“Zoom In – Zoom Out” – Perspectives in Writing

Fiddling with my camera’s macro setting and zooming in on the first buds of the season brought me full circle to an article that I was reading in Harvard Business Review (March issue).  Rosabeth Moss Kanter (Managing Yourself: Zoom In Zoom Out) stated:

The lens through which leaders view the world can help or hinder their ability to make good strategic decisions. Zoom in, and get a close look at select details — perhaps too close to make sense of them. Zoom out, and see the big picture — but perhaps miss some subtleties and nuances.

Zoom buttons on digital devices let us examine images from many viewpoints. They also provide an apt metaphor for modes of strategic thinking. Some people prefer to see things up close, others from afar. Both perspectives — worm’s-eye and bird’s-eye — … should be vantage points, not fixed positions. Leaders need multiple perspectives to get a complete picture.

While Kanter talks about leadership, this device can also be applied to teaching writing.   Use “Zoom In”  to help students look finitely at the details of the paragraph and not get so caught up with the whole story. In fact, this may be an opportunity for a little field trip with digital cameras.  Have students explore the world close up. Then share their discoveries with each other.  Adding at this point another strategy like Faye Brownlie’s “So What” moves the share time a notch deeper.  Whether this is incorporating more ‘juicy words’ or finding other ways to ‘make a place come alive‘, it is without a doubt an active experience that can ultimately make writing stronger.

“Zoom out”  can help writers see the big picture and analyze how each of the segments fit into the storyline.  At what point can this help or hinder a story? Using “zoom out” situates time and place for both writer and reader.

I feel a mini-lesson coming on.  Students choose a section to “zoom in/zoom out”. This can be done through a graphic organizer like a T-chart.  Whether you are using paper/pen or using Google Docs where sections can be easily copy/pasted, this strategy certainly offers practice in depth.  [Click here for an example using google docs.]

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