Teaching Inferences With Commercials

Are your students struggling with the concept of making inferences in their reading? Show your students that they already know how to make inferences with these videos!

To those of us who love reading, making inferences from text seems easy enough. But to students who struggle with reading because of a learning disability, or who just dislike reading, making inferences from text can be like trying to find clues in a dark room. That said, I have learned that those same students who don’t “get” an inference from text will make that mental leap in a flash if you show them a video. What a boost to their confidence! So I always introduce my students to making inferences with videos, like the one above. I play the video for the students, then ask them: “What happened?” Invariably, they will call out: “The dog ate the bird!” This is where I play devil’s advocate. “What do you mean?” I’ll ask. “I didn’t see the dog eat the bird. Did you see the dog eat the bird?” The kids will acknowledge that they didn’t see him eat the bird. “Then how do you know he ate the bird?” I ask. That’s when they share the clues.

  • We see the bird.
  • We see the dog.
  • Then we hear the squawk.
  • The lady screams.
  • We see the feathers fly.
  • The bird is gone and the dog is licking his lips.

My students absolutely know how to make an inference. What they have trouble doing, is envisioning what they read so that they can make the same inference from what they see in their heads. So I build them up, show them that they are smart and that they can make an inference in a snap. Then we work on transferring that skill to reading text.

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Ideas for using commercials to teach inferences

Note: One of my readers, Nancy de Arrigunaga, made this amazing infographic of the ideas below. Feel free to use this in your classrooms, particularly if you are at a 1:1 school:

Making Inferences Activity

The commercial above is just one that you can use. I like to show a few commercials, make the project fun for them, help them to understand that they really are good at making inferences. I suggest you try some of these other commercials with your classes: Don’t tell ’em about the cat:

  • What did the dog do?
  • How do you know the dog killed the cat?
  • Why did the dog give the man a bag of chips?

Graduate makes an assumption:

  • What does the graduate think his gift is?
  • What is his actual gift?

This is some serious cheese:

  • What happened to the mouse?
  • How did the mouse get so strong?

  • What happened to the mosquito?
  • What caused the mosquito to explode

Download the associated Teaching Inferences With Commercials Graphic Organizer. We’ll also send you a PowerPoint presentation with seven commercial videos for you to display on your interactive whiteboard and links to additional resources for teaching inference skills.

About the author 

Michelle Boyd Waters, M.Ed.

I am a secondary English Language Arts teacher, a University of Oklahoma student working on my doctorate in Instructional Leadership and Academic Curriculum with an concentration in English Education and co-Editor of the Oklahoma English Journal. I am constantly seeking ways to amplify students' voices and choices.

  1. My students LOVED this lesson and so did I. They were so engaged, it was great to see. I did this with 4th and 5th graders.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing, Sherry. (And sorry for the delay in replying. The end of the school year is rough.) I love hearing feedback from other teachers!

  2. Thank you for sharing these videos! They worked great as an introduction to inferencing with 8th graders. Our next step will be looking at short passages to make inferences with.

  3. Used this in my seventh-grade ELA class. Getting these helped with their confidence after not initially getting it when we tried to infer from text.

  4. This is a great introduction to inferences for middle schoolers who struggle with inference! It’s entertaining, so it grabs their attention and lets them see that they do make inferences all the time.

  5. Just came across this post and I love it! Sadly though, one of the links are no longer working in the Nancy de Arrigunaga presentation. Do you have an updated link?

    1. Thank you! I’ll look and see what I can find. Did you subscribe to the comments so you’ll see my reply?

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