Deep Observation Assignment: Eleven Examples

Colors, Lines, and Shapes

Jillian McDonnell

She holds her pencil lightly gripped but it taps with a surprising thud as the eraser hits the table. More of a thump rather than a tick. She holds it in between her index and middle fingers and allows gravity to pull one side down. Over and over. Thump, thump, thump. She looks anxious and perplexed. Perhaps unable to discover the solution to her assignment in a sketch book. Blonde with one colored streak in her hair, a bright green so she could make that big statement to her parents. “I can do whatever I want to my hair, and no you cannot stop me,” but now she twirls it and sighs, “Why green? I don’t have anything that matches this thing. Of course I couldn’t have used my head and gotten something a bit easier to work with.” Like any of the trends and statements she had to make, she got bored with this one and dreams of change once again. She keeps tapping the pencil. Thump, thump, thump. How could she have been so stupid?! This assignment was given over a week ago. She did have time to do it that one day…but she did enjoy that night out with her friends. She looked great that night, no one could take her eyes off her. All done up in the form fitting little black dress, and she felt good. Her green streak shown in the light at the club and for once went with the brightly colored room and even her outgoing personality of the night. Come on come on, she thinks. She is unable to think of one design. One sketch, anything, that’s all she needs.

Now with the thump of the pencil comes the jangle of her foot as it swings swiftly back and forth. Thump, ching, thump, ching, thump. Only so much time left until she has to tell the teacher what she has done. She thinks of her excuse. “I was, um, in the hospital. No! My aunt’s sick, or my sister had her dance recital now how could I miss that?!” But no, she had all those days to do it, even start it, and the made up excuses work for only an allotted time, certainly not to excuse a completely blank page. Thump, ching, thump. But wait, an idea. Wait, no. Just a line, and then the faded mark of it left by the eraser unable to completely fulfill its job. “C’mon, c’mon, anything will do, anything.” She thinks back to all of those PowerPoints from class, but again, nothing. Thump, ching, thu- “Hi Sarah,” she sighs as her classmate walks over. “Here we go,” she thinks as Sarah begins to speak: “Did you finish the assignment? I could not believe how long it took me!” She answers yes as she slowly closes her sketchbook to hide her false reply. “Cool so I’ll see ya in ten then!” “Ten minutes?!” Sarah panics. Nothing on her paper she knows she has to at least start something. “I can’t, there’s not a chance.” Now the wheels are turning. Anything will do, anything. Another line but again another eraser mark to replace it. She thinks back to the class. All of the colors and lines and shapes and names zigging and zagging across the board. Thump, thump, thump.Waitwhat was that one slide he showed us?” As if going through the slides she shifted through each one with her memory as the screen and shut her eyes to bring silence to the eating area. Yes. Finally, her eyes lit up. She knew what she must do. But with her next class coming up, mine did as well. And as we both got up to throw out our trays, she ran ahead of me out of my sight. Ching, ching, ching, ching. And that was that for the blond girl with the green streak.

Discussion Questions

  • Why would somebody want to read this piece (the “Who cares?” factor)?
  • Can you clearly identify the author’s intention for the piece?
  • How well does the author support the intention of the piece? Cite specific details that support or take away from the author’s intention.
  • Is there information missing from this piece that would make its intention clearer? What else would you like to know?
  • Does the author portray herself as a round character? How does she do this?
  • Do you trust the author of this piece? Why or why not?
  • How clearly does the author establish a sense of setting/space in this piece? Cite specific details that support your claim.
  • How clearly does the author establish characters other than the self in this piece? Cite specific details that support your claim.
  • Did you learn anything new from reading this piece? If so, what?
  • Are there particular passages with engaging language/description that stood out to you? Describe the appeal of these passages.
  • Would you read more writing from this author? Why or why not?



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