How to Teach Inferences: 20 Perfect Picture and Wordless Books
Teaching your students how to make inferences can be both challenging and fun. Picture books are going to be your BFF when it comes to introducing this concept to your students.
The books listed below are just a few of my favorite books on how to teach inferences.
Some of the books that were listed in the story elements unit were also listed here because they are also great choices to use when teaching students how to infer. Also, using the same book to teach a different reading strategy is helpful for your students. They are already familiar with the book so you can focus on your strategy.
Wordless picture books are also an engaging and effective way to teach your students about inferences.
How to teach inferences using picture books (with text):
Picture books are a great way to teach students how to use illustrations to connect words. Students can use the words and pictures as evidence/clues to make inferences.
1. The Wretched Stone by Chris Van Allsburg
Blurb: In a story recounted through the daily log of Captain Allan Hope, the sailors aboard the Rita Anne become mesmerized and transformed by a mysterious glowing rock, and only music and books can restore them to normal.
The Wretched Stone by Chris Van Allsburg
2. Two Bad Ants by Chris Van Allsburg
Blurb: The three-time Caldecott medalist tells the tale of two ants who decide to leave the safety of the others to venture into a danger-laden kitchen in this fun book on how to teach inferences.
Two Bad Ants by Chris Van Allsburg
3. The Stranger by Chris Van Allsburg
Blurb: The enigmatic origins of the stranger that Farmer Bailey hits with his truck and brings home to recuperate seem to have a mysterious relation to the weather. Could he be Jack Frost?
The Stranger by Chris Van Allsburg
4. Thunder Cake by Patricia Polacco
Break out the Patricia Polacco. She is always here for the teaching reading party.
Blurb: A loud clap of thunder booms, and rattles the windows of Grandma’s old farmhouse. “This is Thunder Cake baking weather,” calls Grandma, as she and her granddaughter hurry to gather the ingredients around the farm. A real Thunder Cake must reach the oven before the storm arrives. But the list of ingredients is long and not easy to find . . . and the storm is coming closer all the time!
Reaching once again into her rich childhood experience, Patricia Polacco tells the memorable story of how her grandma–her Babushka–helped her overcome her fear of thunder when she was a little girl. Ms. Polacco’s vivid memories of her grandmother’s endearing answer to a child’s fear, accompanied by her bright folk-art illustrations, turn a frightening thunderstorm into an adventure and ultimately . . . a celebration in this great story on how to teach inferences.
Thunder Cake by Patricia Polacco
5. Enemy Pie by Derek Munson
I think every adult and child should read this book. It is so good for teaching about dealing with conflict and how characters respond. Translate that into real life!
Blurb: It was the perfect summer. That is until Jeremy Ross moved into the house down the street and became neighborhood enemy number one. Luckily Dad had a surefire way to get rid of enemies: Enemy Pie. But part of the secret recipe is spending an entire day playing with the enemy! In this funny yet endearing story, one little boy learns an effective recipe for turning a best enemy into a best friend. Accompanied by charming illustrations, Enemy Pie serves up a sweet lesson about the difficulties and ultimate rewards of making new friends.
Enemy Pie by Derek Munson
6. Tops and Bottoms by Janet Stevens
Blurb: In this Caldecott Honor-winning retelling by Janet Stevens, a wily Hare solves his family’s problems by tricking rich and lazy Bear into giving up half his crops.
Once upon a time, there was a lazy Bear and a clever Hare. Bear had lots of money and lots of land but all he wanted to do was sleep. Hare had nothing but hungry children, so he came up with a plan to convince Bear to split his land down the middle—tops and bottoms. Hare can work all day and Bear can sleep.
It’s the perfect solution! Or is it?
Tops and Bottoms by Janet Stevens
7. Thank you, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco
Blurb: Patricia Polacco is now one of America’s most loved children’s book creators, but once upon a time, she was a little girl named Trisha starting school. Trisha could paint and draw beautifully, but when she looked at words on a page, all she could see was a jumble. It took a very special teacher to recognize little Trisha’s dyslexia: Mr. Falker, who encouraged her to overcome her reading disability. Patricia Polacco will never forget him, and neither will we.
Thank you, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco
8. A Bad Case of Stripes by David Shannon
Blurb: “What we have here is a bad case of stripes. One of the worst I’ve ever seen!” Camilla Cream loves lima beans, but she never eats them. Why? Because the other kids in her school don’t like them. And Camilla Cream is very, very worried about what other people think of her. In fact, she’s so worried that she’s about to break out in…a bad case of stripes! “Shannon’s story is a good poke in the eye of conformity…and his empathetic, vivid artwork keeps perfect pace with the tale.” -Kirkus Reviews
A Bad Case of Stripes by David Shannon
9. Fables by Arnold Lobel
Blurb: A pig flying through marshmallow clouds? A camel pirouetting through the desert? Where else could a reader find such marvelous things but in a fable? From the author-illustrator behind beloved Frog and Toad, Arnold Lobel, comes a collection of humorous, silly fables that will delight readers young and old and help as you learn how to teach inferences in your classroom.
Fables by Arnold Lobel
10. Aesop’s Fables by Jerry Pinkney
Blurb: In this elegantly designed volume, more than sixty of Aesop’s timeless fables have been carefully selected, humorously retold, and brought gloriously to life by four-time Caldecott Honor-winner Jerry Pinkney. Included are the Shepherd Boy and The Wolf, the Lion and the Mouse, the Tortoise and the Hare, plus many other characters and morals that have inspired countless readers for centuries. With more than fifty magnificent full-color illustrations, this handsome edition is a must for every bookshelf.
Aesop’s Fables by Jerry Pinkney
11. Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts
There is so much you can teach from this short, but powerful book. This book can also be integrated into a discussion of needs vs. wants, and social issues, and it is an excellent way to discuss a theme or central message as you discover how to teach inferences in your classroom.
Blurb: All Jeremy wants is a pair of those shoes, the ones everyone at school seems to be wearing. Though Jeremy’s grandma says they don’t have room for “want,” just “need,” when his old shoes fall apart at school, he is more determined than ever to have those shoes, even a thrift-shop pair that are much too small. But sore feet aren’t much fun, and Jeremy soon sees that the things he has — warm boots, a loving grandma, and the chance to help a friend — are worth more than the things he wants.
Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts
12. The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson
This classic is SOOOO good and should be a staple in any classroom library. ❤️
Blurb: Clover’s mom says it isn’t safe to cross the fence that segregates their African-American side of town from the white side where Anna lives. But the two girls strike up a friendship and get around the grown-ups’ rules by sitting on top of the fence together.
The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson
How can you use wordless picture books to teach making inferences?
Wordless picture books are special because the author doesn’t explicitly explain what is happening in the book. Students have to use illustrations to tell the story. Many books, especially those by David Weisner have very detailed illustrations. Students explain their inferences from the evidence (illustration). Really, the whole reading of the book requires students to make inferences.
13. Pancakes for Breakfast by Tomie dePaola
Blurb: This wordless picture book follows the trials of a little old lady who attempts to make pancakes for her breakfast.
Pancakes for Breakfast by Tomie dePaola
14. Tuesday by Davide Wiesner
Blurb: In David Wiesner’s whimsical and elegant New York Times bestseller and Caldecott Medal–winner, the events of a delightfully unpredictable Tuesday invite readers to find the potential for the wondrousness in every day.
It begins on Tuesday evening when the frogs suddenly start to float. . . . Thrill to the humorous cascading adventures that follow in a celebration of possibility unbounded—and of unexpected cause and effect. From the genius of international superstar and three-time Caldecott Medalist David Wiesner, this entertaining, thought-provoking, and nearly-wordless tale unrolls with the precision and clarity of a silent movie. Engaging for all ages, this beloved and innovative classic is a perfect gift to enthrall the young and the young at heart.
Tuesday by Davide Wiesner
15. Free Fall by David Wiesner
Blurb: When he falls asleep with a book in his arms, a young boy dreams an amazing dream-about dragons, castles, and an unchartered, faraway land. And you can come along as you work with your students and learn how to teach inferences.
Free Fall by David Wiesner
16. Mr. Wuffles! by David Wiesner
Blurb: A 2014 Caldecott Honor Book In a near-wordless masterpiece that could only have been devised by David Wiesner, a cat named Mr. Wuffles doesn’t care about toy mice or toy goldfish. He’s much more interested in playing with a little spaceship full of actual aliens—but the ship wasn’t designed for this kind of rough treatment. Between motion sickness and damaged equipment, the aliens are in deep trouble.
When the space visitors dodge the cat and take shelter behind the radiator to repair the damage, they make a host of insect friends. The result? A humorous exploration of cooperation between aliens and insects, and of the universal nature of communication involving symbols, “cave” paintings, and gestures of friendship as you learn how to teach inferences.
17. Flotsam by David Wiesner
Blurb: A bright, science-minded boy goes to the beach equipped to collect and examine flotsam–anything floating that has been washed ashore. Bottles, lost toys, small objects of every description are among his usual finds. But there’s no way he could have prepared for one particular discovery: a barnacle-encrusted underwater camera, with its own secrets to share . . . and to keep. In each of his amazing picture books, David Wiesner has revealed the magical possibilities of some ordinary thing or happening–a frog on a lily pad, a trip to the Empire State Building, a well-known nursery tale. This time, a day at the beach is the springboard into a wildly imaginative exploration of the mysteries of the deep, and of the qualities that enable us to witness these wonders and delight in them.
Flotsam by David Wiesner
18. Fossil by Bill Thompson
Blurb: When a boy and his dog go for a hike, the boy trips on a fossil, and it comes to life, revealing an ancient plant. The boy is so intrigued that he breaks two more fossils that come to life―a dragonfly and a pteranodon. When these prehistoric creatures collide with present reality, the boy must figure out a way to make things go back to normal. Visually told through art, this “wordless story” will surely spark imagination and creativity while helping you know how to teach inferences.
Fossil by Bill Thompson
19. Chalk by Bill Thompson
Blurb: Three children discover a magical bag of chalk on a rainy day.
Chalk by Bill Thompson
20. Good Dog, Carl by Alexandra Day
Blurb: A modern classic that introduced the beloved baby-sitting rottweiler to the world. Use this book to learn how to teach inferences in your classroom while enjoying a fun book about a good dog.
Good Dog, Carl by Alexandra Day
Will you try learning how to teach inferences in your classroom with the help of these great books?
There are so many great books out there to teach your students how to infer, but these are a few of my favorites! What books am I missing on this list?
Having a list of books to teach specific skills has been so helpful for me.
If you love having a list of books for reading comprehension skills, check out my list of 25 Books to Teach Story Elements!
Be sure to grab these free graphic organizers that you can use when teaching students how to make inferences.
And if you’d like more support when it comes to teaching students how to make an inference, you’ll love the Reading Mini Unit. This unit includes more activities, reading passages, PowerPoint/Google Slides and more.
You can find these through the links below:
Making Inferences (Reading Mini Unit) 3rd Grade
TpT: Click here
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Membership: Click Here
Making Inferences (Reading Mini Unit) 4th-5th Grade
TpT: Click here
TLL Shop: Click Here
Membership: Click Here