclusion. You could have them list the facts and inferences in a T-chart.

Another way to reinforce this skill is with "The Inference or Fact Envelope" activity. This is to help students distinguish between facts and inferences. Give each student an envelope with a fact or an inference on the front. There should be a folded index card on the inside with the answer. Students read the card and then walk around the room to see who has the same topic as they do. The students then discuss which one is a fact and which is an inference. When the teacher announces, "The Envelope Please," the students open their envleopes to see if they were correct.

Some sample envelopes and cards:

The cat was making my sister sneeze. (Inference)
My sister is allergic to cats. (Fact)

The boy did not have any friends. (Inference)
The boy was new in town. (Fact)

We were red from the sun. (Inference)
We did not use suntan lotion. (Fact)

The team needs to practice. (Inference)
They did not score a goal all year. (Fact)

Another great activity for connecting details and experiences to make inferences is to use a wordsplash. Show students a picture of a familiar person, animal, object, or scene. In pairs, have them create a wordsplash describing the person or thing. Have them include physical descriptions, facts, and things they believe to be true. Then, they use their descriptions from the wordsplash to complete a graphic organizer as a group. It should be a three column chart. The first column labeled details, the second column labeled what I already know and then the last column titled Inference. This will show how details and what you already know help you make inferences and draw conclusions.

A fun game your kids will love is called "Name that Inference." For example: There is a place where everything is quiet. There are many shelves and a lot of people reading books. Name that inference: The Library! This is just a good way to review and the kids will enjoy it!

How do you teach inferencing and drawing conclusions?


  1. Cute ideas! I agree teaching about making inferences can be tough, but I will definitely try out some of these great strategies! Thanks :0)

  2. Another great post! Thanks for sharing your ideas and examples. Making great inferences is so important to reading comprehension and many struggling readers have difficulty with it. I think many teachers in the early grades think that their students are unable to infer because it can be difficult. However, students make easy inferences all the time on the playground, in the classroom, and at home. They just don't know what to call them. For example, if a teacher gives them "the look," they usually correctly infer that they should stop whatever they are doing or things will get worse.

    Students also need to know that if they don't have the background knowledge, they will be unable to make the required inference. For example, if I said he clutched his left arm and fell to the ground. You need to know that clutching your left arm is a common sign of a heart attack for men in order to make the inference that the man is having a heart attack. The point? The more kids read, the more they know. The more they know, the better they can infer. I think a lot of struggling readers have difficulty making good inferences because they lack the background knowledge they need in order to do so.

    P.S. I LOVE "Name that inference." It would make a great 5 minute time filler and could be used on a regular basis. I bet kids would love to make up their own, too.


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