For this task, I would like you to observe human interaction taking place in a classroom video clip, “Close Reading: Grade 6 Social Studies” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nX3kNk3NrJo. For your first 20 minutes, note the physical location. The clip is short, but before playing through all of it, just work at describing the classroom set-up. You can click onto the play button and drag it across to try to gain the best overview of the classroom. Map out the location, arbitrarily break it up into sections and number the sections (don’t name the sections, just number them). Then describe each area in detail. Pay close attention to nuance, particularity, colors, shapes and artifacts. Try to use concrete, measurable, objective terms and avoid evaluative language. Do NOT interpret what you observe; stay “thin.”
Then go through the video and focus on the actors (participants) in the social scene. Since the video is short, you can play through it twice or pause it a few times. In real-time observation, you would not have this option, but you would be asked to observe for about an hour, giving you more opportunity to capture more action. Try to just catch what you can without pausing in your first play-through!
- Actors – Describe a few actors in detail. Pay attention to basic features of appearance, shape, size, texture, clothing and locations in your situation. Value judgments and outright conclusions or firm inferences are prohibited (ex. Do NOT write something like “That cute guy wearing a trendy jacket is probably her boyfriend.” For this assignment you should even avoid terms such as: appears, seems, etc.
NOTE: Normally, I instruct my students NOT to select a place with children or to focus the observation on children. (This keeps things a lot tidier in terms of our ethics issues and keeps said children’s parents feeling much more secure!) Using this publicly available video of a school classroom, of course, does not have this problem.
2) Behaviour – Describe in detail all of the behaviours you observe (bearing in mind the time limitations of the task). Look at ACTS (movements), ACTIVITIES (series of movements) and EVENTS (series of activities). Try not to jump to conclusions on the names of these events; rather, describe what you see attempting to assume that you are without previous knowledge of the situation. If you happen to hear someone name an act, activity or event, you can adopt the name, using “scare quotes”. For example, you would not say the teacher “took attendance”, but actually note what the person said, how others responded, etc. (unless of course you heard this person say something like “After I take attendance, …” prior to the activity. Concession: For this version of the task, you MAY use the terms “teacher” and “students.” (Isn’t that nice of me? J )
3) Conversations – To the best of your ability, note down language you hear actors using. Do not summarize the conversation or suggest a topic of conversation – just give a verbatim account. Whatever you do not hear or cannot remember – leave blank. Fragments of speech is fine. Don’t keep pausing or replaying to catch everything everyone says!
NOTE: If later observing in a real-time setting, please use discretion here – if you become privy to sensitive personal details you could skip this and focus on some other aspect of the interaction at that point. Do not be like one eager, but not-so-sensitive student a umber of years back who scooted her chair closer and closer so she could catch every word! (true story)
Note: Do not consider these 3 separate observations (i.e., your notes about actor description, behaviour, and speech will be jumbled together). I want you to attempt to observe and record everything as it happens. I realize this means there will be a lot of jumping around; this is to be expected. Resist the urge to go back and edit or insert information after the fact – this is not what I’m looking for. I expect fragmentation. Typos and other writing errors are fine – no need to clean this up!
Digital Journal Write-up: (~300 words)
After you have completed your observation, please journal this experience as a digital write-up (informal and colloquial, but organized and proofread) answering the following questions:
1) Describe your initial feelings as you began to observe.
2) What did it feel like to be observing three things at once?
3) What are some of the things that surprised you about this situation?
4) Did anything intrigue you that you would like to research in greater detail? Explain.
5) What are your concerns about observing here?
6) What are you looking forward to?
7) Anything else you would like me to know?
Summary of Requested Components:
A) The 60minute observation should yield about 1200 words of free flowing (unrevised), fragmented (thematically incoherent), THIN-n-ETIC prose.
a. Observe three basic phenomena at once as outlined above.
b. Avoid evaluative language. Shorthand categories may be used, but only via “estranged” vocabulary and only if provisionally defined.
c. Upload your notes to your wiki site. Include any maps or drawings (scan them).