How to Teach Making Inferences to Upper Elementary Students

Making Inferences is often one of those skills that students either understand instantly, or they struggle with. Sometimes students have trouble getting passed the literal meaning of things, or they can’t see beyond what is in front of them. However, inferencing is a necessary skill not only for state testing but for life. This is why I teach making inferences in these four ways and have found all four to be extremely effective with upper elementary students.

Making Inferences Using Pictures

In order for students to practice making inferences, the use of pictures is a great place to start. I use photographs instead of clipart because it helps make real-world connections (which I will discuss in the next paragraph). Students are able to develop a better sense of what might happen next or what is happening “behind the scenes,” when they can visually see it in front of them. For example in the picture below, you could infer that one of the girls is telling a mischievous secret based on the other girl’s reaction.

Making Inferences Using Media

Making real-life connections in the media is also a great way to teach students inferences. Often, teachers will use articles, commercials, or ads to teach students what they should be able to infer based on the information given to them. If an ad shows a puppy happily eating his food, we can easily infer that the ad would like us to purchase a particular type of dog food based on the dog’s reaction.

Making Inferences Using Conversation

Conversation and body language are a huge part of teaching students inferencing. A great way to do this is to role play in the classroom. Have students show different types of body language when someone is speaking. Ask students questions such as, “What can you infer based on this person’s body language?” Role play with students. Use vague language and then ask students what they think they can infer from what you said even though it was not clear. Making these real world connections will help students when they need to make academic inferences later on.

Practice Using Reading Passages/Novels

Of course a great way to teach inferences is to teach this using reading passages and novels. Using higher level thinking questions allows students to think about text maturely and will help form connections. If inferencing is part of their every day thought process, it will not seem as daunting when they need to do this on standardized testing. Using reading passages and novels helps students practice comprehension and inferencing at the same time. Click here for a FREE reading passage, follow up questions including inferencing, and free anchor charts to practice this skill.

Looking for more upper elementary blog posts? Click here for my favorite upper elementary picture books I use to teach writing!

Happy teaching!


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