making assumptions

Making assumptions is an easy way to fill in missing information. It’s so easy that sometimes our mind does it automatically. “I wasn’t invited to Ashley’s cookout this weekend – she must hate me,” or “My coworker has been late to work every day this week, he must be lazy.” This can be especially dangerous when we let our assumptions become the foundation for our thinking about a person or situation. “I’m not inviting Ashley to any of my upcoming outings” or “If Greg is going to show up late, why should I be on time?”

Just because someone said something, or a situation appears a certain way, doesn’t mean it’s true. A fact is something you know is true and you can prove is true. An assumption is something you think is true, but you might be wrong, or you don’t have enough evidence to prove it’s true.

This activity will help students with the Check It Out skill: knowing the difference between facts and assumptions, and finding out what’s really true.

In the current climate of “fake news” and misinformation spread so easily online, this is a critical skill for any age. Making assumptions is a lot easier and faster than taking the time to gather facts, especially when people you trust on other topics are sharing their own opinions and assumptions as fact.

North Carolina, where Centervention is located, has been hit with damaging hurricanes and storms over the past few years. Before and after storms like this, a lot of information, or rather misinformation, can be spread online. 

For example, many in the area shared an image of a shark swimming on Interstate 40 on Facebook. It looked pretty real, but people are great at Photoshop these days.

There’s also the tip to store your important documents and other valuables in the dishwasher. It keeps the water in while you’re washing the dishes, so it will keep the water out if your house floods, right? People think they’re being helpful sharing tips like this, but it can cause more harm than good when they aren’t necessarily true.

It’s never too early to learn to differentiate fact from assumption. It not only helps with verifying news stories but is also a useful skill in social situations. 

In this activity, students will figure out what happened to their snack by gathering evidence and trying to avoid making assumptions

Imagine this scenario: You usually have apple slices with peanut butter for snack. When you go to your backpack at snack time, your snack is not there. Your classmate, Mike, is eating apple slices with peanut butter for snack today. What happened to your snack?

To figure out what really happened, students will need to think about what’s a fact and what’s an assumption. They will read several statements and check off whether it is a fact that they know is true based on the information they’ve been given, or an assumption that could be true or not true. For example, “The snack was not in my backpack when I went to get it” is a fact, but “someone stole my snack from my bag” is an assumption that they don’t have enough evidence to support. 

Making an assumption in this situation could lead to a big argument with Mike, since you’d be accusing him of stealing your snack. Wouldn’t that be embarrassing if you later realized that your Grandma just forgot to pack it?

Download the activity for your students here.