Sunday, May 15, 2011

Using Images to Infer

The strategy of inferring is often seen as a more difficult one to teach, especially with younger students.  Teachers have reflected on how to teach inferring so that students are able to draw out information that is implicit yet still relevant.  Many have turned to connecting this strategy with predicting (in the early years) and resources often used are wordless picture books and illustrations in texts.

Another powerful strategy to teach inferring is through the use of images and photos.  Using images from current events integrates media literacy with reading and allows students to be able to discuss what is going on in the world around them.  

In her lesson, Kvitka has done just this.  She has used photos from different natural disasters around the world to teach inferring and create a safe space for students to share their thoughts and feelings.  Using the O-W-I strategy from Nonfiction Reading Power, Kvitka has looked at different images together with her class to break down what they infer from them.

This is the first image she used, right after the disaster in Japan:
After spending some time viewing the photo, the class completed an O-W-I chart together.  Kvitka had her class focus on each category separately first, so students looked at what they observe, wonder and infer from the photo.
The next lesson looked at another photo, and again, students brainstormed together under the separate categories.  As Kvitka reflected on the work, she decided to reorganize the class chart and instead of going down the column of each category separately, she went horizontally on the chart, connecting the students' observations, questions and inferences.  This reorganization was important to her as it allowed her to talk to her students about the process of making an inference... we use what we see and what we wonder to make an inference.
Part I:  Following the two whole class lessons, Kvitka began her next lesson talking to her class about her reflections and how she reorganized the chart.  Her students were able to identify the importance of using what they see and wonder to infer.  From this discussion, she co-constructed the success criteria for making inferences together with her students.  This allowed students to think about what they need to do to be successful at inferring.  Their prior knowledge from the previous whole-class lessons helped them understand what is expected.
Part II:  Students worked together, in groups of 3, to infer connected to the image they were working with.  They listened to one another and shared their ideas, making sure all voices were included.  They then noted what they observed/wondered/inferred on their O-W-I sheet.  While groups worked, Kvitka visited each group to see how they were doing.

These are the six images Kvitka chose to work with, weaving in different current events, like the photos from Haiti, Egypt and New Zealand.  She also used three photos connected to real-life situations. 
Part III:  After each group had enough time to work on their inferences, the class came back together to share their thoughts and ideas.
The O-W-I strategy comes from Adrienne Gear's Nonfiction Reading Power:


  1. Hi HelenV,

    I am a student-teacher and I will be evaluated in the near future on an inferencing lesson. I came across your blog, and I have already decided that I will be using various photos in which to have the students use when making their inferences.

    I really like the Observe, Wonder, Infer chart! I cannot see the worksheets that you have the students working on clearly enough, but it looks like an idea I may want to use. At the bottom of their worksheets, is that an 'Observe, Wonder, Infer' chart as well?


    1. Hi Katelyn!

      I'm sorry for writing you so late but I'm really excited you found the blog entry helpful!! You are exactly right about the OWI worksheet, the image goes on top and then the chart is below, looking at what we observe, wonder and infer from the image.

      I hope this helps, please let me know if you need anything else.

      Take care,

  2. Hello... Is there a way to send me the OWI graphic organizer you created? thanks
    my email:

  3. I have read your blog and find it really interesting. I am about to start inferencing with my year 2 and 3 class in NZ and I might use some of your ideas or photos if that's ok? I will let you know how I go with it.
    Thanks Willow

  4. I was wondering if you have the photo/template pages available for download? I love this activity, and would be very grateful if you would be willing to share!

    Thank you,
    Krista McLean

  5. Thank you for modelling and sharing this excellent lesson.

  6. Thank you so much for modeling and sharing this. I feel lost with all the Common Core requirements and work with a school district who wants us to immerse ourselves in the Core--but hasn't provided us any materials to do so. Your lesson is common sense--but oh so powerful! Thank you!


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  10. What a great way to teach inferencing. I have a class of students who find this a difficult concept & I've never used pictures before. Thanks for this lesson.