Evidence or Inference?

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SWBAT understand the difference between scientific evidence and inference.

Big Idea

Students choose between three different experiments to help them understand the difference between scientific evidence and inference.

Quick Inference Activity

10 minutes

Inference Charade: This little warm up game helps students exercise inference skills.

On slips of paper (one for each student) I write directions for students to act out and placed them in Larry Bear . When someone guesses or infers what the student is acting out, they are allowed to choose the next slip of paper. We continue this process until all the slips of paper are taken and everyone has a chance to participate by acting. I allow people to pass if they choose to pass.

Some examples of the actions I have written.

1. Hold your index finger and make a painful grimace.

2. Limp around the room.

3. Rub your eyes and pretend to sneeze.

4. Bury your head in your hands and shake it back and forth.

5. Put your hand on your hips and stare at the ceiling while you tap your foot.

6. Stomp and shake your fists at the ceiling.

7. Smile a sneaky smile.

8. Grab your shirt and shake it as if you dropped something hot down the front of it.

9. Wrap your arms around yourself, rub your hands on your arms and shiver.

After the game, I draw the students to the center of the room to answer a few questions. I ask them how they know what is going on as people act things out?

We discuss how we use prior knowledge to infer what is going on. I know that she is cold because I grab my arms and rub them as I am shivering to generate some warmth.

I write the two words "inference" and "evidence" on the whiteboard. We discuss what they think the differences and likenesses are for a few minutes. I tell them that today they will actually discover the difference between them as they practice by doing a few experiment activities.

Creating Evidence and Discovering How to Infer

35 minutes

Diving In! I created several little experiment choices for my students to choose from in order for them to practice gathering evidence and then make inferences about that evidence. I prepared for each and made sure they were ready to go before the students entered the classroom. For a list of materials and choices of activities, use this Quick Classroom Activities sheet resource. They may choose up to two activities from any you choose to prepare. I prepared all of them for a good mixture of choices. Some of the activities provide insight to future units. ( Ringo, Wave, & Marble activities). I set up all the activities in separate stations and labeled them with the titles on large note cards on the wall above the station. They have plenty of workspace at the station.

Using Interactive Notebooks: On the right side of the notebook, students glue down copied instructions from each activity. On the Left Side, they glue down their completed chart, any other drawings or observations. They need to complete their explanation on the left side per instructions on their Investigation Chart

I began by showing them each of the choices for their activities. I explained each carefully by telling them that they may choose up to two of the activities and that all the materials were at that station. They needed to stay at the station until their work was finished. I partnered them up by judgement on behavior and abilities. I explained that at the Ringo station, there would be more than one group of partners working at the same time.

Ringo: Ringo is our classroom tortoise. Today, he provides an opportunity for students to observe his reaction and his behavior. This observation sets up understanding for Unit 7 when we study behaviors that help an animal survive and reproduce.

Ringo Activity Example

*There are grants from various vendors for classroom pets available to teachers if you are considering a classroom pet. You can adapt this activity to a pet in your classroom by considering what safe and gentle inborn behavior you can provoke and observe.

Question: Does this animal have observable inborn behaviors that protect it from predators?

Gathering Evidence: One person ( classroom aide or helper)  should open the top of Ringo's cage and wave their hand over Ringo's head and make an observation about his reaction. This needs to be done 5 times. Observations should be recorded on the left side of the notebook in the grid each time. Make detailed observations of the head, any sounds and his feet or tail.

Partners Question Each Other Using Recorded Observations: What did you notice? Were there differences in your observations?

Partners Create an Inference Together: What can we infer about Ringo's action? Why does he do this each time? How does this help him survive? At this point, I lead them through the understanding that what they observe is their evidence and what they conclude from that observation is the inference based on evidence.

Students break apart into groups at this point and choose their activity. They wrote their essential question in their grid and then began to follow the directions on the sheets I had placed by the experiments. When finished with one, they chose another activity from the activities.  I wanted them to use a full 35 minutes to complete at least two activities in order to make the experience rich. I coached students as they questioned one another and worked together. Observing that Angry Oil shows the enthusiasm and magic that happens in the science lab with 4th graders. One student led another to understand waves observations and gather evidence. I listened as they explained. I was their support system to keep all of my students on track.


10 minutes

I asked students to gather on the floor around me and bring their science notebooks. I asked for several students to report what they had discovered and talk about their activities. After the dialogue settled down, I asked them to share what they thought the difference between scientific evidence and an inference was? I asked them how they were connected?

I closed the lesson with telling them that they needed to infer as scientists in the days ahead as we working on mastering standards and enjoying our experiments in science.