Look! It’s a Bird… It’s a plane… it’s an observation!

During their college years, students must – like it or not – become writers. They must begin to see like a writer, listen like a writer, feel like a writer, even smell like a writer. Uh… yeah…


And the first step to becoming a good (albeit temporary) writer…

Learn to observe.

I have my students complete weekly observing activities to get them accustomed to actively gather ideas for their writing. Every week, they must go out and make observations on a range of areas: the GCC campus, human behavior, food, animals, money, clothing, their major, and art, to name just a few.

I also share my own weekly examples; here are some observations I’ve made recently:

Smaller birds will attack hawks to keep them out of their area.

Just a few years ago, poke was virtually nonexistent in the Phoenix area – now poke restaurants are becoming ubiquitous.

Some panhandlers have come up with creative signs; I saw one that said, “I’m down to my last million – help me please!”

My students have discovered some “gems in the rough” of their own. For example:

Parents are more lenient than before.

When people have to present a project, they usually have something that they do. Like some people twirl their hair and others tug on their shirt.

Children usually act more hyper than adults but also are more honest than adults.

Some gems are rougher than others, but at least they’ve begun to hone their observing skills. And as students progress through college, they’ll continue to develop what Robert Ingersoll called the “Holy Trinity of Science”:  Reason, Observation, and Experience.

Then, the sky’s the limit. Look! It’s a bird! It’s a plane…!


2 thoughts on “Look! It’s a Bird… It’s a plane… it’s an observation!”

  1. I really enjoyed reading your post, Ray! I especially like your idea of sending students out in their surroundings to make observations and gather ideas for their writing. They can make connections between class material, their personal life, and community. I will have to borrow your idea.

  2. Ray,
    What a simple way to begin integrating writing into every class. I like it! I think I will give that a try.
    Thanks for sharing.


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