Teaching students to make inferences can be a chore but it doesn’t have to be! There are some seriously fun ways to introduce and practice the important comprehension skill of inferencing. Below is a list of both low prep activities and some that require a bit of preparation that can be used as inference centers in your classroom. Read THIS POST for even more strategies for teaching children to make inferences.
Low Prep Inferencing Ideas
Picture of the Day
Using Picture of the Day is a quick way to integrate inference practice into your daily routine. It’s also a great way for your students to build writing stamina and automaticity. Students are shown one random context-free photo a day. These can be pictures you find online- try Googling “Picture of the Day” for examples– or they can be photos you find in books around your classroom. The important thing is that there is no text telling the students what is happening in the photo.
For example, you might present your students with a photo of a child smiling. The students are then given some time to decide and write down what they think is happening in the photo. There is no right or wrong answer. They are using their powers of inferencing to create the story behind the photo. Leading questions can help students if they get stuck:
Digital Short Movies
Using digital short movies is a great way to appeal to both our in-person and distance learners. They’re especially helpful to students who may struggle with reading. They allow for practice without the added challenge of decoding.
This idea is very similar to Picture of the Day except students are shown a short video instead of a static image. Students are asked questions throughout the video to give them plenty of practice making connections between what they know and what they think the creator wants them to know. The video below is a great example:
During this video questions the following questions can be asked:
- Why does the man want to put the cat in the crate?
- Why is the cat scared of the crate?
- How is the cat feeling?
- How is the man feeling?
- What happens after the video ends?
What’s in My Teacher’s Bag?
Another fun and easy way to practice inference involves your bag! Hold your teaching bag or personal purse up for your students to see. Slowly take out items from the bag. Students will make an inference about you based on each item you pull out. Examples might be: a coffee shop gift card means you love coffee, a scarf might mean it’s cold outside, a phone could mean you have people you need to keep in contact with, a toy car might mean you have to stash toys in there for your child, etc. Ask students to explain WHY they are making specific inferences. This can lead to further discussions about student schema.
Inferencing Ideas That Require a Little More Prep
In this inferencing center, a garbage can is strategically filled with objects. It’s similar to What’s In My Teacher’s Bag but requires the use of a clean trash can and clean objects for the students to explore. First, students are given the prepared trash can to look through. Then, they are asked to make inferences about the person who threw out the trash based on what is in the can. Trash examples include snack wrappers, paper coffee cups, paper notes, utensils, receipts, and glue stick lids.
Inferencing centers can be holiday-themed to make them more seasonal and engaging to your students. In the winter, try wrapping groups of objects. For example, art supplies can be packaged in wrapping paper or gift boxes. Students can then open gifts and decide who might enjoy each gift. In the spring, try putting paper descriptions of animals into plastic eggs and asking students to infer which animal each egg is referring to.
If you have a lot of holiday decorations laying around this is the inference center for you! Place small collections of holiday decorations into separate paper bags. Students will explore the contents of each bag to infer which holiday it represents.
This activity is done with actual shoes, images of shoes, or simple descriptions of shoes. First, students look at a variety of shoes or are given a description of a variety of shoes. Shoes like ballet shoes, high heels, tap shoes, work boots, snowshoes, or flip-flops. Then, students use their developing inference skills to decide who the owner of each shoe is.
If you’re a fan of Toothy products, ask students to focus on the Making Inferences task cards that are part of the Reading Toothy Bundle. Students can work their way through these fun task cards to get fun, targeted, and self-checking practice. There are options for printable Toothy or digital Toothy task cards to make this activity a quick no-prep way to practice. For more information on Toothy products visit this page.
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