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Steps to Writing an Observation Paper




Steps to Writing an Observation Paper

By Nicholas Pell

Bachelor of Science degrees might benefit students interested in technical careers.

Frequently required in college writing classes, observation papers are a great way for any writer to hone his skills. Not only does an observation paper require you to do just what it says–observe–it also allows you the opportunity to practice writing and editing about anything you have around you. Whether writing an observation paper for a class or for your own personal benefit, there are steps that, if followed, will make the task of writing an observation paper much easier.


To write an observation paper you must first observe. Remember that observation is more than just vision. You should also be observing sounds, smells and sensations that are happening around your observation paper topic. Do more than just observe the pieces. Try to observe the way everything works together, the processes involved and the total gestalt experience.


Concentrate on what is going on, but also take careful notes. A good way to take notes for an observation paper is to write them without looking at the paper. This frees your eyes and senses to continue to observe what you are looking at. Remember that, although your notes have to be readable, you won’t be handing them in. Don’t worry about making them look perfect. Just make your notes as complete as possible.


Begin your paper with an introduction of the subject. Talk about what you observed, where you observed it, when you observed it, why you chose the subject and any other information you can think to include. The introduction should set up the topic, giving the reader an overview of the subject of your observation and its context.


The body of your observation paper is the meat of your observations. Arrange your observation notes into a cohesive narrative. Begin at the beginning, but also make sure to tie related observations together. Your observation narrative should be linear and written in the present tense. Be as detailed as possible and remain objective. Make the reader feel like he was present in the moments that you experienced.


Conclude your paper with a summary of what you saw. But also draw some conclusions about what you think about your observation. Explain what your observations mean to you and what they might mean to the reader. Tie everything together in a succinct paragraph.


Edit your paper carefully. You should edit for content, grammar, clarity and spelling. Making sure that you have not repeated yourself is of particular importance when writing an observation paper. Read the paper over very carefully three or four times. Make sure that the paper makes sense and clearly expresses what you are trying to say.


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About the Author

Nicholas Pell began writing professionally in 1995. His features on arts, culture, personal finance and technology have appeared in publications such as “LA Weekly,” Salon and Business Insider. Pell holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

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Briana Haar English 202AMr. HenneFebruary 4, 2008INTRODUCTION:The topic for this observation paper is an elementary classroom setting. A secondgrade teacher and her class were observed for about one hour. I chose this subject because I currently attend school for elementary education, and because second grade isone of the grades that I am interested in teaching in the future. When observing in theclassroom I was looking for a number of things. I wanted to see how the studentsinteracted with each other during different situations such as small group activities andclassroom discussions. I was also looking for how the students responded to theteacher’s different teaching styles and attitude toward the different subject matter. Ihoped to learn during my observation what type of teaching styles work best withdifferent subject matter and how well students work together in groups at such a youngage.METHOD:Subjects:The teacher that was observed was a female in her mid twenties. She has beenteaching second grade for the past three years. Her classroom consists of a wide varietyof students. The classroom has a mix of seven and eight year olds. There are more boysthan girls in the classroom as well. The class is made up of twelve boys and eight girls


coming from several different races. The class contains Caucasians, African Americans,and Hispanic students. The students come from a variety of socioeconomic statuses aswell. Some come from families that are in poverty while others come from families thathave plenty of everything they need.Setting:For the observation I was in an elementary classroom. It was very bright and welldecorated by the teacher. The room had drawings on the wall that students had made for the teacher, an area for a student of the week, and a large carpeted area for reading timefor the students. The room also had colorful letters of the alphabet hanging from theceiling and a spot marked off on the chalkboard where the students would place a magnetof their name under if they packed or were getting the school meal for lunch.The teacher’s desk was placed in the back of the classroom so that she could seeall of the students from her desk. The children’s desks were placed in squares makinglittle groups containing four students each. During the observation I sat in the back of theclassroom at an extra desk that the teacher kept next to hers. This way I could see theentire classroom and the reading area, since they used both areas while I was observing.Procedures:In order to select my subject of study I first thought of what all I could observethat would incorporate with my academic interest. Once I decided that I wanted toobserve a teacher and their classroom it was very simple to set up. I already have to tutor at a school for another class so I set up to observe for an hour at that school after mytutoring session.


OBSERVATIONS:During the hour observation I observed many different things in the classroom.When I first got there they were in the middle of taking a spelling test. The teacher would repeat the word several times when giving the exam and then use it in a simplesentence that the children would understand. The children were surprisingly silent theentire time. After that she collected all of the spelling tests and got ready to give thestudents the new list of spelling words to the next week.The way that the teacher gave out the spelling words was by writing them on anoverhead projector and spelling them out as she wrote them. As the children copied thewords down in to their spelling books some talked amongst themselves and others wererepeating the letters as the teacher spelled out the words. The teacher had to tell a fewchildren that were talking amongst themselves to pay attention a few times, but alwaysdid it in a pleasant tone. Once all the words were copied down she read through the listtwo times and had the students repeat the entire words so that they learned to pronouncethem. It took a few times of her pushing the students to repeat the words after her untilthe entire class participated. Next the teacher made a smooth transition on to math. Before starting on thenew lesson for the day she first went over the homework for the night before. To create asmall activity and get a mix of students involved in the classroom she picked ten studentsgo up to the board and put their homework problems up. She first picked students thatwanted to go up to the board and then picked students who weren’t as eager and a littleshy. Once the problems were up on the board they started to go over the homework.First she would have the student that put up the problem read it out loud and then she