Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Observations Vs. Inference

Have you ever noticed how hard it is for students to understand the difference between observations and inference?  Heck...I'll be even you have trouble telling the difference sometimes.... Last week we spent several days observing the interactions between mentos and sodas. Next we wanted to teach them the difference between what we observe and what we infer.   I went to one of my favorite units "Earthlets" from Picture Perfect Science Units.  

We read the story Dr. Xargles Earthlets.  This story is about a professor from another planet (I usually say planet X) who has spent several year researching and observing earthlets.  Earthlets are babies...and Dr. Xargle is way off!  He tells how the parents of earthlets must dry the earthlets off in order to stop them from shrinking! that true?  No!  We tell them that he is making an inference which is a guess based on what he knows. 

Picture Perfect then has sentence cards to sort based on observation and inference, has a practice sheet of a man with a broken leg, and even a quiz.  The students love it and it is an excellent introduction to inferences for the year. 

I love to show my students a picture of a wet dog and ask the students to list all the reasons why he may be wet.  This is what they came up with today:
  • He went swimming.
  • It was raining.
  • He was squirted with a hose
  • or a squirt gun! 
  • He jumped in a puddle.
  • He jumped in a pool.
These are all inferences based on our experiences and they may make senses....we need more details to know how exactly he got wet. 

I suggest you pick a picture a day and ask kids to infer what happened as well as make observations  on a class chart or even in your notebook.
 A T chart would work wonderfully:

Observations   vs. Inferences 
wet                           went swimming
 blue sky                   jumped in a pool

What do you think?

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