Middle schoolers often have a hard time with making inferences. It can sometimes be hard to help students make inferences because it is a very difficult concept. It is easy to have students provide you with evidence from the text when something is explicitly stated, but it is harder when they have to infer meaning from a text. As a middle school teacher, I’m lucky because my students have been practicing inferencing for years. As a middle school teacher, I’m also unlucky because the texts that students are exposed to becomes progressively harder each year. So while students are usually quite familiar with the concept of inferencing, even strong readers can still struggle with it.
Show students how they make inferences every day.
I like to make a production whenever I cover making inferences the first time in class. I’ll usually make the students think I’m very angry about something. I’ll slam the door, stomp my feet and participate in other things that people who are angry stereotypically do. I like to keep it brief, because honestly that type of show can get out of control quick. I will ask students to describe what emotion I was feeling. The hands quickly go up to share that they thought I was angry. We then review the evidence they had to support why they thought I was angry. I then wrap this conversation up by telling students how this translates to the text we’re reading.
Point out inferences that readers can make in novels, passages, and whatever else you’re reading at the moment.
Good readers make inferences all the time. Actually, all readers make inferences all the time, but they don’t always realize it. When we are reading in class, I make sure to take every opportunity I can to ask students to make inferences as they are reading. I change up the way I ask about inferences based on the class and the text. With easier texts, I can be more vague with my questioning, and with more challenging texts, I usually ask more specific questions. I also require students to provide evidence from the text that supports their inferences.
The best way to help students who struggle with inferences is to give them plenty of opportunities to make inferences. I have used a variety of resources over the years and I honestly believe that students can’t get enough practice making inferences. I often give students longer texts that allow students to focus on inferencing as well as other skills. I also created a text message based activity that students love! They read text message conversations and must make inferences to complete the activities. You can find it at my Teachers Pay Teachers store here.