Inference Activities Part 2: Pictures and Alt Text Image Descriptions

The first Inference post in this series provided fun, hands-on activities including Crime Scenes, Garbage Mysteries and Shoe Pairs. (View Inference Activities Part 1 here.) This post, Part 2 in the Inference Series, takes a look at how authors use pictures to provide clues. Picture books and educational materials frequently convey critical information through illustrations; classroom teachers teach 'inference' lessons to guide students to use these illustrations to glean information that is not spelled out. Learn how to use picture inference activities with students who are visually impaired and blind?

Image Descriptions/Alt Text: What is it?

Image description - also known as alt text (alternative text) description - is a word, phrase or sentence(s) that can be inserted as an HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) to describe the nature or contents of an image. Image descriptions are announced by screen readers enabling users who are visually impaired to access to information provided through an image. For general purposes, image description and alt text can be used interchangeably. Officially, alt text is used to provide the basic essentials about an image while an image description provides additional details. Learn more about image descriptions and alt text descriptions here.

Incorporating Descriptions into Classroom Activities

Students with visual impairments use image descriptions to better understand what is shown visually through images - things which might not be explained through text. Classroom teachers should be made aware of the need to describe images during all classroom activities and teachers should include alt text descriptions for all digital materials. Teachers of the Visually Impaired (TVIs) can use standard inference lessons to teach students with visual impairments a critical skill – to focus on image descriptions and to use these image descriptions for inference purposes. In the digital classroom, illustrated books and materials have embedded image descriptions. In paper-and-pencil classrooms, students with visual impairments – in best practice – received tactile diagrams of important images along with brailled text. In the paperless classroom, students access digital information using screen readers (often paired with refreshable braille displays) and the screen reader announces the alt text description (image descriptions). TVIs, are you specifically teaching your students about image descriptions?

NOTE: Alt text can be added to any word-document, PowerPoint Presentation, etc. Publishers should - but do not always - provide alt text descriptions and teachers who create their own materials should be shown how to include alt text descriptions.

Learn more about creating alt text here.

Step-by-step instructions on how to add alt text descriptions are attached here.

Google Forms is a great tool for creating accessible digital questions. Learn how to add alt text descriptions to Google Forms here.

Classroom teachers should share PowerPoint Presentations with students who are visually impaired. Learn how to add alt text to PowerPoints here.

Teachers of the Visually Impaired: It is your job to not only make classroom teachers aware of alt text descriptions but also to help them learn HOW to add alt text descriptions to the materials that they use in their classroom –both materials they curate from online sources and materials that they create themselves. This is also a wonderful time to introduce peers about HOW to describe images to others – including students who are visually impaired or blind.

Classroom Teachers: Incorporate image descriptions into your inference activities. Having students with vision accurately describe an image will help the whole class learn to pull out important information from an image and will help all students articulate this information. It will also help students with vision learn how to describe items - not only images but also important items in the environment - in a way that is beneficial for their classmate with a visual impairment.

Inferences from Images

What is an inference? Students infer when they gather evidence from an image and add what they already know to figure out what is happening in the picture.

The image description should be worded in such a way that the description provide clues but does not provide the inference. Students need to draw their own conclusions!

Example: The picture* below has the image description: "A smiling cartoon lion sitting by wrapped boxes, holding two balloons and wearing a pointed party hat."

A smiling cartoon lion sitting by wrapped boxes, holding balloons and wearing a pointed party hat.

The image description intentionally does not state anything about a birthday party or the mood of the lion. Students use their own experience and/or knowledge to infer that this picture is about a happy lion at a birthday party.

The attached Infer or Not to Infer worksheet below, provides three sentences; two can be inferred and one is not inferred.

  • Someone is having a birthday party.
  • He is happy.
  • Today is his 6th birthday.

Infer or Not to Infer Activity

Have Fun Teaching has shared free online worksheet called to Infer or Not to Infer. (Download Infer or Not to Infer worksheet from their website.) This worksheet displays a simple picture and then three sentences associated with each picture. The student chooses which sentence(s) can be inferred from the picture and which sentence(s) cannot be inferred.

If done as a group activity, the teacher can model how to describe the image – without giving away pertinent details. If the class already knows how to describe the image correctly, the teacher may choose to have a student describe the image.  Read the sentences aloud and discuss which sentences can be inferred or not inferred and why.

If the activity is done individually, the teacher can use the modified version of this activity (which includes alt text descriptions). 

Attached Infer of Not to Infer Accessible Version worksheet *

The original To Infer or Not to Infer worksheet includes an additional print activity for each image: students are asked to write their Inference #1 in the first box and then their Reason in the second box. Students are then asked to repeat this activity for each image. Students can complete this activity digitally in a word-type document or teachers can opt to create an accessible Google Forms quiz.

Note: Google Forms can be used to create accessible online questions for this activity. (Unfortunately, a Google Form cannot be uploaded to the Paths to Technology template – you will have to create your own Google Form with this activity.)

For additional free inference image materials, download Making Inferences Using Pictures 1 and Making Inferences Using Pictures 2 from the www.HaveFunTeaching website. For your convenience, these worksheets have been made accessible by adding image descriptions for students who use screen readers.

Attached Making Inferences Using Pictures 1 Worksheet Accessible Version *

Attached Making Inferences Using Pictures 2 Worksheet Accessible Version *

*These worksheets were modified by Paths to Technology to include accessible image descriptions; these image descriptions were added in text below each image to make the activity more teacher-friendly. has granted Paths to Technology permission to add image descriptions to their infer worksheets and to share these worksheets on Paths to Technology.

Collage of inference activities


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