Reading Lesson on Making Inferences

By Jessica Cook

Students practice the skill of making inferences before beginning to apply this skill to their reading comprehension activities.

If you want to improve your students’ reading comprehension skills, teach them some basic reading strategies. Teaching your students to make inferences helps them think about the texts they read on a deeper level than they have done in the past. When it comes time to take a state assessment for reading, they will be able to understand and explain the implied meanings of the text.

In this lesson, students learn about making inferences by practicing with photographs before trying it with text.

Get a series of creatively cropped photographs online here or at Odessy Magazine online among other places. Put these photos onto a Power Point presentation, and show the clues to your students one at a time. Ask them to guess what they think the photo could be, and why they think that. Get them to identify elements of the photos that lead them to their answers.

Instructional Time

Explain to the students that they have been making inferences when they looked at the photos. Tell them that an inference is an educated guess about the hidden meaning of something. Here is an example I like to use when I explain inferences to my students:

Me: Ok, class, let’s say ________ (insert name of good-natured student in class) goes up to a girl and tells her she’s the most beautiful creature he’s ever seen. He asks her if she will please, please, PLEASE be his girlfriend. The girl says, “Yeah – right." (Use your best sarcastic voice here.) Does _____ have a new girlfriend now?

Class: No! (Much laughter at ____’s expense ensues.)

Me: Why not? She said “yeah," and “right," – two words that indicate her agreement to what he had to say. So why isn’t she his girlfriend?

Class: She didn’t really MEAN it, Mrs. Cook.

Me: How do you know?

Class: (some type of response about her tone of voice, the way she said it, etc.).

Me: Ah, so you made an educated guess about what she really meant, regardless of the words she used. That’s making an inference.

You may want to ask students to put “making inferences" in their notes or vocabulary lists at this time.

Independent Practice

Give students a short story to read and a list of questions about the implied meaning of the story. Have them answer individually on paper or out loud as a class. You can fit in this activity with any text or theme you are currently studying; just find a story that has surface-level and implied meanings, and ask away!

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