Improving students’ inference skills with pictures

The third post in a series about how to improve the inference skills of your students, and why that’s so important.

See the other posts here:


How can you can improve students’ inference skills using images? How can you inspire them to see more than is physically there? How can you make the invisible, visible?

Inference using pictures is teaching students to make connections between what they’re seeing and the knowledge they already have on the subject. This can be one of this things that holds students with lower inference skills back – they don’t realise they know anything about the subject until they’re pushed.


I observe / I wonder / I infer

This is one I also use with graphs and data, but it works just a well with images:

Reading for analysis and inference

On the PowerPoint I have the titles appear one at a time, so to start we spend five minutes talking about what we can physically see in the picture. Then we will spend five minutes talking about questions we can ask. Then we will talk about what theories we can make about it.

Students have their own sheet with the headings, which you can download here.

Reading for analysis and inference table

I did this activity with this picture of the Burning Monk above with a group of year 9 students as a stand alone lesson to get them thinking in more detail about their quotes –  they came up with some great answers. It’s easy to forget young people are so used to images of all kinds and the ideas they can pull from them are always insightful and interesting.


Before / now / after

This helps students put an an image into its context. It gets them to think about what comes around the picture, what’s caused it to lead to that and what is going to happen next.

I’d use this one for the teaching of Macbeth. We discuss what has happened to lead up to the point, and what will happen next. Colleagues have also used this in teaching Geography and History.

To add extra challenge use this, and to test students’ knowledge of their quotes, ask them what quote relates to this image… which one came before…


Try it to get your students talking about inference.

Here’s some images to get you started:



How do you get students thinking below the surface?

How do you get them linking what they already know to what you’re teaching?


All pictures from





2 Replies to “Improving students’ inference skills with pictures”

  1. Fantastic resource – thank you. Visual explanation that quickly makes clear what is written about in other texts. You have provided the missing piece to dual coding learning!

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