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.
Not a crazy question, really.
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.
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. Or, it’s thought and joked about that he lacks inference skills.
However, he doesn’t really lack inference skills, his inferences are just different than many other peoples’ due to his different view or perspective (neurodivergence).
This is an area where many students will struggle. Because of their neurodivergence, they will come to different conclusions, or inferences, than what is expected or what other students will infer.
Lacking inference skills and inferring what is not expected are two different things.
Though in the short clip below, Sheldon 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:
And here is one, that while the graphic says ‘characters’ you can see how inference is applied in every day life.
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.
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.
- IEP goal banks, including inference.
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.
Here is what is listed in Common Core Standards for Reading and Inferencing. You would need to plug the skill into the IEP Goal Formula above to make it measurable.
- Grade 4 (Reading Standard): Refer to details and examples in a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.
- Grade 5 (Reading Standard): Quote accurately from a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.
- Grade 6 (Reading Standard): Cite textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
- Grade 7 (Reading Standard): Cite several pieces of textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
- Grade 8 (Reading Standard): Cite the textual evidence that most strongly supports an analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
- Grades 9-10 (Reading Standard): Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
- Grades 11-12 (Reading Standard): Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.
This can be done anywhere. Any scenario or interaction that you’re witnessing in person or on TV, you can ask your child probing questions. Things like “What do you think that was about?” or “Why do you think that person just did that?”
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.