Inferring Strategies

It is Jessica here, from Hanging Out in First, and I am so excited to be back with you today.  I have come to share with you some fun strategies that we have been discussing in our school reading committee.

Making inferences is one of the most difficult things to teach.  We so often receive questions on best approaches for getting kids to make inferences while reading.  Recently, I made this the focus of our reading committee meeting with my faculty.  Today I am here to share with you some of the many resources and strategies that we discovered!

First I will share with you this definition that I found:

I thought that this was an appropriate and simple definition for such a complex concept.

I am going to share with you some ways that you can teach inferring across all grade levels.  The first one is a great one for primary and something that you are probably already doing, and that is picture walks!

At my school we use the Superkids reading program in K/1 and Journeys in 2-5.  My first suggestion to my colleagues was to do picture walks with the weekly story before actually reading it. I have done this by scanning the book and removing the words or by simply using my smart document camera and covering the words so that the students can focus on the pictures.

One of my favorite books to use for inferring is called No Mirrors in my Nana's House, by Ysaye M. Barnwell.  

In this story, the characters in the images do not have any faces.  The whole story is about how there are no mirrors in Nana's house because it does not matter how you look, it only matters what kind of person you are. Therefore, the characters have no faces (no mirrors to see their faces).  This is one of my favorite ways to get students to infer, plus teach them an important life lesson.  It also is based on a wonderful, catchy song.  You can listen to the Nick Jr version on YouTube.

You can also give students just one picture (a photo, a picture from a magazine, a sales ad, an old calendar picture, etc) for making inferences.  For this activity, I like to glue the picture to the middle of a piece of chart paper.  Then I will put students into groups and have them brainstorm what is happening in the picture on the chart paper surrounding the picture.  Older students could even write a story using their picture!

Here is one of my favorite pictures to use for this activity (found on Pinterest).

You can also have students infer feelings.

I think that this is one of the most difficult concepts for my first graders.  Each time I ask them how a character feels, I get one of three answers: happy, sad, or mad.  It is so frustrating!  As a class, we created a list of feelings that people and characters may have.  After a bit of prompting, they finally got the hang of it and let me tell you how proud I am of some of the words they came up with!

We then wrote stories about times that we felt one of these particular feelings.  The most common stories were written about feeling special, loved, and invisible.  What amazing stories!  This has truly helped us with inferring how a character feels in a story.  I no longer get the answers happy, mad, and sad.  I get frustrated, annoyed, embarrassed, invisible, independent, proud....

Using riddles is another fun way to get students to infer.
Playing games like Who am I? and Headbandz is a great way to keep students engaged and thinking!

For more fun ways to get students inferring and for some wonderful resources, you can check out my entire power point here!


  1. I don't think kids realize that we infer with predictions, context clues, character traits, and with conclusions we make. It is a hugely important skill and so difficult for literal thinkers.

  2. I just went to the VSRA conference and got a lot of great information on making inferences. These tools are so powerful to help students, especially in the lower grades work to think beyond the text. Thanks for sharing some great ideas!

    Reading Toward the Stars

  3. You've provided so many effective ways for students to practice the skill of inferring. I love the idea of using riddles! Now I'm off to find a book of riddles. :)

    Read With Me ABC