Teaching Inferences To Students of All Levels While Having Fun

Posted by Erica Warren on

Implied meaning can be a tricky concept to master when students move from concrete to abstract ways of thinking.  However, learning implied meaning does not have to be difficult.  In fact, teaching inference skills can be joyful and memorable!

Two students smiling next to working inferences workbook

What is an Inference?

Inferences are a common literary device that requires the reader or listener to imply meaning from evidence or known facts. It is a higher-order thinking skill that enables conclusions to be drawn or implied from hidden messages.  

When Do Students First Come Across Inferential Thinking?

Children passively learn about or make inferential leaps when they draw conclusions from the world around them.  For example, toddlers quickly understand that when they hear their parents grab the car keys, they will be going for a ride in the car.  Later, they may begin to ponder or make guesses about the end of a story that a parent may be reading aloud.  Finally, when entering school, kids are exposed to inferential thinking in their social interactions with peers and teachers as well as with the academic content.  

An Inference Can Be Quite Complex:

As kids learn to read text that is more advanced, they will have to improve their inferring skills and develop strategies so their imaginations can begin to access background knowledge, predict outcomes, and use evidence to see all the essential possibilities. It's a wonderful skill to develop as it helps kids make observations and discover clues about the setting, characters, and plot.  All in all, understanding inferences while reading improves reading comprehension.

Teaching students the skill to infer is also vital in other academic subjects:

Social Studies

In social studies, making inferences is key as history is known to repeat. We can imply what will likely happen by studying past civilizations that were experiencing similar issues.  for example, if we want to know what will likely happen during a pandemic, we can gather all sorts of great information from pandemics that have surfaced in the past.

Language Arts

Inference skills are also important to exhibit in one's writing as they can offer enticing suggestions and hints that can keep a reader's attention. Therefore, language arts curriculums should help students integrate implied meanings into their own written language.  A fun assignment for students can be the creation of written hints that lead to a hidden message. It's a game that I often play with my own students in person or online.  Their classmates have to ponder the hints and use their inferential skills to imply the answer. 


What's more, science also uses these inferring skills to create hypotheses and to uncover how things work.  Lab assignments often require students to imply meaning from their own experiments. Clearly, teachers, tutors, and parents may need to be more mindful to teach inferences.

What's the Secret to Making Inferences the Fun and Easy Way?

Learning to teach students to make inferences can be truly enjoyable and engaging.  It's a wonderful way to develop higher order thinking/thinking skills and getting creative with an implied meaning activity or lesson and playing games can help students practice and develop this needed skill. 

If you are looking for ready-made materials, I would love to help. I teach students with my colorful, workbook too.  It is available as a digital download, and it uses a number of innovative techniques to introduce and teach this concept to students.  You can integrate the many ways of teaching inferring presented in this publication in your lessons day after day, and breaking your class into small groups and having them think aloud through the activities can be a great way of helping students practice.  In fact, the whole publication made its own inference or hidden message that will guide and help students make socially conscious decisions.  This workbook offers:

  • advertisements from around the world that all offer implied meaning 
  • activities that explore the hidden meanings in product names
  • inference word games
  • activities that investigate inferences in metaphors
  • sentences with embedded inferences

If you would like to learn more about this product, click on the image or visit our inference worksheets product page.

If Rapunzel smoked cartoon image shows inferences on workbook cover
I hope you found this blog to be helpful and that it inspires you assist your students and loved one to make inferences from the world around them.

Happy kids reading

Cheers, Dr. Erica Warren

Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator, and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning. She is also the director of Learning to Learn and Learning Specialist Courses.

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