‘The Goat by the Water’ : Observation vs Inference (Originally named ‘The Boy in the Water’)

Image Source: Project Archaeology

Materials: (Updated July 28, 2017)

  • Updated worksheet for students to use for this activity (Public Google Doc)
    • Changed it from “The Boy in the Water” to the “The Goat by the Water”
    • Changed references from ‘boy’ to ‘kid’ and his/her for gender
    • my students alway bring up that we infer that it is a boy, but it could be a girl, too, and they are right!!
    • also remind them that a ‘kid’ is a baby goat, the goat in the picture has horns 😉
  • I also created Google Slides for this activity (Public)
    • improved answer key
    • also added a ‘make your own inference’ slide at the end
  • The original worksheet(pdf) for this activity is from Project Archaeology (link)

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 might say: “The kid fell into the water because the branch broke.”  

Instead, they should say “there is a kid in the water” and “there is a broken branch” as two separate observations. There is no “why” in the statement. Another student may say: “The goat pushed the kid into the water when he/she was trying to pick up his/her sailboat.” This is not an easy habit to break and takes some practice.

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.


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


  • The branch broke when the kid was sitting on it, and s/he fell into the water.
  • The goat butted the kid into the water when s/he was picking up her/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.

On your worksheet, use the picture of the kid in the water to determine if the 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.


21 thoughts on “‘The Goat by the Water’ : Observation vs Inference (Originally named ‘The Boy in the Water’)

  1. Lucy Harwood January 13, 2021 / 3:46 am

    Amazing, thank you so much!


  2. Katheryn October 5, 2017 / 11:01 am

    I have been looking for this great activity. It brings about some debates in my class, which I love. Thanks for putting it in google drive formats! You saved me so much stress and time!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lucy Harwood January 13, 2021 / 3:46 am

      Amazing, thank you so much!


  3. Corrine Flatz September 18, 2017 / 11:41 pm

    Exactly what I was looking for! Thanks for creating, sharing and, allowing us to use it for FREE! Not too much of that these days, please keep up the awesome work!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Liz LaRosa September 19, 2017 / 9:46 pm

      You’re welcome, glad you found it! Liz


  4. Anonymous September 14, 2017 / 11:02 pm

    Love this. Planning on using it with my sixth-graders. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Liz LaRosa September 15, 2017 / 11:10 am

      Great to hear! Hope they like the activity 🙂 Liz


  5. Lisa Whitney September 9, 2017 / 2:40 pm

    Great activity with my 6th graders! Big discussion on “is the tree dead?”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Allyson Sorenson August 14, 2021 / 5:43 pm

      That’s what I was thinking because the tree in the background on the left side has leaves.


  6. 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.


  7. 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

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

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

    Liked by 1 person

  9. 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


  10. 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.


  11. 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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