Predicting/Making a Hypothesis

Learning Objectives

  • Students will analyze information from a variety of sources in order to create a hypothesis about the origin of an interesting family artifact.
  • Students will create alternative hypotheses based upon available information in order to understand that some information can be interpreted in multiple ways.


Tools And Materials

  • Students will need their list of classifications of interesting items.
  • You may also wish to provide access to computers with word processing software.


Teaching Stratedgies

As an introduction to the hypothesis and testing activities, have students watch the following clip from the Ernie Pyle's Typewriter investigation. In the clip, Wes goes through the steps of testing his hypothesis that the characters on the typewriter may match other letters written by Pyle. While they are watching the clip have students identify the hypothesis, the test used, and the conclusion from the test. Did the test provide Wes with conclusive evidence?


Ernie Pyle's Typewriter

Ernie Pyle's Typewriter

Watch the full episode of this story from Season Five.


  • Students will need to make sure that they each have copies of the classifications and observations list they have created for their "interesting items".
  • Explain that students will be creating hypotheses about their items. A hypothesis is a theory based on facts.
  • Review with students various hypotheses that were created for the History Detectives series. Emphasize that even in History Detectives, the experts first come up with a theory they need to prove or disprove before jumping to any conclusions. Students should likewise create a hypothesis that they will be able to test.
  • Students should choose four different items that they find most interesting.
  • For each item, have students create a hypothesis explaining the origin of the item (including whether or not the item is authentic) or explaining how the item became part of the household where it was found.
  • Each student should choose one of those items of interest. That student should write a brief paragraph explaining why, based on both observations, prior knowledge, and interviews; they believe the hypothesis for that item to be true.
  • Next, students should come up with a number of other possibilities if their hypotheses are not correct. What are other possible origins of this object or other possible explanations for how it came into the household?


Standards From MCREL Standards

Standard 2.11: Understands the basis of scientific knowledge

  • Knows that scientific explanations must meet certain criteria to be considered valid (e.g., they must be consistent with experimental and observational evidence about nature, make accurate predictions about systems being studied, be logical, respect the rules of evidence, be open to criticism, report methods and procedures, make a commitment to making knowledge public).


Standard 2.12: Understands the nature of scientific inquiry

  • Understands the use of hypotheses in science (e.g., selecting and narrowing the focus of data, determining additional data to be gathered; guiding the interpretation of data).
  • Designs and conducts scientific investigations (e.g., formulates testable hypotheses; identifies and clarifies the method, controls, and variables; organizes, displays, and analyzes data; revises methods and explanations; presents results; receives critical response from others).
  • Knows that scientists conduct investigations for a variety of reasons (e.g., to discover new aspects of the natural world, to explain recently observed phenomena, to test the conclusions of prior investigations, to test the predictions of current theories).


Standard 2.13: Understands the scientific enterprise

  • Understands that science involves different types of work in many different disciplines (e.g., scientists in different disciplines ask different questions, use different methods of investigation, and accept different types of evidence to support their explanations; many scientific investigations require the contributions of individuals from different disciplines; new disciplines of science, such as geophysics and biochemistry, often emerge at the interface of older disciplines).


Standard 3.1: Understands and knows how to analyze chronological relationships and patterns

  • Knows how to develop picture time lines of their own lives or their family's history.
  • Understands patterns of change and continuity in the historical succession of related events.


Standard 3.2: Understands the historical perspective

  • Knows how to evaluate the credibility and authenticity of historical sources.


Standard 21.1: Understands and applies the basic principles of presenting an argument

  • Understands that when people try to prove a point, they may at times select only the information that supports it and ignore the information that contradicts it.
  • Understands that to be convincing, an argument must have both true statements and valid connections among them.
  • Evaluates the overall effectiveness of complex arguments.


Standard 21.4: Understands and applies basic principles of hypothesis testing and scientific inquiry

  • Presents alternative explanations and conclusions to one's own experiments and those of others.
  • Critiques procedures, explanations, and conclusions in one's own experiments and those of others.
  • Gathers and analyzes field data using spatial sampling (e.g., place a transparent grid of squares on maps to count whether two characteristics such as corn production and hogs that are hypothesized to be spatially related coexist within the grid cells).


Standard 21.5: Applies basic trouble-shooting and problem-solving techniques

  • Selects the most appropriate strategy or alternative for solving a problem.
  • Examines different alternatives for resolving local problems and compares the possible consequences of each alternative.
  • Represents a problem accurately in terms of resources, constraints, and objectives.
  • Provides summation of the effectiveness of problem-solving techniques.
  • Reframes problems when alternative solutions are exhausted.
  • Evaluates the feasibility of various solutions to problems; recommends and defends a solution.


Standard 21.6: Applies decision-making techniques

  • Secures factual information needed to evaluate alternatives.
  • Predicts the consequences of selecting each alternative.
  • Makes decisions based on the data obtained and the criteria identified.


Standard 22: Working With Others

  • Contributes to the overall effort of a group.
  • Displays effective interpersonal communication skills.