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Raising the Bar: Expanding Inference vs. Observation

As you become more familiar with any new subject or area of study, you find yourself making more connections to other areas of study, work or life. I was standing in front of my class one day in the middle of a cool lesson on inference vs. observation when the basics of AZFPS’s step #1 Challenge Statements began to merge with the notes we were taking on the board.

After the lesson, I wondered how I could have missed it before, and then I stopped criticizing myself and began simply appreciating the connections for their timing, period.

It began when I took very large white sheets of paper and taped them to the whiteboard. One labeled “Observations” and the other “Inferences”. I asked the kids to look at a picture of some young boys and to give me some observations based on the evidence in the picture. “The boys are eating popcorn.” “The boys are scared.” “The boys are watching a movie.”

Now if you look at the picture, you can see that they were giving me inferences rather than observations. I used those skillful teacher questions that you have to learn, to help them to unravel their errors and soon they were on track. We listed 10.

Then it hit me. Instead of listing random inferences, let’s be strategic. So we took the first observation- “The boys have a popcorn bowl in front of them.” and they made their inference- “The boys are eating popcorn.”

We continued this for four more observations; because you never have to complete a large multitude of these things. (Solve 1 perplexing, deep math problem and you’ve accomplished more than 25 rote problems.) Then I began to insert some useful AZFPS stems.

On the board to the left of the observations you can guess, I wrote, “Due to the fact that” and between the two papers I inserted, “there may be a challenge with”.

Then I asked the kids for some big concern that could arise from the situation. I heard, “They might get a stomach ache.” or “They might spill the popcorn.” I added the words “As a result” to the right of the inference page, along with their concern and we now had a continuous, logical statement. “Due to the fact that the boys have a popcorn bowl near them, there may be a challenge with them eating the popcorn. As a result, they may get stomach aches.”

I now had my 3rd graders making Challenge Statements. They repeated this twice more and we called it a day.

As a coach, I was prepping my farm team for future thinking; for future competitions.

You know, you can do this with older kids. Just work a little faster, have them create their own, share with a shoulder partner, and then identify the categories that have been included in the statements.

Not too shabby.

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