EL Support Lesson

Steps to Make an Inference

It's time to infer! Students will read a variety of short passages and make inferences using modals and a step-by-step graphic organizer. It can be used on its own or as support for the lesson Inference Detectives.
This lesson can be used as a pre-lesson for the Inference Detectives lesson plan.
Grade Subject View aligned standards
This lesson can be used as a pre-lesson for the Inference Detectives lesson plan.

Students will be able to make inferences from nonfiction texts using their background knowledge and evidence from the text.


Students will be able to make inferences with modals using a graphic organizer.

(3 minutes)
  • Tell students that today they will practice making inferences from written passages.
  • Show students the vocabulary card for inference and read the definition aloud.
  • Project one of the images from the Picture This Inference worksheet onto the board.
  • Ask students to answer the following questions in pairs:
    • What do you see in this picture?
    • What personal experiences do you have that can help you make a connection?
    • What can you infer about what is happening in the picture?
  • Call on volunteers to share their inferences with the whole class.
(7 minutes)
  • Tell students that as we read our passages today we may encounter some words that we are unfamiliar with.
  • Distribute a copy of the Glossary to each student.
  • Show the vocabulary cards for blared, destination, dramatic, and unusual on the document camera. Read each word and the student-friendly definition aloud. If applicable, describe the image.
  • Instruct students to write "Example/Synonym" in the last column of the Glossary. Show a teacher copy on the document camera and model how to come up with a synonym for the word "blared" (e.g., "blasted").
  • Tell students to complete the last column of the Glossary for the remaining vocabulary words.
  • Provide students with thesauri or online dictionaries to use as resources to look up examples and synonyms for the vocabulary words.
  • Call on students to share their work on the document camera.
(8 minutes)
  • Tell students that we will be reading passages and making inferences using modals. Show students the vocabulary card, read the definition aloud, and provide an example of a modal. Inform students that because inferences are educated guesses we will be focusing on modals of possibility, which include "could" and "might."
  • Show passage #1 from the Inference Task Card worksheet on the document camera and read it aloud.
  • Explain to students that we are going to make an inference to answer the question: "What was wrong with the teacher?"
  • Tell students to turn to their neighbor to share what clues in the passage will help them answer this question (e.g., puffy eyes and cough drops).
  • Ask students: "What background knowledge do you have about the information in this passage?" Tell students to turn to a different neighbor to share (e.g., "I know that when I'm not feeling well I drink tea.").
  • Instruct students to use the clues from their text and their background knowledge to write an inference about what is wrong with their teacher.
  • Model for students how to write an inference using a modal (e.g., "She might be sick with a cold," and "She could have a sore throat."). Circle the modals.
  • Tell students to turn to a new neighbor to share their inferences before calling on students to come up to the board to write their inferences.
(15 minutes)
  • Distribute and preview the It Says...I Say...And So worksheet to each student and display a teacher copy on the document camera.
  • Tell students that they will use this graphic organizer to guide them through the process of drawing inferences from written text.
  • Assign students into partnerships and distribute the Inference Task Cards worksheet to each partnership.
  • Tell students to select any two passages from passages #3 through #8 to read and draw inferences from. Encourage students to take turns reading each passage aloud and define any unfamiliar words using an online dictionary.
  • Circulate and offer support as students work to read the passages and fill in the graphic organizer. Remind students to write their inferences using modals.
  • Group two partnerships into groups of four students to compare their answers.
  • Regroup as a whole class and call on students to share their work.


  • Pre-teach a lesson to a small group on modals.
  • Distribute copies of the It Says...I Say...And So worksheet that is partially completed. For example, complete the first two columns for the students and instruct them to fill in the last two columns.
  • Allow students to focus on one passage during the Discourse Level Focus.
  • Provide bilingual resources such as online dictionaries and glossaries for students to use if they encounter unfamiliar words during the Discourse Level Focus.


  • Challenge students to use each of their new vocabulary words in a sentence as they are filling in their glossaries during the Word Level Focus.
  • Encourage students to make more than one inference for each passage during both the Sentence Level Focus and the Discourse Level Focus.
  • Ask students to think of other examples of modals in addition to "could" and "might" and when those modals might be used. Other examples include: "can," "should," "must," "will," and "have."
(4 minutes)
  • Distribute whiteboards to each student.
  • Project passage #2 from the Inference Task Cards worksheet.
  • Read the passage aloud and tell students to follow along.
  • Tell students to write an inference about why Sarita was excited on their whiteboards. Remind students to include a modal in their inference.
  • Instruct students to hold up their whiteboards for you to read their inferences.
(3 minutes)
  • Explain to students that today they became stronger readers as they practiced making inferences.
  • Remind students that strong readers make inferences when authors do not tell us everything about the story. Strong readers use their background knowledge and clues in the text to help them make inferences.
  • Ask students to brainstorm other times they might make inferences, either in school or at home. For example, using evidence to make inferences in science.

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