5 Steps to Make Inferential Thinking VISIBLE

Updated: Jul 6

Inferential understanding means that the reader must “read between the lines” which can lead them to think beyond the text and reflect on their thinking.

Inferring has proven to be difficult for many students. When readers begin to understand the process of inferring the process of inferential thinking becomes more natural.


Readers are expected to use many different reading processes and strategies in order to make one inference.

No wonder it is so difficult for many readers--especially young readers--to master the process of inferring.

Readers can MAKE INFERENCES from pictures and illustrations without text.

Readers can INFER meaning based on pictures and illustrations.

Readers must pay close attention to DETAILS.

Readers must CONNECT what they already know (SCHEMA) with the TEXT DETAILS to INFER.


Readers need to see how inferential thinking works. A few simple strategies can make inferring more VISIBLE for students.

Follow these 5 steps to make

inferential thinking visible



Think aloud when inferring in classroom read alouds.

Think aloud when inferring about school-wide posters, brochures or handouts.

Think aloud when making inferences while looking at a picture.


Language of Inferring

Use the language of inferring.

"I noticed...., and I know..., so I'm thinking..."

Have your readers break down their thinking into steps. Color code it if you have to for those literal thinkers and visual learners.

Have your readers write the clues in a text, then write what they already know and have them add that together to make an inference.

Use a photograph (see below) to really illustrate this inferring equation.


Provide Visuals to

Illustrate the Process of Inferring

If students are visual learners, they need to SEE how inferring looks.

Use a simple graphic to illustrate how a reader takes in details, connects it with his/her background knowledge (schema) and creates an inference.


Infer Using Photographs

Bring in photographs to display and begin a discussion on what may have been happening in the picture based on the visual details. Use the language of inferring within those discussions.

Try modeling this with the strategy presented in the photograph in step 2 above.


Infer Using Wordless Picture Books

Take inferring with photographs a step further and use wordless picture books. Books without words have a story but the story is told through the details of the illustrations. Readers are nudged a little further into examining the text for details that tell the story.

click here to see some of my favorite wordless picture books



When readers are provided with visuals to illustrate a complex and abstract process, such as inferring, they will better be able to transfer that work into their own independent reading.

When readers are provided with time to practice inferring within their own self-selected independent texts, they will be able to better understand how the process of inferring works.

Inferring Wall Chart

Until next time...

A few links you might be interested in...Check out a few of my favorite wordless picture books...just click here...

If you are interested in the printables displayed in the photos above they can be found here

If you interested in minilessons to teach inferring you can find those here

If you are interested in graphic organizers for inferring with wordless picture books you can find those here

All the resources above are also included

in a BUNDLE found here.

Create minilessons that will ignite and engage your readers. Grab this mini-course...

#VisibleComprehension #Inferring #minilessons


Here at Literacy Treasures, I LOVE to talk about reading and writing and share with teachers all that I've learned about what it takes to build strong readers and writers. I have immersed myself in the research of Lucy Calkins, Jennifer Serravallo, Stephanie Harvey, Debbie Miller, Carl Anderson, Gay Su Pinnell, Irene Fountas and so many others.  Every resource, strategy, tool, minilesson and teaching tip that is shared on Literacy Treasures is rooted in this research