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10 Text Sources for Inferencing Activities

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Making inferences or “reading between the lines” can be one of the trickier skills for students to adapt into their literacy toolkit. I teach my students that when they infer, they are taking the explicit information that the text gives them and combining it with their own thoughts and interpretations based on textual clues to extend their understanding of the text as a whole. To help students make inferring a natural part of their reading process, I provide smaller text sources to practice with before diving deep on a novel or longer piece of writing. Here are ten text sources you can use to practice inferencing with your students.

Comic Strips

Example: Calvin and Hobbs Cartoon

Inferencing questions: 

  1. How well is Calvin doing in school?
  2. How does Calvin feel about school?

Photographs

Example: a photo of someone’s hands or feet

Inferencing Questions: 

  1. What character traits do you think this person has?
  • Clumsy (bandaid)
  • Careless (sunburn)
  • Outdoorsy (sandal tan)

Television Commercials

Example: Doritos Super Bowl Commercial 

In this commercial, a man sees his dog burying what appears to be part of a cat’s collar. He looks up to see a “Lost Cat” poster and then the dog brings him a bag of Doritos with a note saying, “You didn’t see nothin’.”

Inferencing Question:

  1. What happened to the cat?

Flash Fiction

Example: “The Scarlatti Tilt” by Richard Brautigan

‘It’s hard to live in a studio apartment in San Jose with a man who’s learning to play the violin.’ That’s what she told the police when she handed them the empty revolver. 

Inferencing Questions: 

  1. What happened to the man?
  2. What is the relationship between the man and woman?

Classified Ads

Example: Time Travel Ad

Inferencing Questions: 

  1. Why does this person want a time travel companion?
  2. Why do you need to bring weapons?

Song Lyrics

Example: “Waiting on the World to Change” by John Mayer

Inferencing Questions:

  1. Who is the “they” that the song references?
  2. Why is he waiting on the world to change, rather than trying to change it?

Postsecret.com

Example: This website posts postcards that people have submitted anonymously with their secrets on them. Not all are appropriate for the classroom, so I would suggest copying and pasting teacher-approved postcards to a new document rather than having your students visit the site. 

Inferencing Questions: 

  1. Why is dad gone?
  2. What kind of relationship did this person have with their dad?

Grocery & Pharmacy Receipts

I got this idea from Lesa, @smithteaches9to12 on Instagram. Collect your own receipts and those of colleges and friends. Have your students complete a gallery walk or carousel activity to visit each receipt and create a character profile of the purchaser!

Overheard New York

@Overheardnewyork @OverheardLA @OverheardLondon @OverheardSanFrancisco @Overhearduniversity

These Instagram pages offer user-submitted overheard conversations. They are generally a short back and forth banter between two-people. Like Postsecret.com, I would suggest pre-selecting examples to copy to a new document for your students because many of the posts would be inappropriate for school.

Inferencing Question:

  1. Who are these two people talking about?

Real Estate Postings

Using online real estate posts, ask your students to infer the type of people that currently live there. These posts usually contain a carousel of pictures of the home which students can use to infer.

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