Predictions: The skill of thinking "why?"

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SWBAT verbalize simple predictions about objects in the world.

Big Idea

All good questions begin with why? Leading to "I wonder if...?" Predictions help children to think about how to create guiding questions to their explorations.


10 minutes

This lesson is not an interactive or inquiry based lesson, but more of an experiential lesson that needs to be explored.  It is important for children to understand how to make quality predictions.  They are or should be familiar with making predictions in reading and math work, but science has not always been as easy to make good, solid predictions.  Typically, teachers will ask the students questions such as, "Why do you think...." or "How come...."  Not questions that are inappropriate, however, they do not really dig deeply into the prediction. They are surface level questions.  

I really like to use short clips from Disney movies that demonstrate the concepts I am trying to teach my students.  There are several reasons why I do.  First, most of the students have seen the movies and can relate to them easily.  Second, the movies are high interest and very engaging; ensuring that the children will watch and stay focused.  Last, they lend themselves so easily to incorporating the concepts in so many ways. 

Content Standard A, of the National Science Standards, explicitly states that students need to be able to "ask questions they can answer with scientific knowledge, combined with their own observations."  For students to be able to go beyond the surface questions, teachers need to teach students how to dig into those predictions.  This lesson is more about establishing that metacognition of science questions.  

 "Alright my little scientists, are you ready to learn a new process skill?  I have another one for us today.  I want you to look up here on the screen and watch this silly cartoon.  We are going to see if we can make a prediction.  There is a new word. Ok, I am going to be really quiet and let you watch this for just less than a minute and then we will talk."

I also like to remind the students that a video clip means "movie manners," those manners you would use if you were at a movie theater.

"How many of you have seen the movie "Monster's Inc? It is ok, if you haven't.  You will be able to understand what we are doing even if you haven't seen the movie.  Alright, here we go, watch the beginning of the scene. I am going to stop it part way through and ask you a couple of questions."

I play the beginning of the video clip and stop it at 1:14.  This is the point in the clip when the character Randall is bringing in a Scream Extractor, a machine that will take Mike's scream away from him. Enabling Randall to be the best and scariest monster on the planet.  At the moment I stop the clip, I ask the children to stop and think about a few things in their minds.

"What do you think that machine is? What do you think it is for? Why do you think Mike is so afraid? And why do you think Randall wants to use it on Mike?  Think about all those questions for a couple of minutes and then turn and talk to your shoulder buddy and have some dialogue about all of it."   

"Alright, let's see what we all think.  Who would like to share their ideas about what that machine is?"  

I go through the questions I posed to the students and gather their ideas about what the machine could be, what it could be used for and why Randall wants to use it on Mike.  All answers are plausible.  After hearing all the ideas, I let the children see the remainder of the clip.  

"Now, that you have seen the rest of the video clip, ask yourself this question....Was I correct in my prediction? Oh!! did you hear that word I just used....? Prediction.  That is a new word for us.  I have a feeling that could be why we are doing this."  


15 minutes

"Ladies and gentlemen, I would love for you to look up at the screen today and be ready to do some deep, deep thinking about some pictures I am going to show you."  

My lap top is prepared with the Predicting Power Point and ready to go.  The first slide is the title slide, it includes the standard we are working on.  This is more for my benefit, than the students. Because it is a national standard and not a Next Generation Standard, I do not draw as much attention to it.  

Slides 2-4 simply and clearly explain in student language what predictions are.  I do not want to muddy the waters and the students understanding of a prediction with complicated definitions. I want the concept to be clear and easy for them to understand.  We read through the slides and take time for the ideas to cement themselves into the children's thinking.  

Slide 5 is the lead in to the "let's put this thing into action" phase.  

On slide 6 there is a picture of an insect proboscis.  However, there are no words to designate what the picture is or even to offer any clues to what the picture could be.  

"Boys and girls, I would like you to look at this picture and think very hard if you have any idea what this could possibly be?"  

"Practice your skill of making observations, use your senses to look carefully at this picture.  Use what you know about anything you see on the screen and think about what this could be.  When you have an idea....hold our hand with your thumb up over your chest.  That will be an indication to me that you are prepared to have move conversation."  

I give the students at least three to four minutes to think about what they see on the screen. I want them to have as much time to think about what they see as possible, making connections to anything that it might remind them of.  

After the time has passed, I ask..."Does anyone want to share what they believe this is a picture of?" Of course, there are always many hands that volunteer. The photograph is highly engaging and intriguing enough that they all want to volunteer.  

"Share with us, what you believe this photograph is.  Please be sure you also explain why you believe it is what you think it is."

I walk the students through their thinking and sharing their observations, being careful to make sure they include their rationale for their thinking.  After all the children have had a chance to share their ideas, I tell them what it really is and what it is used for. 

We continue through the last two pictures with the same process.  Offering all the students and opportunity to practice making predictions about an object and discussing its purpose in nature. 


15 minutes

After having some rich discussion and deep questions about making predictions concerning the photographs in the power point, I want to see if the children are able to make predictions without any leading and offering rational thinking to support their ideas.  

I use the Predicting Evaluation Power Point to help me gather formative data on the children's understanding of predictions.  The power point is very simple.  There are only two slides; the first being the photograph I would like the children to observe and the second the blackline master I will give to the students for them to document their thinking. 

Whenever, I make a power point, I always add the the blackline materials to the unit of slides.  I prefer to do this for a couple of reasons.  The first being, it is convenient to have all the materials for the lessons in one place in my computer filing system.  Secondly, it ensures I will not misplace the document from the lesson because it is all together.  And last, if it become necessary for me to model to the students what I would like for them to do, I use the blackline on the Smart Board to write on and demonstrate to the children what I would like in the lesson. 

I show the children the picture and say, "I would like each of you to look at this photograph and by yourself this time, tell me what you believe it is.  The difference this time, is to choose from three possibilities, and explain your thinking about what you believe it is." 

I will take these pages home and look at them after school.  Helping to guide me in knowing who understands how to make a good prediction and who does not.