Friday, February 7, 2014

Inferencing Through Comic Strips


I’m Teri from Teri and Tiff’s Creative Resources. I am half of a sister team. About a year ago, my sister, Tiff, and I decided to combine my nine years of teaching and her eleven years of graphic design experience and create our TpT store that highlights engaging supplemental resources. This past year has been a whirlwind of an adventure.  We are both so excited to be a part of this new Who’s Who community!

Well now that you know a little bit about our team, I’d love to share an inference activity with you.  There are so many fantastic ways to reinforce inferential thinking, but one of my favorite methods is to utilize comic strips.  At this point in the year, my fourth graders have a pretty good understanding of how to combine the clues given with their prior knowledge to make an evidence-based inference; so I decided to challenge them one step further by asking them to create inferential clues for each other. We did this by playing a game of Comic Scoot. Here’s what we did.

Day 1: We read a few Calvin and Hobbes comics and made some observations about comic format.  My students highlighted that a comic still follows a basic plot line by having a setting, mini rising action, a climax, and a conclusion. They also noticed that the characters tend to have unusual quirks that make them memorable. 

Day 2: Once we gathered some tips from Calvin and Hobbes, we started to prep for our own classroom comic strips. First, I had my students break into small groups and create 4 main characters that could be the focal point of our comics. As a guide, I gave my students four categories to brainstorm through:
  • Personality
  • Likes
  • Dislikes
  • An unusual quirk
Once they were done brainstorming the character traits, they typed up their list, printed off a copy for each group member, and each illustrated a version of their character.  When everyone was done, this gave us three to four versions of each character description.

Here’s a quick peek at our character creations.  

The timid, animal loving . . .


The adventurous, anti-shopping . . .

The bossy, candy loving . . .


The imaginative, allergy ridden . . .

Day 3: After each group introduced their character, I reassigned the groups so that each table had a member from each character group. This gave each table a set of all four main characters.  At this point, my students thought they were ready to begin creating their comics; but I had to add two more twists.
  1. One person was not allowed to write a whole comic. Instead, I shared that each student was going to create one slide for each comic and therefore, travel around the table.
  2. Each table received a different setting that their comic had to highlight.
The classroom began to hum with anticipation as I assigned the different settings. 

 Day 4: We began our game of Comic Scoot. Every student was given a blank comic strip and a character description.  They had to take a few minutes to brainstorm how their character should respond to the setting and then they began the first slide.

Once the first slides were complete, I asked each student to rotate around their table one seat to a new comic. At each new comic, they had three tasks to complete:
  1. They had to gather clues for the next slide, by investigating “Slide 1’s” illustrations, talking bubbles, and narrations.
  2. Once they found the clues, they were supposed to infer the next step and create the next slide.
  3. As they drew the next slide, they had to respond to clues given as well as move the comic forward through creating new clues for the next classmate.
As I saw students wrapping up their slides, I would call time and ask everyone to rotate again.   

Here’s an example of 3 slides complete.

Here’s an example of 4 slides complete.
During each rotation, I roamed the room reminding students to:
  • Pay attention to the inferential clues rather than just creating whatever they wanted
  • Pay attention to where they were in the storyline – setting, rising action, climax, or conclusion
  • Make sure their slide responded to the inferential clues in the previous slide but also moved the slide along and created clues for the next person.
After several rotations, it worked out that the original author circled their table and returned to their comic on the last slide.  This allowed the original authors to create the introduction and conclusion to their comic. The last slide was a challenge for many of my students because they realized that the comic had changed a bit from their original intent, and some of them wanted to create a conclusion that redirected the comic back to their original idea.  This struggle lead into a great conversation about how you need to infer based on the clues given, not what you want to have happen.  In the end each author responded to the direction the comic took and wrapped up their comics appropriately.

Here’s a quick look at some of the final products: 

 Day 5: We wrapped up this activity by having a special presentation of the comics and by reflecting:
  • What we learned about inferring
  • What types of inferential clues were found in the comics
  • How the characters changed based on the setting given, and what skills they took away from this activity that can help them to continue inferring.
This was such a fun inferential activity. My students were so engaged throughout the project. In the end we were able to practice clue-based inferring through finding and creating clues.

By changing the main characters and the length of the comic strips, this activity can be easily adjusted to fit the specific needs of any classroom.

If you are interested in trying this out in your classroom, all you need is a character brainstorm sheet, and a blank comic strip.
Both of these
For Grade Levels: 3rd, 4th, 5th, & 6th
can be easily created on a word document by inserting tables. If you'd like to try out another comic activity be sure to stop by our store and see our Prediction Comic Strips.

Well, I hope I got your creative wheels turning for yet another fantastic way you can enhance your students’ learning. I’d love for you to share the inference activities you are doing in your classroom.



  1. The word "inference" is being misused in this post. "Inference" is a noun. "Infer" is a verb. Your students are "inferring" when they make an "inference." The terms are not interchangeable. It would be like saying you are "caking" when you bake a cake. "Baking" is what you are doing. The cake is what you are making.