November 5, 2018
by Sarah Sumnicht

Lesson plan

Evidence + Background Knowledge = Inference

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Students will be able to make inferences using evidence and background knowledge.

(10 minutes)
  • Use "Visual Thinking Strategies" to examine an image that tells a story (see related media).
  • Show the image on a large screen and give students a few minutes to look at it quietly. (Note: do not give students context prior to this activity.)
  • Then ask:
    • What is going on here?
    • What do you see that makes you say that?
    • What else do you notice?
  • Give several students the chance to share observations they have in response to each question. Prompt students with the three questions, but do not validate any observations as correct or incorrect.
  • Explain to students that when they use clues from the picture and their own background knowledge to figure out what is going on, it is called an inference.
  • Tell students that an inference is different than a guess because, in order to make an inference, you must use evidence to come to a reasonable conclusion.
  • Explain that today we will be making inferences in fictional texts.
(10 minutes)
  • On the board write "evidence + background knowledge = inference."
  • Remind students that evidence is information that they can point to directly in an image or text, like a quote.
  • Explain to students that background knowledge is their own personal life experiences and knowledge about the world. Everyone brings their own background knowledge to the texts they read. This knowledge helps people make sense of things that are not otherwise clear.
  • Use a document camera to display the first section of text on the worksheet Reading Between the Lines.
  • Read the text aloud as students follow along. Then, read the question that follows.
  • Model your thinking process aloud as you answer the question (i.e., "Harold was carrying bags of food. This is the evidence I can see in the text. In my own experience, I carry bags of food into the house after I've been at the grocery store. Based on my own experience and the clues in the text, I can infer that Harold was at the grocery store before he came home.").
  • Reiterate that an inference is something that is not said explicitly in the text. It is a conclusion that you draw based on your own reasoning (background knowledge) and evidence found in the text.
  • Repeat the "think aloud" modeling process with the remaining three sections of text.
  • When you reach the last section, ask students for input or suggestions as you answer the question.
(10 minutes)
  • Have students pair up with an elbow partner.
  • Hand out one copy of the worksheet More Reading Between the Lines to each set of partners.
  • Instruct students to take turns reading the sections of text aloud and talk with their partner to answer each question.
  • Remind students to record the textual evidence and their own background knowledge when they answer each question.
  • When all students are finished, call on a student to share the inference they made for the first question. Ask their partner to explain the evidence and background knowledge they used to make the inference.
  • Repeat until all inference questions have been shared with the class.
(10 minutes)
  • Hand out the worksheet Making Inferences in a Fictional Text.
  • Review the directions and remind students that one way to show evidence is by providing a quote from the text.
  • Instruct students to read the story and complete the worksheet independently.
  • Circulate and offer support as needed.


  • Offer additional inference practice with a multiple choice worksheet (see optional materials).
  • Play a scoot game using inference task cards. Hang up several task cards around the classroom and have students visit each "station" to answer inference questions (see optional materials).


  • Have students use a graphic organizer to find and record an inference in a book of their choice (see optional materials).
(10 minutes)
  • Show students a short film, like Pixar's "Lifted" (see related media).
  • When the film is over, hand out an index card to each student.
  • Instruct students to write an inference they made during the film.
  • Remind them to list one piece of evidence and one piece of background knowledge that contributed to their inference.
  • Invite several students to share their inferences with the class. Use the discussion to gauge understanding.
  • Collect the cards as exit tickets.
(5 minutes)
  • Have a whole class discussion about the following questions:
    • Why don't authors just say what they mean?
    • How do inferences help us understand a story?
    • Why do we need to cite evidence when we make an inference?
    • Can we make an inference if we don't have background knowledge about a topic?

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