January 2, 2014

How to Use Art to Teach Inferencing

Art is powerful- it can be interpreted, discussed and debated.  This brings us opportunities to use it to not only teach children how to make inferences, but to think critically and reflect on their own thought process.  The key is to observe with intention.  Children have to learn how to quiet their bodies and minds to allow the images to be processed.  It’s not as difficult as it sounds…

Shadow Knows Visual Writing PromptUse this illustration and follow these 3 steps to help your students observe and make inferences:

Step 1:

Cover the top half of the image. Then give students one whole minute, in silence, to observe the image. Tell them that they will be asked specific questions about it, so they should pay attention to color and detail. It is important that they are not talking and that they are completely focused in the act of observation.

Step 2:

Ask students the following questions. For each question they must explain why they think that way, this is key:

1. Who is the girl and why is she on the stoop?

2. What is in the suitcase?

3. What happens in the next five minutes?

(Remember, they can only see half of the image, so they are making inferences based on partial information)

Step 3:

Now uncover the top of the image, and again, give them one minute to observe in silence.  Then ask the following questions. Again, for each question they must explain why they think that way.

1. Who or what is making the shadow in the window?

2. What is in the water?

3. What happens in the next five minutes? (Use details to support your ideas.) How is it different from your other answer?


This short lesson can be altered and used in a number of ways.

  • Teachers can obviously change the questions to the appropriate age level
  • Teachers may choose to focus on only one area of the image to make an inference from
  • ESL teachers could use it to teach specific vocabulary
  • Teachers may even throw in a twist.  This is especially helpful to get children to think differently.

Ways to mix it up and throw in a twist:

  • Let’s say students are sure that there is a monster in the house and that the little girl is in danger.   You may say, “Waiting in the driveway, just outside of the picture, is the girl’s pet dragon. How does that change the story and what happens next?”
  • Her little brother is trapped in the basement. How does that change the story and what happens next?
  • The ship in the distance is speeding towards her- who is on it and how does that change the outcome of the story?
  • Teachers can make up their own twist based on the conversations during the lesson

You may find more Visual Writing Prompts here.

Check out my Video Story Starters for another twist in using art to inspire writing.

Looking at and writing about art is fun and exciting for kids.  Let me know how you use this image!


How to Use Art to Inspire Creative Writing

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