Teaching Inferences (With Free Mini Lesson)

Ideas how to teach inferences to elementary students.

Inferences can be very difficult to teach students. That’s why I’ve come up with this resource for teaching inferences with free mini lesson included. As teachers, we begin teaching inferences at a young age when we ask and answer questions for them while reading. According to common core, the act of making inferences and finding evidence is documented in 4th grade. As a rule, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd deal with asking and answering questions in this standard, which preps them for this difficult 4th grade skill.

So, this Exploring ELA blog post is a bit different because I’m going to focus on 4th grade resources. However, the ideas can carry over to all grade levels if you plan to teach inferences in your classroom.
Check it out!

Here are the common core standards before we start talking strategies.

Fourth Grade:

  • RL & RI: Refer to details and examples in a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.

Fifth Grade:

  • RI & RL: Quote accurately from a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.

So, for informational and literature, the two standards are the same thing. The skills and activities that your students will do while making inferences will be the same. They will just use different types of texts to get there.

Now for the teaching aspect. HOW can we teach our students to make inferences?

1. Start by teaching what inferences are.

2. Have students making inferences without texts.

3. Introduce texts and passages.

4. Allow them to practice over time.

1. Start by teaching what observations AND inferences are.

Anchor charts and mini-lessons… two of my favorite things! When introducing inferences to students, it’s critical to give them an idea of what an inference is and how to come to an inference before expecting them to do it on their own.

Making Inferences- Activities and Lesson Ideas teaching students to make inferences
Making Inferences- Activities and Lesson Ideas teaching students to make inferences

(Link: Inferences in Literature Texts RL4.1)

(Link: Inferences in Informational Texts RI4.1)

Anchor charts are a good introduction. They can stay up throughout the entire unit or stay up throughout the year to continually refer to. Making inferences is such a huge topic to learn and practice, that I would suggest keeping them up year-round!

Hands-on inferencing activity for primary students.

Hands-On Inferencing Activity

(Source: Everything Library)

This lesson is an incredibly fun inference game that involves books, a mystery, and inferences. The students will have to use their knowledge of the books to figure out which book matches which piece of evidence. This is an excellent way to tie in the vocabulary: scheme, evidence, questions, and inferences.

Making inferences mini lesson.
Making Inferences- Activities and Lesson Ideas teaching students to make inferences

(Link: Inferences in Informational Texts RI4.1)

(Link: Inferences in Literature Texts RL4.1)

Here are two mini lessons. Both of them are for observations. I suggest teaching observations first when introducing inferences. Observations are a little bit easier for the students to come up to. Also, they learned the act of making observations in texts for the past three years in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade. In the left picture, you see an informational activity where the students have to read two schema and evidence cards to make a question. The picture on the right shows a literature mini lesson where the students have to ask themselves questions, collect evidence, and use their schema.

Using OQI charts for inferences introduction.
Using OQI charts for inferences introduction.

OQI Charts for Inferences Introduction

(Link: Inferences in Informational Texts RI4.1)

(Link: Inferences in Literature Texts RL4.1)

OQI charts are incredible for teaching inferences. On the left, you see an OQI chart for informational texts (pieces included in the mini lesson pack linked). And on the right, you see a class anchor chart for a literature OQI. The main difference between the two is simply text and story, character and topic, etc. An OQI chart is a place for students to write their observations, questions, and inferences. Doing these mini lessons will help students to have these types of phrases, questions, and mindsets always during their independent reading. I would even suggest making the OQI chart as a class, laminating it, and leaving it up throughout the unit/year.

Making Inferences- Activities and Lesson Ideas teaching students to make inferences
Making Inferences- Activities and Lesson Ideas teaching students to make inferences

(Link: Inferences in Literature Texts RL4.1)

(Link: Inferences in Informational Texts RI4.1)

Here are two more mini lessons to help teach inferences. They involve short stories, task cards, and charts to help introduce students to inferences.

2. Have students make inferences without texts

Next, we are going to discuss how to teach inferences in your ELA unit without constantly reading texts. Here are a few ideas that don’t include passages and texts in all of them. Exciting mini lessons and hands-on activities are a great way to teach inferences before asking students to read a text and make inferences. Here are a few activities that can help guide students to make inferences without texts.

Making Inferences- Activities and Lesson Ideas teaching students to make inferences.
5th Grade Inferences Activity

(Link: Inferences in Informational Texts RI4.1Inferences in Informational Text RI.5.1)
These mini lessons from my RI4.1 and RI.5.1 packs include pictures instead of text that will help them see mystery items and infer what occupation the picture refers to. Some of the tools in the pictures are a little vague, so they will have to use more detailed inference skills when drawing a conclusion about what job the picture represents.

Making Inferences free activity for teachers.

(Source: The Inspired Apple)
This popular free activity from Abby is a lot of fun. This can be used as an introductory lesson or a mini lesson throughout your unit. What the teacher does is load up her purse with items and pull out the items one at a time. The students will have to formulate questions for each of the items that will help them eventually draw an inference for each item.

Making Inferences video- Activities and Lesson Ideas teaching students to make inferences

(Source: Brain Pop Jr.)

I feel like I can’t write a blog post without including a BrainPop video. They are my absolute favorite tool to use in the classroom. This video is particular to making inferences while reading. It puts it in kid-friendly language and helps students learn about schema and inferences.

3. Introduce texts and passages.

Now, it’s time to introduce reading into their new knowledge of inference skills. They’ve learned what they are and what they need in their brain to come to an inference. Now it is time to practice that skill using read alouds, mentor texts, and independent passages.

Making Inferences- Activities and Lesson Ideas teaching students to make inferences.
Making Inferences- Activities and Lesson Ideas teaching students to make inferences.

(Link: Inferences in Literature Texts RL4.1 & Inferences in Informational Text RI.5.1)
These are mini lessons from my 4th and 5th Grade packs that involve reading practice.  They can be used as  whole group activities or group activities. It’s the step before letting the students venture out on their own with passages and texts. In the 4th grade activity, the students will have to make an OQI chart based off of a literature story called Skipping Breakfast. In the 5th grade activity, students will be using task cards to highlight information in the text.

Making Inferences- Activities and Lesson Ideas teaching students to make inferences.
Making Inferences- Activities and Lesson Ideas teaching students to make inferences.

(Link: Inferences in Literature Texts RL4.1)
(Link: Inferences in Informational Texts RI4.1)
In the passages shown above, there are two pages of text with one page of comprehension questions. Some inferences questions also ask for evidence from the text. On the left, you see literature passages. On the right, you see informational passages. This is NOT an easy reading skill to master, so these passages may need to be used in small group, with partners, and or in groups. Multiple reads of the passage are also suggested due to the fact that students will pick up small hints and pieces of evidence every single time they read.

Ideal Texts for Teaching Inferences

Great texts for teaching inferences

The next three pictures show great mentor texts and printable worksheets to use when reading them. Each of the books listed below are books that are great to use when teaching the inference skill. They have affiliate links to Amazon, as well.

Sylvester and the Magic Pebble
Two Bad Ants
My Lucky Day
Enemy Pie
Just a Dream
Fireflies
Thank You, Mr. Faulker
The Stranger

When reading each of these stories, you can read them aloud to your students, or you can have them read to a partner or independently. Then, have them use one of these generic printables from my RL or RI packs to help them follow along with their text.

Making Inferences- Activities and Lesson Ideas teaching students to make inferences.
Making Inferences- Activities and Lesson Ideas teaching students to make inferences.

(Link: Inferences in Literature Texts RL4.1)
(Link: Inferences in Informational Texts RI4.1)
Use these templates when reading read alouds, texts, or passages. Like explained above, these generic printables are great to use to help the students track their evidence, schema, observations, and inferences!

4. Allow them to practice in many ways.

Here are several different ways to incorporate inferences into your daily lesson plans without simply asking students to read a book and write down their inferences. These are a few different ways to keep students interested and engaged!

Making Inferences- Activities and Lesson Ideas teaching students to make inferences.

(Link: Inferences in Informational Texts RI4.1)
Interactive notebook pieces can fit in with any text that they read. They are generic questions about schema, observations, questions, evidence, and inferences that students can apply to any information or literature text. I suggest using these during reading groups or centers!

Making Inferences- Activities and Lesson Ideas teaching students to make inferences.
Making Inferences- Activities and Lesson Ideas teaching students to make inferences.

(Link: Inferences in Literature Texts RL4.1)
(Link: Inferences in Informational Texts RI4.1)
These are also activities that I would suggest using in reading groups or reading centers. Having task cards handy when students are reading informational or literary texts is very important. It helps keep their reading meaningful and gives them a purpose for reading.

Teaching Inferences With Free Mini Lesson!

Want to try out a free mini lesson from my Inference packs? If you click the image below, you can get a mini lesson out of my RL4.1 set for free!

Making Inferences- Activities and Lesson Ideas teaching students to make inferences.

Here is a picture of a friend’s 4th grade class testing out this freebie. The mini lesson is an informational lesson based on schema, observations, and inferences. There are three topics where the students are given schema and evidence, and then they have to formulate a question. Afterward, the students will do the same with their own text from the classroom library.

4th grade inferences and details in a text

(Link: Freebie)

Grab some resources!

The two resources that I have to offer in my store that you’ve seen throughout this blog post are geared towards 4th grade and 5th grade students. This is simply because these ELA packs are so domain/standard specific.

(RL4.1 Link: Inferences in Literature Texts RL4.1)

(RI4.1 Link: Inferences in Informational Texts RI4.1)

(RL5.1 Link: Inferences in Informational Text RI.5.1)

(RI.5.1 Link: Inferences in Literature Text RL.5.1)

If you’re not a 4th grade teacher, check out my Ask and Answer sets, which is Common Core’s precursor standards to Inferences.
1st Grade Informational Ask and Answer
1st Grade Literature Ask and Answer Questions

2nd Grade Informational Ask and Answer
2nd Grade Literature Ask and Answer Questions

3rd Grade Informational Ask and Answer
3rd Grade Literature Ask and Answer Questions

Making Inferences- Activities and Lesson Ideas teaching students to make inferences.
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