One of my favorite ways to introduce making inferences is through wordless picture books. They are a great first step toward this challenging skill, because it’s something students do on a daily basis. My students don’t necessarily realize that they are making inferences as they look at illustrations, so I guide them through the process with a couple different picture books. My absolute all-time favorite is The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, but I’m saving that book for something special at the end of the year. Two other books that I really love are Journey and Unspoken. Both offer the depth needed for students make thoughtful inferences, and I like that the stories and styles are completely different to expose students to totally different styles.
I made a inference graphic organizer that can be used along with wordless picture books. On the graphic organizer, students describe what they noticed in the illustration and what they were able to infer from that illustration. This would be a great group work assignment, and each group could use a different wordless picture book. Students could also use the same book and then compare the inferences. You can download the graphic organizer here.
I recently found a site (Laughing Squid) with short wordless videos. According to the site, “GLUED is a funny animated short film that tells a story about a mother who flips out while trying to deal with her young video game addicted son.” That absolutely sounds like something my students would love and would be another great way to ease into making inferences.
Another way I have my students practice making inferences is through my new Detective Inferences activity. I’ll introduce this activity as a whole group and then will add it to my literacy stations. I have a few students who don’t have a lot of time for stations, because of grouping and other odds and ends, so I will also let students work on this as an early finisher activity. In this activity, students are detectives on a mission to solve a case, but the answer is not clearly written in the text! They have to use their inferncing skills to answer clues and solve the mystery. I keep each mystery in a large manila envelope and glue the a cover sheet on top of the envelope.
I also store student recording sheets inside the envelope. The recording sheets are case specific, so I make sure students don’t mix up the recording sheets.
Each case explained through a narrative. The text is broken into four parts, and there is a clue on each of the cards. Students will be able to combine all of their clues to make an inference that will solve the mystery. I like that the clues are included on the cards, because students often have a hard time understanding what clues to look for. This gives them that extra piece of scaffolding they need.
I did make a cover page for each of the cases. It’s not necessary to use that page, but I thought it make the cards look a little more official for students.
You can check out the file here! As an extension, I may let my students try to write their own mysteries, where they have to add clues that will allow the reader to solve the mystery on their own. This would be a great way to touch on a show don’t tell lesson for writing workshop!