How to Use Comics to Teach Inferences

Children are naturally drawn to comics.
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When you walk into a restaurant, what do you see? Maybe a couple appear to be in a heated debate or a waiter is frantically moving from table to table. Even though you may not have a conversation with these people, there are inferences you can make about each situation. The ability to make inferences is essential to reading comprehension. Using comics to teach inferences can be an effective and engaging way to develop student’s reading comprehension skills.

1 Why Comics

Comics are less intimidating to students and the engagement level is higher. They do not depict everything in detail, so they allow students to draw their own inferences

2 Comics and Higher-Level Thinking

Students make inferences when they combine textual clues with prior knowledge to make meaning. To make inferences based on comics requires both critical thinking skills and visual literacy skills. These are high-level thinking processes that lead students to deeper comprehension.

3 Four Guiding Questions

Educational reformer Dr. Robert Marzano points out four questions that can be implemented into any lesson plan using comics to build inference skills: What is my inference? What information did I use to make that inference? How good was my thinking? Do I need to change my thinking? At each level, students reflect on their decisions and assess the validity of those decisions against the textual evidence.

4 Activity Using Comics

First, place students into small groups and give each group one single pane from the same comic strip. Students will “read” the image in their groups and come up with a hypothesis of what is going on. The students will then identify the visual cues that led them to that hypothesis. Mention to students that inferences are like context clues, but with pictures. Give students Marzano’s four questions for inferences for the next part of this activity. Students work individually to analyze and make inferences about an entire comic strip. Using the questions to guide their analysis, they will support inferences with evidence. Have students pair up and switch comics to complete the same activity using their partner’s comic. After students have had time to go through the questions and find evidence for inferences, they compare and contrast responses.

Alyssa Sellors has been in the field of education for five years, teaching English and journalism at the high school level. In addition to teaching, she has also advised the school newspaper and currently advises the yearbook. As a yearbook adviser, she speaks at national conventions hosted by Journalism Educator’s Association and the National Scholastic Press Association.