Inferencing Teaching Strategy

People make inferences every day. It is important to teach the inferencing teaching strategy so students can become more proficient at this skill. 

The inferencing teaching strategy is a great addition to any subjects’ lesson plans. People make inferences every day. It is important to teach this skill so students can become more proficient at this skill.

How Does This Inferencing Teaching Strategy Work?

  1. Choose a topic.  This could be something as broad as football to as specific as a recent news story.  Create a set of eight to twelve cards that each have a different item relating to this topic.  I include things like short readings (think a paragraph or two in length), photographs or paintings, quotes, statistics, etc.  DO NOT put the actual topic that you want students to infer anywhere in the set.
  2. Place students in small groups of two to four and have them analyze the set of cards. You can project these cards on your board using an LCD projector or overhead, place them around the room, or even make several copies and give one to each group.
  3. Each group should discuss and come to a consensus on what the topic of the set is.
  4. Have each group share their conclusion.  I like to have each group write their topic on the board so everyone can see and compare.
  5. Discuss how and why students came to the conclusions they did.  Be sure to discuss their evidence.
  6. Variations:
    1. Make several sets of cards, each with a different topic.  Give one set to each group.  Once students have finished with a set, have groups rotate sets and repeat the exercise.
    2. Place a “red herring” card in the set.  Have students not only infer the topic of the set but also determine what card should not be there and provide support for each conclusion.  While this variation makes this exercise a bit more difficult (so it is probably not for beginners), it also adds an element of debate to the game, something that many students really enjoy, and forces students to analyze their evidence and conclusion more stringently.
    3. Create Google Slide shows with photos and readings to make this lesson into a digital version.
  7. Suggestion:  While prep for this strategy takes a good bit of time, these sets of cards can be used from year to year for a long time to come.  I suggest laminating them or having them saved on your computer so you can reprint as needed.

How Do I Use This Strategy?

  1. At the beginning of a research paper unit:  When students are doing independent research they are asked to comb through lots of information.  It is important to practice this skill so they can recognize things that are on-topic as well as off-topic. 
  2. As bell work or a time filler:  Pull out a set of these at the beginning of a class period or when you have some time to fill.  It is a good way to focus the students and practice a needed skill, all while having fun.
  3. At the beginning of any unit:  Inferring a topic can be a great way to introduce a new topic to students.  They might not get the exact topic correct if they do not have much prior knowledge of it, but the pictures, quotes, and other material can really pique their interest in the coming unit.  Additionally, you can always return to the cards later during the unit and have students revise their topic inferences.

Why Do I Love This Inferencing Teaching Strategy?

  1. Inferencing is hard.  Many, even most, students struggle with it.  By making a game out of practice, students get better while having fun.
  2. It is discussion-based. Most students love to talk with each other. Instead of just handing out a worksheet where students have to read and determine a topic sentence (not that this doesn’t have its place), this strategy is a great way to practice the same skills while tapping into that love of discussion.

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