Looking Closely:

Looking carefully at objects and systems in order to notice their intricacies, nuances, and details. By looking closely, one may begin to see the complexities inherent in objects and systems.

Students word observe and describe what they see and begin to grapple with the complexity of objects and systems. One tool for looking closely is the Parts, Purposes, Complexities thinking routine.

Looking alone and looking with others can yield different results.


As students begin to notice the details of objects and systems they might: make lists, create webs, sketch, label, take pictures…



Using tools can support close looking. Educators and students employ tools that promote close looking including magnifying glasses, microscopes, satellite images, artist’s renderings, and video or audio recording devices…

By making students’ thinking visible, students and teachers can reflect on the process of observing, describing, and questioning over time. Documentation of students’ thinking may help to look anew, learn the language of surrounding objects and systems, uncover potential avenues for further research

Another routine for looking closely is the Elaboration Game. This picture of practice essay shares a version that was adapted by educator Tatum Omari for a group of young learners to examine a tortilla press during their unit of study about bread making.


Every chance to look closely reveals new layers of complexity to explore.

Looking Closely Exploring Complexity Finding Opportunity