{Inference for Kids} Definition | Examples | How to Teach

what is inference teacher sitting in a chair with students on the floor in a circle listening to her read

Inference Definition for Kids

“Mommy, is that Lady Gaga?”

When my youngest was a toddler, he LOVED Lady Gaga. I have no idea why or where it came from, but he did. He would ask me to put videos of her on my computer. So, when we were watching the Super Bowl one year, the year that Madonna did the halftime show, he asked me that question. It turned out not to be just an innocent question, but a stellar example of inference, and the definition of inference.

madonna super bowl
Madonna during her Super Bowl halftime performance.

Not a crazy question, really.

lady gaga madonna inference
Lady Gaga at MTV Video Music Awards.

Observation vs. Inference for Kids

In a preschooler’s head, they look the same, right? Heck, Lady Gaga has been accused of copying Madonna.

Another time we were walking on the OCNJ boardwalk and we passed by two older ladies wearing beach hats and big sunglasses. “Look Mommy! TWO Lady Gagas!” he exclaimed.

What is Inference?

Again, not an unreasonable inference. In both cases, he drew from his previous knowledge base (watching Gaga on TV and on my computer) and combined it with the information that was being presented to him at that moment. As you can see from the pictures below, it’s not difficult to think of Lady Gaga (pictured on right) when you see a woman wearing a large beach hat and sunglasses. Since he was only 3 years old during that Super Bowl, he did not have any Madonna knowledge in his knowledge base, only Lady Gaga.

lady gaga beach lady inference

Definition of Inference for Kids

Inference. When you have the skill, it often is invisible. But when a student lacks the skill, yikes. It can be difficult to define, difficult to explain, and most importantly, very difficult to teach to a child for whom this skill doesn’t naturally occur or evolve.

A pop culture example of someone who lacks inference skills is Sheldon on Big Bang. He takes things literally based upon his own knowledge base. Sheldon does not make assumptions or interpretations the way his friends do. Though in the short clip below, he does a good job of explaining infer vs. imply. Think of it as to imply is the person who is the doer. Infer is the person who is receiving the information.

Inferences in Literature and Reading

It is the act of taking your previous knowledge base and combining it with the information being presented to you to draw a conclusion. In the school setting, it is often used with literature. Students are asked to draw from their existing knowledge base and whatever information the author has presented them to draw a conclusion. But it’s also an important life skill, in that we all need to be able to mesh together our previous knowledge with what is being presented to us in the moment. And not all kids can do that.

Here is a graphic explaining inference in literature:

what is an inference

And here is one, that while the graphic says ‘characters’ you can see how inference is applied in every day life.

what is inference

It can make a parent crazy! If you find yourself saying in your head, “Why did my child do that? Why can’t they see…. Didn’t I just…. Don’t they know….” The answer is no, they may not be able to infer.

Definition of Inference

From the Dictionary: An inference is an idea or conclusion that’s drawn from evidence and reasoning. Inferencing is making an educated guess, a choice, a decision.

Teaching Inference to Kids

Inference is about applying previous knowledge, which is a skill many learning disabled students lack. Still, there are many online resources for teaching inference to kids. I think that Reading Rockets and the Teacher Next Door have some really great resources on this.

IEP Goals for Making Inferences

If your child lacks the skill to infer or seems to be having trouble developing this skill, it should be noted as an area of need and put in the IEP. Again, the skill to infer is often a skill that we take for granted, but it is a valuable and necessary life skill.

Inference is a skill that children develop as they progress in reading. It’s one of the steps from simple decoding to full comprehension. If this is an area where you see your child struggling, I have assembled a list of resources for you to check out that may help you.

Some of them, particularly 9 and 10, take a look. You can print them out and keep handy in your kitchen or family room for practice. They are lists of leading questions to ask your student/child. And that can be done anywhere. You should keep the questions handy for when you’re watching TV together.

How to Teach Inference Skills

Activities and Worksheets

I hope this helps. Remember our kids often need more practice and repetition than other kids. Try to make inference skills and inference question-asking a part of your daily routine to help your child.

what is inference teacher sitting in a chair with students on the floor in a circle listening to her read

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