How to do This: From Photos to Inference



What's going on in the picture?

She has a smile on her face but she looks like she's in trouble.

Why do you think that?

Well, her clothes are ragged and she has a black eye.  Maybe she got into a fight.

Where is she?

Norman Rockwell painting of a beaten-up girl with a smile, sitting outside the school principal's office

Pictures

Why do you think she's sitting outside the principal's office? 

Making inferences from text is tough for many students.  Not so much if you start with pictures.    
NatGeo picture for making inferences
After they tell you what they see, have them infer.  What inferences can they make from this picture?  It's great to start as a whole class activity because your students will pick up on details together, which will help them infer.

Then ask them to make a prediction:  what do they think is going to happen next?

NatGeo picture for making inferences
My students and I look at photographs together this way when we work on making inferences.  Later, we move into small groups or partner work to answer the three questions: What do you observe?  What do you infer?  What do you predict?

Wait!  Did she get into trouble?  But she's kind of happy that she did?  Like maybe she beat up a bully who was picking on other kids?  And she's going to get into trouble for it, but she's still happy that she did it?

I think you might be on to something!

Pictures with Text

I like The Sweetest Fig by Chris Van Allsburg because there's a twist that many students don't see coming. 
The Sweetest Fig by Chris Van Allsburg for making inferences

Text Alone

I created a scaffolded version of Briar Rose (Sleeping Beauty) with sentences underlined and question stems to help guide students.
scaffolded text for making inferences
Finally, students make inferences from books they're reading at their independent reading level.  That helps you see where any gaps might be.

This takes a few days but the payoff is worth it!  
Cover of product that teachers making observations, inferences, and predictions for 2nd-4th graders

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