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The Observational Universe

Yesterday my Creative Writing class finished with the "Observational Universe" exercise.

I tell them that there are only a handful of requirements to be a writer:
  • An ability to observe
  • A willingness to be specific
  • An ability to make connections
  • A felicity with language
  • Having something to say

We can work on all of those requirements except the "having something to say" one.  I can't teach someone how care if nothing interests them.

So, what we worked on yesterday was the ability to observe.  I drew the diagram you see pictured here.  We talked about it.  Then they had ten minutes to write, starting with the near things and moving outwards.  This exercise really works if the kids are given some direction about their senses.  I asked them to shut their eyes and just listen for a minute (overhead lights humming, people shifting in their seats, breathing, etc.), and then to write it down.  Then they paid attention to touch (hands on the desk, the air on their face, their clothes, etc.).  Then we talked about smell and taste, and, finally, what they could see.

A bunch of them told me afterwards that they didn't realize there were so many sounds around them!

Next to the observational universe drawing, I wrote the info in the other picture.  This also provoked much discussion about what, exactly does make "you you."

It was a good second day of class.


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 6th, 2012 02:35 pm (UTC)
Very cool. One neat thing I noticed is that there is some overlap between the fundamental skills for writing and the fundamental skills of science. Especially the ability to observe, be specific and make connections. (I would also say a felicity with language, but unfortunately that doesn't always seem to be the case...)

I may borrow this exercise, or some adaptation of it, for one of my introductory labs...

(Deleted comment)
Jan. 6th, 2012 03:03 pm (UTC)
Thanks! My class is writing a reaction to the first three days now, so I'll find out what they think about all this stuff.
Jan. 7th, 2012 01:38 am (UTC)
Aristotle held that the essential gift of a writer -- and the one that could not be taught -- was the art of seeing resemblences.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )


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