Teaching Inferences 101

I promised after my conference that I would write a post about inferences.  Well, I am finally getting around to it!  I got a lot of information from that one session, but it was eye-opening!  As a matter of fact, this is going to be one post of several.  Today's post is

One of the major things I got from the session is that I have been teaching inferences all wrong, as many of us may have!  I always teach with this anchor chart and go with it, but sometimes those are not the inferences my struggling readers need help with.

 I really like the ideas presented, but I wish I would have gotten them YEARS ago!

To start, the presenter told us that we needed to ask more inferential questions.

But before students can answer those questions, they need to have a solid understanding of making inferences in all aspects of reading.

Many of us don't think about the simplest of inferences when reading because we just do it all the time.  One of those is the pronoun-antecedent relationship.

With struggling readers and ELL students we really need to hone in on this skill to make sure they understand it.   Take these sentences, for example.

Anna went to search for Elsa on the North Mountain.  She hoped to find her sister there.

Now, as readers, we know exactly what that means, but some struggling readers may not have a complete grasp on it.  There are two girls in the sentences, and the word "she" refers to only one of them.  Students have to break the code to truly understand that the "she" refers to Anna, not Elsa.  A simple inference, but a very important one!
Another important aspect of making inferences is to ask the students this simple question:

If we get our students to think about what the author left out, they actually feel like they are solving a problem.  Finding those clues help students to grasp an understanding of what they are really trying to learn.  Then it is easier to make an inference, based on what the author told the reader AND what the author did not include.  Students must use text evidence to help them make those inferences.

And the most important aspect for helping students make inferences is:

If students do not have a strong vocabulary base, they cannot make inferences!  Much of what they have to make inferences about will never make sense.

So, through all of this, I learned that I need to step back and think about how to help my students better understand how to make inferences.  Of course, I am not going to abandon some of the strategies I have used for making inferences, but I am going to focus more on what my students need to help make inferences more effectively.

How can you use this to help your students understand making inferences? 

 Thank you to Ashley Hughes, Surfing to Success, and Jen Jones for the the frames and fonts.


  1. Great post! I love to use the NO DAVID series but David Shannon when I teach inferencing with my firsties. The picture with his bare bottom is always quite a hit! ;)


    1. What a fun book to use with kids for inferencing! I bet they do giggle with is bare bottom. My son sure did when he was little.


  2. I love this post! My kids need all the help with making an inference that they can get! I can't wait to read your other posts about it! Which conference did you go to?
    Caitlin @ http://candrewsteach.blogspot.com/

    1. Making inferences is always such a tough skill to teach. I went to the Virginia State Reading Association Conference back in March and am finally getting around to this post. I am excited about the rest of these posts too.


  3. Andrea,

    Thank you so much for sharing this article on making inferences. I am working with several groups of 5th graders and working on prepping them for an upcoming reading retest. The main things that my students need to work on are vocabulary and inferencing.

    Thank you so much and best wishes!
    jen :)


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