Making Inferences Outside of the Text

Do your primary students have trouble making inferences?  Try teaching them to make inferences outside of the text first!  Use these daily opportunities to teach students what it means to make an inference.
Most of the classrooms at my last school were down side hallways.  But the music class was in the main hallway on the way to the cafeteria  and gym so we walked by it at least four times a day.   Since the teacher’s door opened outward into the hallway, she had some tape on the floor and a cone placed where the door opened so that students would walk around it and she wouldn’t have to worry about anyone being hit with it.

Without fail, every day at least one of my students (all of them at the beginning of the year!) would walk right through the taped off area, over the cone, or behind the cone.  I started telling them to make an inference.  Why was the tape there?  Why was the cone there?  Look at the door...which way does it open?  Eventually most of them picked up on it but it become a running joke that whenever anyone ignored the tape or cone, my students would tell them to make an inference.

I did things like this with my students ALL THE TIME.  Working with English Language Learners, I knew it was important for my students to understand the meaning of the academic vocabulary they were being taught in class.  What better way to do this than to teach it in fun, real life situations?  My students totally knew what it meant to make an inference...use the clues and what you know to FIGURE IT OUT!

Here are some other simple experiences that you can use to teach making inferences to primary students without any texts or materials:

  • It's raining outside.  What will you be doing during recess?
  • The teacher next door just brought in a kid with a paper and sat him in the back of you classroom.  Why?
  • Part of the playground is marked off with yellow tape.  What does this mean?
  • You walk into music class and you don't see a teacher who is not your normal teacher.  Where is the music teacher?
  • The principal just walked in your room with three other people dressed in suits and talking very seriously.  What should you do?
  • Your only pencil broke, you can't sharpen pencils in the middle of the day, and the pencil jar is empty.  How can you get another pencil to use?
  • A parent walks into your classroom with balloons and cupcakes.  What is going on?
  • Extra students from Mrs. Smith's class joined your class for the day.  Why?
  • You arrive at the cafeteria and the doors are still locked.  Why?
  • The entrance to the bathroom is blocked off with cones.  What does this mean?
  • You walk by Mr. Hark's classroom and see his kids yelling loudly.  You see someone who is not Mr. Hark at the front of the room.  What inference can you make?
  • Another teacher picked your class up from recess.  Why?
  • Your teacher tells the kids in your reading group that they have to share books.  Why would this be?
  • A boy is sitting alone on a bench at recess time.  What should you do?
  • Your teacher is sitting at her desk with her hand on her head.  What can you infer?
  • You walk into gym class and no one is there.  You see other classes heading out to the playground.  What can you infer?
  • Your principal always does the announcements, but today they were done by the secretary.  Why might this be?
The list goes on and on!  There are SO MANY times during the day that our students make inferences without even realizing it.  Take advantage of these opportunities to teach the academic vocabulary that goes along with making inferences.  This will make the task so much easier for students when working with text.


  1. So simple, yet effective! I use all of these ideas, but I need to remember to tell the kids it is an inference. That way it is in their heads!


  2. What a terrific blog post Jessica - so practical and usable tomorrow!!!
    Many thanks

  3. Oh my goodness....YES!! I am constantly saying to that they need to be problem solvers. They really have to be taught how to use that inference and problem solve. Great post!