Making inferences is an important higher-level thinking skill that students need to master in order to complete their studies in school successfully and deal with the challenges of life in the 21st century. Teaching objectives to help students become proficient in making inferences include making predictions, drawing conclusions and inferring meaning in a graphic. To help students make inferences, teachers may ask students to complete a graphic organizer to keep their information organized.

Completing an Inference Graphic Organizer

One teaching objective for making inferences is to have students complete an inference graphic organizer. Label the first column with the heading “Proof From the Story.” Label the second column “Inference,” and the third column “Prediction.” For example, students might read a story in which Bobby is alone in the dark basement when he hears a scratching sound. In the first column, students state that Bobby was alone; it was dark; and there was a scratching sound. For the second column, students might infer that Bobby was probably afraid based on the facts in the story. For the third column, students predict what happens by completing the story. The goal of this lesson is for students to analyze facts to make inferences, with the help of a graphic organizer.

Making Predictions

Another teaching objective for making inferences would be to make a prediction about what will happen next based on information on a worksheet or in a story. For example, the teacher may prepare a worksheet with several brief scenarios and ask students to figure out what will happen next. Answers may vary, but the important thing is that the predictions make sense according to the information. One scenario might say, “Charlotte was outside on a backyard swing when she suddenly heard a SNAP.” The teacher can then ask students what will happen next. Charlotte may jump off just in time, someone may catch her or she may fall. All these predictions make sense according to the information given. With this assignment, students achieve the teaching objective of predicting by making inferences based on facts.

Drawing Conclusions

A common teaching objective for making inferences is using context clues to discern the meaning of an unfamiliar vocabulary word. Students draw conclusions about the meaning of a word by looking at the rest of the sentence and inferring the definition. For example, the teacher can present a sentence like, “Gregarious people socialize by going to parties, having friends to their home and joining clubs.” The teacher can then ask students to infer the meaning of the word "gregarious" (sociable and fond of company). With this lesson, students achieve the teaching objective of studying other words in the sentence to make inferences about the meaning of a new vocabulary word.

Inferring Meaning in a Graphic

Teachers also pursue the teaching objective of inference by asking students to look at an illustration and make predictions. For example, the teacher may show the class a picture of a malevolent-looking wizard with threatening robes covered with cryptic symbols, a partially hidden sword and sparks emitting from his eyes and fingertips. The teacher can then ask 5W questions (who, what, when, where and why) about the character. Students can infer the answers to questions like “Who is this man?” and “What is he going to do with the sparks flying out of his fingers?” Students achieve the teaching objective by interpreting an illustration and inferring information about it.