Making inferences is an abstract skill. It requires students to take what they already know (in their schema, or what we like to call their ‘mental filing cabinet’) and add it to what they hear and see in a story to figure out what the author is NOT saying. It takes students lots of practice to be able to put inferences into words.
Many reading curriculums spiral through this skill a few times, but it never seems to stick! Did you know this skill can be best taught by using real-life objects and/or pictures?! What better way for students to gain confidence in voicing their inferences than using something concrete they can see?
Check out these ideas for incorporating hands-on inference lessons in the classroom.
Crime Scene Investigation
This activity is SUPER engaging. Before students arrive, set up a “crime scene” in the classroom. This can be a simple scene. Examples: footprints walking across the classroom leading to a tipped over basket of books, WASHABLE paint smeared, etc.. BONUS: use caution tape around the “crime scene” to keep students from touching it. When students are over the initial squeals of excitement, lead a class discussion on the clues, and their detective theories (their inferences). Refer to a ‘making inferences’ anchor chart. (Need an anchor chart? Check out this one–as well as many others–in the Lucky Little Toolkit! ) Read more about the Lucky Little Toolkit HERE.
Ask: “Tell me what this clue tells you?” This will cause the kids to discuss what they think happened and why. Tell them that when they do this, they are making inferences! (And they’re probably really excited about it!)
The first time introducing a book to the class, try just showing the pictures. (Cover up the words if needed!) Take a picture walk with the class. Have them decide what is happening in the story based on what they see in the pictures plus what information they have in their schema (what they already know based on their life experiences). Then, you can read the story using pictures and words. Students can check how accurate their inferences were!
If you want a ready-to-go resource for this, check out the Lucky Little Learners’ newest group of reading passages, Illustration & Inferences Reading Passages!
This is a FUN idea! Bring in a gym bag/backpack. Tell the students you found it in the parking lot (or another area around school). Open it up to see who it could belong to. (To prepare for this activity, put in items that pertain to one of the special subjects teachers. You can even borrow items from that teacher.) The class will look at all the items and think about where the bag was found. They will come up with a class inference of who the bag belongs to. If willing, the specials teacher can pop in and say “Thanks for finding my bag, I have been looking all over for it!” Imagine the students’ excitement when this happens, especially if they were right!
This activity requires some prep work, like some of the other activities already listed. Choose an ingredient list from a recipe students will be familiar with (pizza, tacos, cake, etc…) Either bring in the real ingredients or pictures of the ingredients. Make sure students cannot see the ingredients all at once! One by one, pull the ingredients out. Students will infer what the recipe is!
Bonus Tips: wear an apron or chef’s hat. Provide recipe cards for students to write their guesses on.
Extension activity: students create an ingredient list for their favorite food, share it with the class, and the class has to infer what they are cooking.
These fun short films are GREAT for teaching all sorts of comprehension activities! Prewatch a short or two and decide which one is the best fit for your class. (Check out a collection RIGHT HERE!) After watching the short with the class, have them infer what was happening!
Take a look at THIS POST with inferencing center ideas!
Hopefully these strategies help students make inferences with ease! Remember, we are better together, so check out our facebook group, Lucky 2nd Grade Teachers.
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