Making Predictions and Inferences

Why is it important to make predictions and inferences? Reading is one of the most complex practices one can engage in as it involves so many areas of the brain. Making predictions is more than just guessing what will happen next. Instead, it ensures active reading is occuring and keeps interest levels high throughout the story. Making inferences takes that active reading one step further as it requires the reader to draw on his or her own personal experiences and make an educated guess about something that is not explicitly stated in the text. This helps make reading a more intimate and personal experience. Different lives, backgrounds and reading pasts will color an individual's experience of any given text.

What is the difference between predictions and inferences? When students make a prediction, they are making an educated guess on what will happen next in a story based on what has happened in the text, their knowledge about the author and their own personal schemata. While very similar to a prediction, an inference is something different. Inferences are made after reading all of the clues given in a text and then making an educated guess. Furthermore, predictions are made predominantly from facts that have been given by the author and the characters within the story. Inferences are based more on applying prior knowledge and going beyond the stated information. This is also referred to as "reading between the lines."

When and how can predictions and inferences be made?
While predictions can be made before and during the story, inferences can only be made during the story.
Here are some ways questions students can ask themselves as they prepare to make predictions:
-What is happening in the story?
-What will happen next in the story?
-What else could happen?
-What clues have led me to make this prediction?
Here are some questions students can ask themselves as they prepare to make inferences:
-Why did the author write the story?
-How might the author's personal experiences affect the story?
-Why did the characters do/say that?
-How might the character be feeling?
-How do other characters react to this character?
-How would I react in this situtation?
-What clues have led me to make this inference?
There are many more questions students may ask themselves as they infer because inferences are more personal and intuitive than predictions.

Online Resources

For Elementary School:

The following website offers inference games and riddles specifically geared toward elementary learners.
Inference/Prediction Games and Riddles
This website offers lesson plan in which elementary students examine illustrations in a picture book and make inferences about the author and his/her life. Additional inferences and predictions are made as students continue to read the text and examine the pictures.
Picture Book Inference Lesson
This website is a good introduction for elementary students learning how to infer and predict. It offers a brief overview, then provides students with a paragraph to read. After students have read the paragraph, they make inferences and predictions about what is going on and what will happen next.
Inference/Prediction Practice

For Middle School:
This website is a fun way for students to practice making inferences outside of the classoom. Entitled "Inference Battleship," it offers a game that allows the player to sink his/her opponent's battleship by making correct inferences.
Inference Battleship
The lesson provided on this website allows students to practice making predictions as they read the story, "Thank You Ma'am" by Langston Hughes.
"Thank You Ma'am" Prediction Lesson
This video is a great way to engage students in making predictions and inferences. Brain POP has more advantages if you are a paying member, but offers free trials and resources to nonmembers, as well. The webiste offers a variety of other reading strategies, too.
Brain POP video

For High School:

This website provides a relevant lesson plan for making inferences. Students listen to a selection of CDs and by examining the cover art and analyzing the lyrics, they make inferences about the life of the artist.
CD Lyrics Inference Lesson
This extensive PDF packet offers a number of activities to use with students between the ages of 10-18. Some lessons include "Making inferences through advertising," "Questioning the author," and "Infering with figurative language."
Predictions and Inferences PDF Packet

SMART lesson from SMART Exchange Lesson Site:
If your classroom has SMART board capabilities, this is a great lesson on predicting and inferencing. Any SMART lesson encourages student interaction and provides a 21st century model for approaching reading strategy instruction.


The following article discusses using think-aloud mysteries to improve literacy strategies. While not exclusively devoted to predictions and inferences, a portion of the text is dedicated to teaching and using those skills.
Think-Aloud Mysteries to Teach Literacy Strategies
This article reveals how to use a two-sided chart to turn observations into inferences. The focus is on how tomake inferences when reading nontraditional texts.
Inference/Observation Chart with Nontraditional Texts


A funny and unique way to introduce older students to inference. This is "The Inference Song" set to the music of "Ordinary People" by John Legend.
This is a brief minilesson to introduce inferences to students.