Writing an Eyewitness Account

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Language Arts, Writing, Journaling, Oral Language, Listening

Grade 3- 5


Students will observe an unexpected event and then write about what happened, including relevant details.


One day before the day you plan to conduct this simulation, play the old game of "telephone" with the students. Whisper a message into the ear of the first student. In turn, that student is to whisper what he or she heard to the next student, and so on until all the students have received a message. The game works best when the message is a simple one such as, "Mary went to answer the phone, but when she got there the phone was dead." Vary the difficulty of the message with the level of the students in the class. Whisper the message only once, and instruct the students to do the same. When the last student has received a message, instruct the students to write down what they heard without saying anything until all have finished writing. Then have the last student say aloud the message received. Compare the messages each of the students heard. Discuss how messages change when passed from one person to the next and how difficult it sometimes is to get an unexpected message straight.
This part of the simulation should take place the day following the game of "telephone," and requires the help of another adult and two students from outside the present class. These persons should be ones you can rely on to keep a secret. Tell them that you wish to prepare an activity for your class which will increase your students' abilities to observe and report, and you need them to be actors.
Give the students and adult actors the script on the activity page (page 55). Ask them to learn the script. Plan ahead the day on which you are going to complete the simulation, but do not tell the students in your class that anything unusual is going to occur on that day.
On the day which has been planned, direct the actors to act out the script as printed. The entire scene should take no more than two or three minutes to complete.
When the actors leave the room, do not discuss with the students what has just happened. Instead, distribute the questionnaire activity page (page 56) and direct them to answer the questions.
Collect the papers which the students have completed. Discuss their responses to the questions and how they might better observe and record another event for which they are unprepared. Explain to them that often after an automobile accident or an altercation of some sort, different witnesses will give varying and sometimes contradictory accounts of what occurred. When this happens, it can cause problems for police officers or other officials trying to discern what really occurred.
An ability to observe and make accurate written reports is essential for many careers and professions. Give the students several opportunities to observe and report in order to hone their abilities. Some possibilities might include three-minute observations followed by written descriptions of the following:
-- people going into and out of the school office
-- people on the sidelines watching a game
-- students at one table in the school cafeteria
-- students waiting for the bus after school
Have students write a description of a character, real or imagined. Explain that one can tell what a person is like by the way that person looks, by what that person says, by what that person does, and by what other people say about that person. Their characterizations should include a physical description and an example of that person doing something which shows that person's character or personality.


  • paper for writing and/or computer paper
  • pencils, pens
  • word processor and/or typewriter (optional)
  • copies of activity sheets

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