3 Lessons on Making Inferences - Teaching Inferencing in Middle and High School

3 Activities for Teaching Inferences

What are inferences?

Inferences are conclusions or interpretations that are made based on various pieces of evidence or observations. They are usually logical, evidence-based deductions that are drawn to help understand something that is not explicitly stated. 

If you’re teaching students to understand author’s purpose, making inferences is an important skill. Authors do not always explicitly state characters’ intentions, yet understanding these can be key to understanding literary texts. 

In the nonfiction world, making inferences is often a reader’s path to sussing out credible sources, sound reasoning, and biases.

Inferences are an essential component of critical thinking and reasoning skills, and they play a critical role in reading comprehension, problem-solving, and decision-making. 

Why teach inferencing?

Inferencing is one of the essential skills required for high-level reading comprehension and critical thinking. When we teach inference, we help students move from a surface-level understanding of a text and hone their ability to find implicit meanings and nuance.

Since we want our students to be good problem solvers and make good decisions, inferencing is a key critical thinking skill. Additionally, this skill can help students identify facts and opinions as well as synthesize different sources of information.

How to teach inferences in middle school

One of the best ways to teach inferences in middle school is by having students put on their detective hats! At this point, we want students to do sustained reading and critical thinking, so longer simulations are the perfect opportunities to help students learn inferencing.

Check out this Lamb to the Slaughter Pre-Reading Simulation as an example.

Before reading the story, present students with the events in four chunks. In this scenario, students play the young detective coming to the Maloney house. After each text, students create a list of inferences based on evidence and questions they still need to answer. Then, they’ll read the actual short story to figure out whether their inferences about Mrs. Maloney are correct.

Making inferences worksheet

If you need to review making inferences with students or you need inferences practice to leave as a sub plan, this making inferences worksheet is for you.

In each text, students encounter a familiar scenario made unfamiliar with wordplay. 

They’ll use the evidence they have to make an inference as to the event being described. This is excellent practice citing textual evidence. Also, students finish by writing their own “puzzle paragraphs” to share with classmates.

How to teach inferences in high school

Teaching inferences in high school needs to be both more sophisticated and more foundational. So often, students come to us without this skill, and it impacts their reading and thinking.

That’s why I put together my digital adventure series, Terminus. Terminus is a post-apocalyptic adventure and blends the storyline of a novel with the puzzles and engagement of an escape room. In each chapter, students find clues, read found texts, and make inferences to solve puzzles. They use the information they find to save the day!

Terminus helps students build skills they may have missed in lower grades while also challenging your more advanced students. Everyone wins.

Use the coupon code innovate to get 50% off of game 1.

Final thoughts

These making inferences activities help a wide range of students become more critical thinkers. What are your favorite ways to teach inferencing? We’d love to hear from you!

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