Boy in the Water: Observation vs Inference

Image Source: Project Archaeology


  • The original worksheet(pdf) for this activity is from Project Archaeology (link)
  • I also created Google Slides for this activity (Public)

Students often have difficulty distinguishing between observations and inferences, they often combine the two into one statement. For example, when asked to make an observation using the image above some students may say: “The boy fell into the water because the branch broke.” Another student may say: “The goat pushed the boy into the water when he was trying to pick up his sailboat.”

We then discuss the difference between the facts and the “story” that goes with it. The facts are our observations and the story is how we piece the facts together, or our inference.


  • a boy is in the water
  • a goat standing next to the water
  • a broken tree branch
  • a sailboat is floating in the water


  • The branch broke when the boy was sitting on it, and he fell into the water.
  • The goat butted the boy into the water when he was picking up his sailboat.

After defining and discussing the differences between observations and inferences, students will have a chance to work with their partner to practice identifying and classifying the statements related to the image of the boy in the water. Once everyone is done, as a class, we then discuss each statement and confirm each as either an observation or inference.

Use the picture of the boy in the water to determine if the following statements are observations or if the statements are inferences. Place an “Inf” in the blank for inference and an “Obs” in the blank for observation.

  1. ____ The boy is in the water
  2. ____ The weather is cold
  3. ____ The tree branch is broken
  4. ____ If the boy crawled out of the water, the goat would push him
  5. ____ The boy fell off the branch
  6. ____ The goat is standing by the pond
  7. ____ The branch will fall on the boy’s head
  8. ____ The boy fell off the rocks
  9. ____ There is a sailboat in the water
  10. ____ The sailboat belongs to the boy
  11. ____ The goat will soon leave the pond
  12. ____ The tree by the pond has no leaves
  13. ____ There are three rocks in the pond
  14. ____ The tree by the pond is dead
  15. ____ If it rains, leaves will grow on the tree
  16. ____ The goat pushed the boy into the pond

10 thoughts on “Boy in the Water: Observation vs Inference

  1. kmcha40kaite January 25, 2017 / 9:46 am

    Any chance you can give a key, just to make sure this Fourth grade teacher is doing this right? Science was not my major and I’m not that confident…


    • Liz LaRosa January 26, 2017 / 8:34 am

      The answers are posted in the Google Slides.


  2. Cathy September 11, 2016 / 8:58 pm

    This is a lifesaver for me! I’ll be using this activity tomorrow with my 7th graders. THANKS!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Nora Parish August 26, 2016 / 9:28 pm

    This is a wonderful resource! Thanks so much for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Bryan August 19, 2015 / 5:19 pm

    I love this! One question though – Wouldn’t numbers 4,7,11, and 15 technically be predictions?


    • Liz LaRosa August 19, 2015 / 5:59 pm

      Good question, the way I understand the difference between an inference and a prediction is that a prediction can be verified, it either will or won’t happen, where as an inference we may never know the outcome, they are both based on observations and are very similar ~Liz


  5. Edaline J. Del Pilar July 31, 2015 / 1:13 am

    Thank you for a very good explanation as I am not a science teacher. It has been a great help.


  6. Linda Barnes June 25, 2015 / 4:22 pm

    I am so glad I stumbled across your blog last month. I appreciate your knowledge and willingness to share your “stuff” for free. You ROCK!!!


    • Liz LaRosa June 25, 2015 / 4:37 pm

      Thanks Linda for letting me know 🙂 I will be adding more updates over the summer, too


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