The Inference Collection

Inference is a tricky area of reading. Children don’t always understand what it means to infer, and stumble on test questions demanding this of them. I’ve found that teaching the skill explicitly using a non-threatening stimulus has worked brilliantly. First, you develop the understanding of the skill, what is involved and what is required to answer questions. Then this is practised, and practised some more (justifying inferences, anyone?), before being applied to text. The joy lies in the depth of responses offered by all children taking part.

Here are some of my favourites for developing inference in the primary classroom. Let me know if you try any!

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You can read more about the approach here, and ask me on Facebook or Twitter.

Note: Some of the questions below will include other skills, including prediction. 


Credit: Pascal Campion

  • How is the girl feeling? How do you know?
  • Why is she feeling that way?
  • Who is the man?
  • Where are they?
  • Does the title give you any clues about this image?
  • What are the characters thinking? Draw thought bubbles to accompany the picture.


Credit:Pascal Campion

  • Where do you think this is?
  • When is this? (What time of year/day?)
  • What is the woman doing?
  • Who carved the heart into the tree? Why did they do it? Why this tree?
  • Why is she touching it?
  • Why is this picture called ‘Memories’?
  • What is she remembering?
  • How does she feel?


Credit: Aaron Becker

  • What is the dad doing?
  • Why is the girl standing behind him?
  • Why is she dragging a kite on the floor?
  • Has she said anything to him? Does he know she’s there?
  • How is she feeling? What is she thinking?
  • Do you think this has happened before? Why/why not?


Credit: Goro Fujita

  • What is happening here?
  • Why/how is the carpet floating?
  • How is the boy feeling? Was he expecting this to happen?
  • How is the dog feeling? How do you know?
  • Does this bedroom belong to the boy? What does the setting tell you about his character?


Credit: Chris Dunn

  • Whose bedroom is this?
  • What can you tell about his personality and interests?
  • How old do you think the boy mouse is? Why?
  • Which fairy tale do you think they might be reading?
  • How long do you think they have been reading for?
  • Do they read every night before bed?


Credit: Chris Dunn

  • Who is this?
  • What kind of character is he?
  • How do you think he speaks? Demonstrate his voice. Why did you do it like that?
  • Do you think this character is wealthy or poor? Why?
  • What is his job?
  • What is an orator?
  • Would you trust him?
  • Where is he? Why is he there?
  • Vocabulary activity – Zone of Relevance (click to download).
    • [The vocabulary cards will need to be cut up (or, if the zone of relevance target board is laminated, children could write them onto it using whiteboard pens). I normally have them do this activity in pairs.]
    • Which words best describe this character? Place the vocabulary cards on the target board, with the most relevant ones (two or three) at the centre and the least relevant in the outer circle. Explain why you’ve placed the words in this way.


Credit: Glenn Kim

  • What are Andy’s interests?
  • What type of person is Andy?
  • How old do you think Andy is?


Credit: Goro Fujita

  • How are the owls related?
  • Which owl is about to take its first flight? How do you know?
  • How does the young owl feel about flying?
  • What might it be thinking? Add a thought bubble to the picture.
  • Is the older owl worried?
  • What advice might the older owl give to the younger one?


Credit: Peter de Sève

  • Why is the black cat the only cat looking at the witch?
  • Why did the witch come here? Was she just passing or did she come to the shop for a reason?
  • What is the ‘something familiar’? Why?
  • Do the witch and the cat already know each other?


Credit: Chaichan Artwichai

  • Why are all of these people on the boat?
  • What has happened?
  • How do they feel about it?
  • How did they manage to get so much onto the boat (including a house!)?
  • Where do you think this is? Why?
  • Why aren’t there any other boats?