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

goat_boy_water_observations
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.

Observations:

  • 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

Inferences:

  • 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.

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