Students have a difficult time determining what is evidence and what is not. The purpose of this opening activity is to help students distinguish between evidence and inference.
As students are seated the image Migrant Mother is displayed on the screen. Teacher note: the image used is not critical; I try to find images that may cause students to react on an emotional level and can inspire many inferences and observations. See the alternative images PowerPoint for other image possibilities.
I give the students several minutes to analyze the image and to write down a list of observations (Science Practice 4: Analyzing and Interpreting Data). When students are finished writing their list, I call on students to share one observation they have written on their list.
If the student answers with an observation (for example, they are dirty), I call on another student to state a new observation. If the student answers with an inference (for example, they are poor or she is sad) I respond by asking, "How do you know that?" (This typically occurs within the first 3-4 student responses.)
At this point I explain to students the difference between an observation (something you actually witness with your senses) and an inference (a conclusion drawn based on observations which may or may not be true). I then continue calling on students to provide either an observation or an inference, being sure to ask students, "How do you know?" or, "What makes you think that?" when they state an inference.
I repeat the activity with a second image, to ensure students are beginning to understand the difference between observations and inferences. The examples below illustrate a couple of student responses to different images.
I now direct students to take out the graph they created during the lesson Student Designed Lab: Graphing the Results while I pass out the CER (claim-evidence-reasoning) organizer.
I ask students "what is a claim?" Students quickly determine that a claim is a statement thought to be true (they usually base this off of what they know about advertising or lessons learned during English). I discuss that the claim they are going to be making today will be the answer to their testable question (created during Student Designed Lab: Testable Questions).
Science Practice 7 has students engage in argumentation based on evidence. I explain to students that the evidence they have is the data they collected, both the qualitative and quantitative data. Students are instructed to look closely at their data and write a claim which is not only well supported by their data, but also answers their testable question. I explain to students that they are to discuss together the claim they can make based on their data and that I am looking for specific conversations to take place. I use the PowerPoint Science Practice 7 to explain to students what the following points of practice mean and what that might look like during group discussions.
Students then work as a group to first determine the best claim based on their data, complete the CER chart, and then use that chart as an outline to develop a concluding paragraph. While students are working I am monitoring discussions ensuring all students participate, asking students questions like "can you explain why..." or "will you elaborate on..." or "can you rephrase in another way..." to let students begin to develop the skills that will be used during group discussion.
As an exit slip, I ask students to write an inference about either me as a teacher or about the class itself and to support that inference with three observations they have made over the last several days.
Additionally, I ask students to include one question they still have or one thing they feel they know very well from our last several classes. I want to provide the more shy/reserved students an opportunity to ask questions in a safe environment and I find this works quite well in that regard.
While this is basically asking students for the same information they have been providing in their CER charts, some students seem to be thrown by the wording or format on the chart (where they struggle) but do not have the same difficulty on the exit slip. Using this alternate format allows me to identify those students so that I can address their difficulties as soon as possible.