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Zeroing In On Your Topic


Today's Snack: Roll up fruit leather and peek through it like a mini-telescope, before you devour it. Then drink some V8 juice, where nutrition zeroes in from eight different vegetables!






Binoculars, telescope or magnifying lens

2 pieces of paper | Scotch tape | pen or pencil



Start this activity outside, if you can. Get in pairs.


Look at something that is in the distance. Maybe it's the farthest thing that you can see from where you stand, something clear across the playground or park, or something or someone on the other side of a football stadium.


What do you see? Describe your observations to your partner.


Let your partner spot something far away, and describe it to you.


Now, both of you, look again with a focusing tool - a pair of binoculars, a telescope, or get right up to it and look with a magnifying glass.


NOW describe your observations again to each other.


Are they different? You should have a lot more detail.


Now, you should be able to read the words on signs or labels or books. Before you used the focusing tool, you might not have even known there WERE signs or anything with smaller print. With a closer look, you can get more meaning and detail out of your observations.


See how your focus narrows 'way in?


Notice how much more detail you can see about the object on which you focus?


Instead of a large blob that's hard to describe, you can zero in on one detail, see colors, and understand how each part of what you're looking at is connected to the other things that you can see, up close.


You can have a much easier time describing what you see, when you're looking up close, because you're not having to guess as much.


When you're focused, you're a lot less vague. Imagine seeing a big marching band parade by. If you watch the whole band, that's one impression - kind of a jumble of colors and sounds and people in funny costumes moving in an unusual way.


But if you zero in on your friend, who plays the tuba, suddenly your impressions get a lot more focused, detailed, specific and clear. You would've missed all this if you hadn't been looking right at him, and only at him: the way his cheeks puff out like mini-basketballs when he blows the tuba . . . how red his face gets while holding the long notes . . . how the tuba shines in the sun . . . how his left shoe is untied. . . .


You could write a much better story zeroing in on your friend with his tuba, than if you wrote about the whole band. That's because you FOCUSED when you took in information.


That's the way it is with writing. Writing needs a focus. When you get distracted away from your main point or purpose, you tend to write 'way, 'way too much that is unnecessary. Your message gets lost in the shuffle. But if you zero right in your purpose, and ignore all those other interesting, but not quite important, details, your writing will be a lot more powerful.


It is very important to focus your writing, and zero in on your main point and the purpose of your writing project. If you don't, it is easy to get distracted, go off point, be too vague and confusing, and miss communicating the point altogether.


Let's practice this! No doubt there are thousands of items in the room where you are sitting right now. But let's help you focus in on just one, or a few.


Roll up one piece of paper into a long tube, like a telescope. Tape it shut.


Now look around the room using your "telescope," until you find something that you can write a story about.


On the other piece of paper, write a story featuring whatever you can see through your "telescope." Ignore everything else in the room. You can make up whatever else you need to, to make a story starring that object. But it has to be the main character or main feature.


For example, if your "telescope" focused on the lightswitch, write a story in which a student who doesn't understand something in class can run up to a magic lightswitch, hit the switch, and all of a sudden, the student's brain suddenly "gets it."

Wouldn't THAT be great?


See how much better the world would be, if everybody would focus a little more on . . . focusing?



By Susan Darst Williams Writing 2010


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