10 The Writer’s Eye

Arley Cruthers

Activity Guidelines

Suggested Course Level

Lower level undergraduate

Activity Purpose

  • Students will move from general observations to more specific, nuanced ones.
  • Students will see the power of details in persuasion.

Materials Required

  • Pen and paper

Activity Instructions

  1. Set a timer for 1 minute.
  2. Ask students to list as many things as possible around the room.
  3. Then, have each student read out their list. If someone else has said an item on their list, they should cross it off their list and not read it. By the end, many students will have nothing on their list.
  4. Ask students now to do this again for another minute (I sometimes give them 2 minutes), but this time try to see something that no one else sees.
  5. Repeat the process of having students read out their lists, again leaving out anything that’s already been said.
  6. Use the debrief questions to highlight how, in the second round, students become much more specific (seeing that the hem of someone’s pants are salt-stained, versus noticing a chair). You can connect this to their analysis of their research (how can you look at your research again? What small details are you missing? What new insights can you find by looking again?).

Debrief Questions / Activities

  • What differences do you see between the first and second round?
  • What strategy did you use to come up with something that no one else would see?
  • This activity is about the importance of looking at data again. How could you apply this to your research report?

Tags: writing mechanics, grammar, style, tone, concision, critical thinking, analysis, discussion, hands-on, whole class, details


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