My 5′s completed the Mystery Footprint Activity (ppt) and it went really well! We talked about what an observation is, what an inference is, and how they really have to be careful- they often wanted their inferences to be their observations!
After a brief introduction/ discussion, we filled in their notes. Then I had them close their eyes and I slowly read the three sample observations: I hear people screaming, I see a lot of people around, and I smell cotton candy, popcorn, and hamburgers. When they opened their eyes they wrote down where they pictured themselves-which is their inference. I had students raise their hands to tell me where they were – these are some of their responses:
- a circus
- a fair
- a carnival
- a theme park
- on the boardwalk or at the beach
- at a sporting event
I asked them, “Did we all have the same observations?” And most said no. Then I repeated the observations – people screaming, a lot of people around, smelling cotton candy. Yes, we all had the same observations, BUT our inferences were different. We used our individual experiences to process the information and formed our own conclusions. Ohhhhhh!
I then showed the slides for the Mystery Footprints. Frame 1: One student’s observation was, “I see an animal running”. I said, “I don’t see an animal running, I see tracks that start off close together then become farther apart.” I then explain that I can infer that the animal was running, but I didn’t see it happen, I just see the tracks that are left behind. Some observations are that the background is yellow, there are two sets of prints, the tracks are coming from 2 different directions, the red tracks are close together, etc…
We viewed each frame and discussed our observations and then shared our inferences. When I showed the 3rd frame, a lot of the students gasped, they were so into it and when they saw the red prints missing, they were quickly writing down their observations and inferences!
Some great inferences the kids came up with:
- the animals were fighting and one ate the other (most common answer)
- one animal bit the other animal and carried it away to eat it somewhere else
- the animals were eating food off the ground, one walked away while one stayed behind to eat more
- the animals fought over the food, and the loser walked away
- the tracks were made at different times and ate the same food that was on the ground
- one animal flew away
- one animal jumped onto the back of the other animal
- the animals were dancing until one walked away
We went over the homework assignment and I really stressed the difference between observations and inferences. Observations are pieces of information we obtain by using our senses, and inferences are like a “story” that we can make up based on our observations.