wNetSchool HomeThe Practical Web Service for K-12 TeacherswNetStation
WNET Educational Initiatives
Instructional Television
Lesson Plan Database
NTTI    

INFERENCE MAKES THE DIFFERENCE
Grades 3-5

Overview

Inference and logical reasoning are key elements in both the scientific method and mathematical problem solving. This series of lessons, lasting 2-4 class periods, focuses on developing this specific skill. It directly links inference to the science of archaeology. The student will learn about how an archaeologist makes inferences from artifacts to determine what life was like for past civilizations. They will work in cooperative groups and make inferences about an imaginary household based on modern day "artifacts" found in garbage. The Real Science! video used in this lesson attempts to motivate all students' interest in a career in archaeology as well as provide a positive female scientist role model in that field.

ITV Series
Real Science! #102: Mysteries of the Past
3-2-1 Classroom Contact #28: How Do you Know? Dig It Up
Learning Objectives
Students will be able to:
1. define inference and observation.
2. make inferences supported by picture clues.
3. identify the types of tools an archaeologist uses.
4. identify the steps an archaeologist uses to
process artifacts.
5. make and support inferences based on imaginary artifacts from the garbage of an imaginary household.

Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS), Grade 4
Science Objectives:
#1: Acquire scientific data and/or information.
#2: Sequence, order and/or classify scientific data
or information.
#3: Communicate scientific data and/or information.
#4: Interpret scientific data and/or information.
#5: Make inferences, form generalized statements and/or make predictions using scientific data.
#7: Draw conclusions about the process(es) and/or outcome(s) of scientific investigation.
#8: Relate and apply scientific and technological information to daily life.
Math Objective:
#11: Determine solution strategies and analyze or solve problems.
Materials
Per class:

Tool Bag
Per group of 3-5 students:

Dig Bag
Per group of 3-5 students:

Shoe Box Activity
Per group of 3-5 students:

Vocabulary
Pre-Viewing Activities
Day 1
Gather students together on the carpet. Show them a regular size coffee mug, but do not let them peek inside the mug. Ask, "Can you tell me exactly what is in this mug? (Yes! Well, not exactly. Maybe coffee.) Without looking, do you know for sure? (no) Do you want some clues? (yes) It is a liquid. I can drink it. Any guesses? (Accept reasonable guesses.) Do you know for sure? (not yet) It is a dark brown color. It is warm. (Accept more guesses.) Could it be hot chocolate? Could it be hot tea? Could it be coffee as you guessed before? It could be coffee or hot chocolate or tea. You don't know for sure yet, but those are all good guesses."
"They are good guesses because you used all the clues I gave you and your own knowledge about different types of drinks. Maybe you even know which of these drinks I prefer. All this information would help to make an intelligent guess. The guesses you made are also called inferences." Write the word inference on the board. "An inference is a knowledgeable guess based on clues. You inferred what the liquid in my cup is without the opportunity to observe it."
Write observe and observation on the board. Ask, "What does observe mean to you? What do you do when you observe something? (You use one or more of your five senses.) If you are allowed to observe what is in this mug, could tell what it is? (yes) Would you like to observe what is in my coffee mug?" (yes) Pour the liquid into a clear drinking glass. Ask, "Now do you think you know for sure? What's the difference between an inference and an observation?" (An inference is a guess based on clues. An observation is based on using one or more of your five senses at the object first hand.)
Ask, "Now that you have observed that there is coffee in my cup, could you infer that I am a coffee drinker, even if you have not seen me take a sip? (yes) I think you all did a great job of making inferences about what is in my coffee mug. Would you like to try to make some more inferences?"
Show the graphic of the man in an apron on the overhead or on paper, one copy per student. "Observe this picture. What do you see?" (man standing in a kitchen, lots of dirty dishes, room a big mess...) Continue to take observations and then ask the students to make some inferences. Ask, "Are there any clues about what this man's life is like? What inferences can you make? What can you infer?"
Emphasize to students that they must make an inference based on clues. Direct them to record their inference and the clues they used to come up with the inference. Challenge them to come up with at least 10 inferences about this man and what his life is like. Students can return to their desks and work in cooperative learning groups. [Note: There are many inferences to be made about this picture. Examples: He is a single father. His wife is out of town or it is his turn to do the dishes. The man has children. One is in elementary school (math paper on the wall) and one is a baby (high chair and rattle). He is not very wealthy (holes in shoes, patches on jeans). He does not have good vision (glasses in pocket). He is clumsy (broken dish). Someone in the house plays baseball (bat). It is the winter holiday season (holly in vase, snow outside). It is evening, so he is probably tired.]
After about 15 minutes of work time, call on groups to share their inferences and record them on butcher paper. Review the list with the class and evaluate whether or not the inferences are valid. Is there a sufficient clue to support this inference? Allow for discussion and/or defense of inferences made. After a brief review of what the students have learned and practiced today, the lesson can be concluded for
the day.

Day 2
Gather the students and review yesterday's lesson on observation and inference. Say, "You have done a great job using your observation and inference skills. Can you think of when these skills would be used in real life? (Accept all reasonable answers, i.e. doctors, detectives) There are scientists who depend on having great inference skills to do their work. Do you know the names of those scientists? If you have ever studied dinosaurs, you can probably thank a paleontologist for that information. [Write the word `paleontologist' on the board.] A paleontologist studies dinosaurs and other early life forms on our planet. A paleontologist works in the area of science called paleontology. Dinosaurs became extinct about 65 million years ago! How do these scientists study something that is not even alive anymore? They can not go out and observe an animal the way a zoologist would. So how do they do it? (Accept all answers.) They must rely on fossils, tracks, and any evidence they can piece together about what the dinosaurs were like. They depend on clues. They make inferences."
Ask, "What about scientists who study groups of people who are no longer alive? Do you know what those scientists are called? (archaeologists) Write the words archaeologist and archaeology on the board. Say, "Archaeology comes from two Greek words: ARCHAIOS means ancient, LOGOS means study. Archaeologists study ancient civilizations or groups of people. How can they study a civilization that is no longer here? (Accept various answers.) Archaeologists are like detectives who investigate the past. They must rely on clues just like the paleontologists! They must make inferences based on the clues left behind. Using all the clues available, archaeologists try to piece together a picture of the ancient people they are investigating. The goal is to learn what type of place or environment these people lived in. An archaeologist may want to know how they built and furnished their shelters; what they ate; how they obtained and prepared their food; what kinds of tools they used; their customs and religious beliefs."
Say, "In order to learn these things, an archaeologist observes artifacts. Artifacts are the objects that ancient people used and then left behind. Do you know what those things might be? (tools, weapons, household items, jewelry, clothing, religious or special ceremony items) Over time these things get covered up with earth due to weather or changes in the earth's surface. Sometimes the people themselves buried them. Archaeologists carefully remove, observe and make inferences about the objects left behind."

Focus Viewing
Tell students, "Today you are going to view a video called Real Science! that will give us a first hand look at how an archaeologist works on the job called a "dig". You will need to listen and record important information throughout the program, so get your pencils and listening ears ready. First I want you to listen to find out the name of the people being studied and the location of the "dig".


Viewing Activities
BEGIN the Real Science! video after the paleontology segment when Teresa, wearing the red sweater, says, "Long after the dinosaurs became extinct...." PAUSE after Teresa says, "Our reporter Isaac White spent the day with her at a prehistoric ruin." Ask, "Who are the ancient people being studied? (Anasazi. Write it on the board.) Where is the dig? (southwestern Colorado) [Have students locate Colorado on the map or globe.] This dig is to find out more about this Native American tribe. However, archaeologists study ancient people all over the world. Now listen to find out what a 'kiva' is." RESUME the video.
PAUSE after Isaac says, "We are excavating in a square kiva which is an underground or subterranean room." Write the word 'kiva' on the board. Ask, "What is a kiva? [Record the definition by the word.] What inference can you make about why the Anasazi would want an underground room? [Note: Help the students to infer that it could be needed for protection from the weather and/or enemies or has a religious place.] These are all good inferences."
"In this next segment, I want you to observe what kind of tools the archaeologist uses to get the artifacts she needs. Record as many as you can." RESUME the video. PAUSE when the word "archaeology" appears on the screen with a brush sweeping across it. "What tools did you see? Can you name them?" (bucket, scooper, brush, dust pan , pick, trowel, sifter/strainer) Record the names on the board as students share them. REWIND if needed to review the tools shown. Ask, "What do these tools help the archaeologist to do? (find artifacts) What do the artifacts help the archaeologist to do? (make inferences) What types of artifacts do you think might be found here?" Record student responses.
Tell students, "Listen for what this archaeologist is interested in learning." RESUME the video. PAUSE when the archaeologist says, "It looks like we've got some full buckets. Let's go strain." Ask, "What is unusual or different about this site? (The kiva is square instead of round.) With more clues from artifacts, perhaps this archaeologist can make a guess or inference about this. Perhaps it is a special kiva of some sort. The Anasazi are the people who lived in this area. I wonder what their name means? Let's watch to find out." RESUME the video. PAUSE when you hear the words, "Anasazi means 'ancient ones'. If their own name means 'ancient ones', their tribe must have been around for many years. Listen again to when these people likely lived in this area. REWIND and RESUME at the last starting point. PAUSE when the screen shows the words, "The Anasazi people lived in the Four Corners region starting more than 2000 years ago." Say, "The Anasazi people left or abandoned this area in 1280. How many years ago was that? How would we figure that out? [Subtract the present year from 1280. 1996-1280 = 716 years] That means that all the Anasazi artifacts found here are over 700 years old. Let's take a look at the cliff dwellings." RESUME.
PAUSE the video. Ask, "What inferences can you make about them? Why would anyone build their homes here? (protection from enemies, hot sun or cold weather, special place for religious reasons) In this next segment, we see what an archaeologist does after gathering the artifacts from the field. Listen as we go to an archaeologist's lab to find out what the first two steps are after the artifacts are gathered." RESUME video. PAUSE the video when the archaeologist who is sitting says, "We will look at it in more detail later to see if it's tools." Ask, "What do archaeologists do first? (wash artifacts) Ask, "Why would an archaeologist do that? (to more easily observe them) What do they do next?" (sort into groups) Listen to what happens next." RESUME the video.
PAUSE when Isaac is looking through the microscope and the archaeologist who is seated says, "It doesn't have that real granular appearance to it." Ask, "What is the step after sorting? What does cataloging mean? [You may need to tell students that every artifact must be documented and recorded on paper with a designated number. This is to help keep track of all the artifacts found.] Can you add another tool to your list of equipment?" (microscope) RESUME video.
PAUSE when you see the archaeologist reach for the bowl on the shelf. Ask, "Why is she wearing gloves? (Artifacts must be handled carefully.) Look carefully at the artifact she is about to show Isaac. Listen for any inferences she makes about this bowl." RESUME video. PAUSE after the archaeologist puts the bowl back on the shelf. Ask, "Did you hear an inference?" (that the holes on the side of the bowl were repair holes) RESUME the video. PAUSE when Isaac shakes hands with the archaeologist. Ask, "Did you hear another inference? [Rewind if necessary.] (that curved pottery piece means that it comes from a dipper or ladle) Remember that the Anasazi people of long ago are not here to ask about these things, so archaeologists can only observe artifacts and make inferences about them."
Ask, "Do you think you would like to be an archaeologist? You are already on your way! Listen to these tips." RESUME the video until the end of this segment and then stop before it goes into the segment on astronomy.
Ask students, "Would you like to go on another dig? Do you want to learn about ancient people that lived right here in Texas over 6000 years ago? Let's watch this segment of 3-2-1 Classroom Contact. Listen for the definition of anthropologist.
BEGIN the video at the beginning. PAUSE when Zee says, "Sometimes they study people who live thousands and thousands of years ago." Say, "Remember from the last video, archaeology is a branch of anthropology. An archaeologist is an anthropologist who is interested in studying ancient people. In the next segment, listen for the place this archaeologist (anthropologist) is taking Todd and Mary. RESUME the video. PAUSE after the narrator says, "We are on our way to Mile Canyon near Langtry, Texas." Say, "Let's locate Langtry, Texas on a map. [It is in the southwestern part of the state close to the Big Bend area.] RESUME the video.
PAUSE when the archaeologist says, "This is where they seemed to have concentrated in terms of living." Ask, "Where else have you seen rock or cliff dwellings? (Anasazi people in southwestern Colorado) Listen to the next segment to find out what this archaeologist is interested in finding out about this ancient people. RESUME the video.
PAUSE when Todd says, "Which one are we going to go to?" Ask, "What is this archaeologist interested in learning?" (how people survived) RESUME the video. PAUSE when Todd asks, "About how many people could have lived in there?" Ask the class, "Do you remember the cliff dwellings of the Anasazi in Colorado? How are they alike? (both on side of cliffs) How are they different?" (no visible buildings) RESUME the video. PAUSE when Todd asks, "How big is this?" and the archaeologist answers, "About the size of a football field. Ask, "How big is a football field? (100 yards) Listen for any inferences the archaeologist makes as he enters the cave. Every time you think you hear an inference, put a tally mark on your recording sheet. RESUME the video.
PAUSE when Todd says, "How can you be certain that they ate something like that?" Say, "I heard three inferences about the ancient people who lived in this dwelling?" Ask students to share any inferences they can remember. Record them on the board. (Possible inferences: The people lived in the center of the cave. They pitched their garbage off to the side of the campfire. The snails climbed in the cave to get cool.) Say, "Getting back to Todd's question, how can an archaeologist be sure what prehistoric people ate? Any ideas? (Accept any reasonable answers.) Let's listen to find out." RESUME video.
PAUSE when Mary says, "Shall we take a look?" Say, "The only way to know they ate something is to prove that it went through their digestive system. Toilet areas... Sounds like unpleasant research. Let's see what Mary and Todd do with their next very unusual artifact." RESUME the video.
PAUSE when Todd says, "Copperlites are what scientists call fossilized feces." Ask, "Is there any reason to be worried about germs? (No, all bacteria and germs died long ago. The copperlite is 6,000 years old!) Record copperlite on your recording sheet. Listen for how this copperlite will help an archaeologist figure out what these people ate." RESUME the video.
STOP the video when you see the frame of the cliff dwelling and Todd says, "We know because we can analyze what they left behind." Ask, "What did these people of 6000 years ago eat? (rodents, plants, insects) This may sound like an unusual diet, but then maybe what we eat today may be unusual to the people 6000 years from now. [Note: This is a possible stopping point for the day. If time permits, continue with the post-viewing activities.)

Post-Viewing Activities
Artifacts Activity
Ask, "Wouldn't it be fun to go on a real archaeological dig and uncover artifacts of ancient people? We could really put our inference skills to work! In today's activity you are going to pretend that you are an archaeologist of the future investigating what life was like for a family here in 1996. Each group will get a different bag full of artifacts found in the excavated garbage area of various houses in an Austin neighborhood. Follow the directions step by step. Each group will get a tool bag. [Show each tool in the bag and how it is used: newspaper to cover desks, spoon for digging, strawberry basket for sifter, paint brush and toothbrush for cleaning) You will work in cooperative groups to sift through some excavated earth with your sifter, clean off your artifacts, and record each artifact you found by name. After you have done that you will observe each artifact closely and make at least one inference about each artifact. Do a careful job! It is very important that you take very good care of your artifacts because you will be making inferences about the family that threw the garbage out. Your group will need to work together to answer the survey about your the family's garbage." Pass out the tool bags and the dig bags. Instruct students to first cover their desks with newspaper from the tool bag. [Note: You may choose to do this activity outdoors. It makes clean up much easier.] The carefully chosen artifacts can make for some interesting inferences!

Shoe Box Activity
For more practice with making inferences, try this shoe box activity with your class. Prior to the activity, arrange the modeling clay into hills and valleys in the bottom of each shoe box, making the contours different in each box. Cut ten numbered slots in a line in the shoe box lid. Make the holes large enough for the end of a regular school ruler to be inserted. The students are not aware of how the clay has been arranged. Direct the groups to slide the ruler into the slots in number order and record the depth at each slot in centimeters on grid paper. Have the students infer what the bottom of the box looks like, based on their observations, and then draw a diagram to illustrate the shapes on the bottom of the box. The students can then uncover the box and compare their drawing to the clay contours.

Action Plan
Visit or write the Lower Colorado River Authority Kingsland Archaeological Center, approximately 50 miles from Austin, Texas. This center offers students a rare opportunity to inspect a working archaeological dig which has yielded more than 100,000 artifacts dating back as far as 5,000 years ago. Students can view archaeologists at work and participate in excavating with archaeological tools and other hands-on activities. In advance of your visit, contact LCRA, P.O. Box 220, Austin, TX 78767. Phone 1-800-776-5272.

Extensions
Internet: Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History maintains a program through the Internet called Ask-a-Curator. Classes can send in questions about archaeology and anthropology to scientists working with the museum. The e-mail address is anthro@sbmnh.rain.org. Teachers should send an introductory message to make sure the program is still in operation and to introduce themselves to the scientists. To insure that the curator is not overwhelmed with mail, it is best to compose one or two questions as a class rather than having students send in questions individually. Some questions which may be appropriate for this unit could include:
What was the most exciting discovery you've
ever made?
What artifact was the most difficult to identify?
What is the most remote place you've ever dug in?
How much time do you spend in the field?
Do archaeologists work for places other than museums and universities?
Why did you want to become an archaeologist?
Language Arts: Students discuss and then write about what people of the future would infer about our culture if they uncovered one or more of the following artifacts: a video arcade, playground equipment, a frisbee, a super hero comic book.
Language Arts: Students write about what they would put in a time capsule. What objects would best represent you, your family, your class this year, your city? Tell why you would choose each object for the time capsule.
Language Arts: Students discuss and/or write about the following. A large development company wants to build a shopping mall. They have applied to the city to get a permit to build it. Many people want the mall and think it would be a great thing for the community. It would create jobs for people as well as be convenient shopping and office space in the community. When the company begins bulldozing, a large number of artifacts are uncovered. Experts are brought in and this appears to be a large deposit of artifacts that would help in gaining information about that culture. What should
be done?


Resources
Reading Rainbow #509: Mummies Made In Egypt
I Can Be an Archaeologist by Robert Pickering
Mitzi and Frederick the Great by Emily A. Mc Cully
Motel of the Mysteries by David Macauley
Mummies Made in Egypt by Aliki
Visiting the Art Museum by Larry and Marc Brown

1995-1996 National Teacher Training Institute / Austin

Master Teacher: Jo Ann Carreon-Reyes

Worksheet
Click here to view the worksheet associated with this lesson.

Top of lesson


Lesson Plan Database
NTTI
Thirteen Ed Online
wNetStation