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Joined:March 18th 2019
Steven Walker is a creative writer and content strategist who helps people succeed at self-education, writing, motivation and more by sharing with them his knowledge. Writes blog posts for McEssay.

Fine-tuned observation skills lead to enhanced critical thinking and knowledge construction. Teachers and parents should take advantage of opportunities to help children and young adults hone their observation skills. We can all, no doubt, use some tweaking in this area.

Selective Attention Test

This is a great experiment to use in the classroom. Before I explain the results, click here now to test yourself. It won’t have the same impact unless you try the test before you read any further.

How did you do? If you missed something major, don’t worry – you’re not alone. Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons did this experiment several years ago at Harvard University. They asked students to watch a video of six people – three in white shirts and three in black – and silently count the number of basketball passes made by the people wearing white. Most of the students got the number of passes correct; however, only 50 percent noticed the gorilla who stepped into the middle of the game for about nine seconds, thumping its chest and facing the camera. In their “Invisible Gorilla” video, Chabris and Simons revealed that we miss a lot of what goes on around us, and we have no idea we are missing so much. Showing this video to students – with no previous explanation – is a good springboard for a class discussion on the importance of truly observing.

The “F” Words

A couple weeks after you have used the gorilla video with your students, test their observation skills again. Project the following passage in front of the class so all students can easily see it. Ask them to count the number of times the letter “F” – both lower and upper case – is used. First, give it a try yourself.

Finished files are the re-
sult of years of scientific
study combined with the
experience of many years.

You can click here for a ready-made overhead projection to use with your students.

Ask for volunteers to tell how many “f’s” they counted. There are six. You may have some students who count six, but many more will probably say there are three. They skip over the word “of”, and it appears three times. This could be because they hear it pronounced as a “v” sound. This serves as another opportunity to help students become better observers. When I used this in my classroom, I always had students who wouldn’t believe there were three “f’s,” even after I projected it again. I highlighted the “f’s” to make them easier to recognize.


If you periodically present students with observation challenges such as these, their abilities will improve. Try the “30-second look.” Give the boys and girls 30 seconds to look at a photo, a reading passage, a math problem or a piece of art – without taking notes. Afterward, discuss what they saw. Place the item back up for a second look.

Carry Through

When students participate in observation experiences such as these, they begin to fine-tune their observance of the environment. They also look at information in subject areas, such as math, reading and science, with a sharper eye. Their consciousness is heightened as they now seek out details. As a result, critical thinking skills improve.
Name:Steven Walker
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