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Learning Inference: Lesson Plans

By Sarah Malburg

Learning inference can be a tricky topic for students. Create interactive lesson plans on inference to help students master the concept. Show students how they use inference in everyday life such as inferring if someone is happy or sad based on facial expressions, body language and tone of voice.

What is Inference?

To make an inference means to draw a conclusion or make a judgment. When making an inference, you may not experience the actual event. However based on the information you gathered and know, it's logical that this event happened. Most people make inferences everyday, and many times do it without even thinking about it. Making an inference means choosing the most likely explanation from the clues and information you know.

Clues Checklist

  1. Read the text carefully.
  2. Look for clues such as pictures, the title, body language, vocabulary and the situation. Act like you're a detective!
  3. Are there any problems or obstacles?
  4. Use background knowledge and what you already know about a topic.
  5. Make sure your inference is logical and well-reasoned.

Lesson Plans

I. Create a list of observations. For example:

  1. Your flashlight won't work when you switch it on.
  2. Two different animal tracks go into a burrow. Only one set of these tracks come out of a burrow.
  3. More students are using calculators in math classes today than they did ten years ago.

Ask the students to make inferences based on these observations. For example:

  1. The switch is broken, the globe is broken or the batteries are dead.
  2. One animal is still in the burrow, or the other animal ate or killed the other.
  3. Today, more technology is available to students.

Review the inferences, and ask students to explain how they arrived at the inferences.

II. Create a list of objects like apples, elephants, etc. Play a game similar to 20 questions, where the students ask yes or no questions to help them make an inference to determine the topic. For example, the topic is apples. Students may ask questions like, "Is it a thing?" or "Is it smaller than a basketball?" Consider limiting the categories to topics like animals or food. These are wide topics, but this narrows the categories for students.

III. Select a comic strip and photocopy for students to make inferences. Allow students to make their own inferences and review together as a class. Consider writing a few guiding questions to introduce the topic or get students started. For example, I used a Ziggy comic that showed a waiter placing a giant piece of cake in front of him, with the caption, "Don't forget my diet coke." I asked the students, "Is Ziggy on a diet? What can you infer about Ziggy's diet? Why?"

IV. Select a wide variety of books, but make sure the students have not read these books. Ask the students to make inferences based on the title and covers. Share these inferences and ask students to explain how they arrived at these inferences. Read a quick summary of the book to see how close the inferences are to the actual story.

V. Create an inference game using movies. Visit the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) and search for a movie you'd like to use. Choose a quote from the movie, relating to the title or story. On the same page, a summary of the movie is given. Use this information to create question/information cards. To play the game, read the quote to the students. Then begin reading the summary. As students think they know the movie they can guess, but they must explain how they arrived at their answer. A point is awarded for each correct answer. Consider offering three possible choices for the movie if students are struggling after the summary is read.