Coaching Children to Use Inferences and Draw Conclusions While Reading

5 min to read
A mother is helping her son with online school classwork

What Are Inferences?

An inference is a logical conclusion that is arrived at through examining evidence, making observations, and applying reasoning to a situation. Examples of drawing inferences include assuming a candy is sour when someone makes a puckered face while eating it, predicting the end of a movie, and making conclusions about an object’s symbolism in a book.

How to Make Inferences and Draw Conclusions

An inference in reading is an educated guess based on prior knowledge, logic, and textual evidence. It is reading between the lines, filling in the blanks, and forming judgments and interpretations of a text. Inference in reading requires that a student use their background knowledge to make conclusions and encourages them to connect their lives with the books they read.

Developing inferences while reading helps students to be active readers, because they are interacting with the text’s ideas while they read and are asking questions about the text’s meaning. Active reading develops students’ critical-thinking and reading-comprehension skills by helping students to understand authors’ meanings, characters’ development, and thematic elements. Active reading is much more engaging and meaningful for students than passive reading.

How to Teach Inference in Reading

There are three concepts that students must grasp to be able to make inferences:

  1. Each conclusion needs to be supported by clues/evidence.
  2. The clues/evidence should be used in conjunction with a student’s existing knowledge to make the conclusion believable.
  3. Students should understand there can be wrong answers and more than one right answer.

Here are some methods for teaching students how to draw inferences.

Grades K-2

Picture books lend themselves to young readers making inferences, because students can observe details in a picture and make inferences about the story, its meaning, and its characters. There are even wordless books available to help students learn how to make inferences and draw conclusions. Some questions a Learning Coach can ask as they read to students include:

  • What is the character doing?
  • Does the character look happy or sad?
  • Where is the character in the picture?
  • Does the character have anyone else with them?
  • What do you think is going to happen next?

Grades 3-5

Upper elementary students will likely enjoy picture books with more advanced writing and concepts, such as love, self-esteem, and belonging. The combination of words and pictures gives students numerous chances to practice their inference skills.

Questions that accompany students’ readings should encourage students to address the “why” behind their answers. By asking “why” they feel or believe something to be true, students are pushed to identify their reasoning and provide evidence that supports their claims about a book. 

Some questions to ask students as they read include:

  • What does [concept] mean to you and to others?
  • Who is [character’s name]? How do you know who they are?
  • What do you think the most important words in the passage are? Why do you think they are important?
  • At what point in the story is there a big change? What is the big change?
  • What lesson do you think the author wants you to learn? Why do you think they want you to learn that lesson?
An online school student using inferences and drawing conclusions in a book.

Grades 6-8

Middle school students can often read longer texts, graphic novels, word-only novels, and news articles. Graphic novels, news, and nonfiction pieces with pictures are great ways to teach students how to make inferences and draw conclusions while staying age appropriate.

At this level, Learning Coaches should encourage students to consciously think about their background knowledge while making inferences about readings. Questions can be abstract to encourage deep thinking. Some questions to ask students as they read and reflect on books and articles include:

  • What do you already know about this topic?
  • Why does [a character] do [a certain action]?
  • What does [a certain metaphor] mean?
  • What caused [a situation] to happen?
  • How does [a character] feel about [a situation/a character]? How do you know?

Grades 9-12

High school students can read a variety of texts including novels, classic literature, graphic novels, nonfiction books, etc. So, Learning Coaches can find a wide variety of texts from which to choose. Students could even practice their inference skills on song lyrics.

At this level, Learning Coaches could encourage students to relate their inferences to large contexts, such as society, culture, and worldviews. Some questions to ask students as they read and reflect on texts include:

  • Why do you think the author wrote this story?
  • What does this story say about the human condition?
  • How is [a character] made to seem [adjective—such as mysterious or coy]?
  • What emotions are in [a scene]? How does the author create those emotions?
  • Which character do you relate to the most and why?

Although learning how to make inferences and draw conclusions can be challenging, Learning Coaches can model the process by asking questions as they read to young learners and allow the student to draw their own conclusions. By guiding the student to their own discovery, the excitement for reading remains theirs.

E-guide for Connections Academy with a green background and a graphic of a laptop with the purple eGuide.

Ready to Learn More

About Connections Academy?

Explore the benefits of attending Connections Academy, a tuition-free, accredited online public school that’s passionate about helping your child thrive.  

Get Your Free eGuide


Related Posts