If you are looking for speech therapy materials with inferencing picture scenes using evidence-based strategies, make sure to check out my Inferencing and Predicting Using Real Pictures for Speech Therapy. It includes 100 real life picture card scenarios that allow you to provide effective, direct teaching on how to make inferences from picture scenes (also available in Google Slides format for no-print or teletherapy).
If you need some quick inferencing goals, scroll down or check out my Speech-Language Therapy Goal Bank!
Inferencing is when you use clues to make a smart guess. We combine new information with our prior knowledge to make those smart guesses. Inferences are not stated outright. We have to use some deductive reasoning to make those conclusions. Usually, an inference comes from a “why” or “how” question. You have to read between the lines.
We make inferences all day long, without even realizing it! Many pragmatic language skills are tied into making inferences, such as perspective-taking. Language impairments will affect a child’s ability to make inferences, so as speech therapists, it’s important we address this need!
Inferences are similar to predictions because they both involve coming to conclusions that are not stated outright. But, the difference between inferences and predictions is that predictions are about the future. There may not be just one answer to a prediction question, but there many be several reasonable answers to prediction questions. You still have to look at the evidence and make a conclusion, but you are doing so for an unproven event.
Current research gives us a few tried-and-true strategies to best teach inferencing to our students.
Say what someone might be thinking out loud to provide a verbal model of the thought-process that occurs when making an inference. Model making inferences by highlighting key information from the inferencing picture scene and making connections with your own background knowledge (van Kleeck, Vander Woude, & Hammett, 2006).
For example, while looking at a picture, say “I think the boy in the picture feels frustrated because it looks like he is losing at the game. I feel frustrated when I lose at games. Do you?”
Prompts can be a help, or they can be a crutch. Make sure you are effectively prompting to help scaffold your students to independence. There are two types of prompts recommended when teaching inferencing (Bradshaw, M. L., Hoffman, P. R., & Norris, J. A., 1998):
For example, say, “Why is he happy? He is happy because….”
For example, expand the answer “happy” to “Yes! He is happy….because he got a new bike!”
Start by teaching your students what inferencing is with pictures. Once they have mastered those skills, build on their skills with other materials. You can use the same familiar visuals that I have provided in my Inferencing and Predicting Using Real Pictures for Speech Therapy product. Then, target all of the types of inferences while reading picture books (Desmarais, Nadeau, Trudeau, Filiatrault Veilleux, & Maxés-Fournier, 2013).
Example: While reading picture books, ask questions like “How are they feeling? How do you know? What are they thinking?” See below for information about different types of inferencing for more questions you could ask while reading picture books.
Target inferencing while reading, not after, to decrease reliance on memory skills and focus on just making inferences. This also increases your ability to model think-alouds and point to relevant clues. Combine auditory and visual cues during activities (Filiatrault-Veilleux, P., Bouchard, C., Trudeau, N., & Desmarais, C., 2015).
Example: Provide a visual (like the ones included in the Inferencing and Predicting Using Real Pictures for Speech Therapy packet) and ask inferential questions WHILE reading picture books, not after. Use think-alouds consistently.
There are 6 basic types of inferential questions that you can ask about any well-composed picture:
Make a smart guess about how somebody feels. Ask how people or characters feel while looking at pictures or reading stories. What makes you think that they feel that way? Bonus points if you move beyond “happy” and “sad!”
Make a smart guess about what somebody is thinking. Ask what the people or characters might be thinking in a picture or during specific parts of a story. Again, discuss what evidence you have found that led you to that conclusion.
Make a smart guess about what a character wants/their intentions. What do they want? How can you tell?
Make a smart guess about how a character will solve a problem. How will they fix that? This skill leads fantastically into size of the problem activities and solving problems in the real world! Photographs are perfect to work on social inferences in speech therapy.
Make a smart guess about why something is happening or happened. Why did his ice cream melt? How do you know?
Make a smart guess about what might happen in the future. What is going to happen next? If it’s a crazy, off-the-wall prediction, don’t give them a pass and say, “Well, I guess that could happen.” It needs to be a logical prediction.
Although you now you have the tools to target inferencing with any speech therapy materials, you still might want to check out my Inferencing and Predicting Using Real Pictures for Speech Therapy. There’s nothing like a no-brainer, grab-and-go product that walks your students through proven strategies in a consistent, systematic way!
Some of these goals are great for social inferencing in speech therapy (I’m all about keeping it functional!), while others are more comprehension-based.
For more goal ideas, make sure to visit my speech therapy goal bank!
van Kleeck, A., Vander Woude, J., & Hammett, L.(2006). Fostering literal and inferential language skills in Head Start preschoolers with language impairment using scripted booksharing discussions. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 15, 85–95.
Bradshaw, M. L., Hoffman, P. R., & Norris, J. A.(1998). Efficacy of expansions and cloze procedures in the development of interpretations by preschool children exhibiting delayed language development. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 29, 85–95.
Desmarais, C., Nadeau, L., Trudeau, N., Filiatrault-Veilleux, P., & Maxes-Fournier, C.(2013). Intervention for improving comprehension in 4-6 year old children with specific language impairment: Practicing inferencing is a good thing. Clinical Linguistics & Phonetics, 27, 540–552.
Filiatrault-Veilleux, P., Bouchard, C., Trudeau, N., & Desmarais, C. (2015). Inferential comprehension of 3-6 year olds within the context of story grammar: A scoping review. International Journal of Language & Communication Disorders, 50(6), 737–749.
Kelley, E. S. (2015). An evidence-based approach to teach inferential language during interactive storybook reading with young children EBP Briefs, 10(3), 1–10. Bloomington, MN: NCS Pearson, Inc.