An idea that occurred to me, and I want to jot it down before it tumbles out of my memory:

The main objective is to illustrate just how much a person’s point of view, their perspective, affects the information given.

But … the students don’t know that.

The lesson will introduced as an exercise in using descriptive detail; and that will, in truth, be a secondary goal to the lesson.

And to do this, I’m taking a page from the art teacher’s handbook: create a still-life. If possible, center the still-life in the room and arrange desks around it. If not, I’ll have to be more careful about the placement of items.

Make it a visually pleasing still-life, with a variety of big and small items. The sneaky side of this, however, is to place several small items that can ONLY be seen at certain angles – and are completely hidden to everyone else.

Give the students time to write their descriptions. Then pick a student from a completely different angle (where I cannot see the hidden items) to read his/her description.

Nod along, listening – until the student comes to an item that I cannot see.

Call it out: “Wait, what … did you say there’s a coin there? There’s no coin! What do you mean, writing about a coin? There’s no coin.”

At this point, let the class dynamics work – will the student try to convince me? Will the student pick up to show me? How will the class convince me that I’m wrong? (Can I get students on my side, declaring that I’m right, there is no coin?)

Once it’s been proven that there is, in fact, a coin there, begin a discussion on why I did not believe what the student told me. Delve into point-of-view and perspective, starting with physical items that we can hold and progressing to intangibles.

Key points to address:

Everyone has a unique perspective. Point out that even two people sitting side by side see small differences in the items – more of a curve here, a shade less of the coin there. Just as we see the physical items differently, so to do we see life differently. Everyone brings a different view on life to class. Every single one of them can show the other students (and me!) a new facet of something we thought we knew.

How do we show people these differences? Sure, we can pick up physical items or move the person to see it better. But what about intangibles? What about values and history and events? How can we share? … Through our language. Through our communication. Through our words.

When reading written words, we need to consider the author’s point of view. What has the author seen? How does it affect what they have to say? Do they have any blind spots, like I did with the coin?

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