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Above Image: A group of students making observations about a tomato plant

What is it?

An Observation Pass strategy provides students with the opportunity to work collaboratively to make detailed observations about objects, places and/or events in their environment.

Why use it?

  • To provide students the opportunity to use their senses to gather information in order to learn about objects, places and/or events in our world.
  • To support students working collaboratively to make detailed observations and consolidate learning by building upon the observations of others in their group.
  • To provide structure for active student discussions about their observations and perceptions of materials, objects and/or events.

How do I use it?

  • Prior to using the Observation Pass strategy, introduce its purpose to students and provide a structured example to teach and model expected behaviours.
  • Introduce or review the language of the five senses and the types of observations that can be made with each of the senses.
  • Organize students in groups of 3 to 4.
  • Provide each student with a blank Observation Pass template.
  • Assign students an object, event or place about which they are going to make observations.
  • Provide students 2-3 minutes to record as many observations as they can about the object, event or place. Students will record their observations on the Observation Pass template.
  • Encourage students to use appropriate vocabulary when making their observations.
  • Upon the signal “PASS”, each student is to immediately stop recording his/her observations and pass his/her Observation Pass template to the person on his/her right.
  • Give students the “START” signal, upon which they will read/view the observations recorded and continue to add any further detailed observations. More details should be revealed each time the paper is passed to the next student.
  • After 2-3 minutes students are again given the “PASS” signal. The entire process of “PASS” and “START” is continued until each student gets his/her original paper back.
  • As a group, students discuss the final recorded observations made about the object, event or place.

Tips for success

  • Monitor the degree of engagement in the latter paper swaps and reduce/increase the time accordingly to accommodate student’s input.
  • Create a word wall of descriptive words that can be used to describe objects, events and/or places.


  • Students could draw or write what they observe.
  • Students could use Google docs to add their observations simultaneously as a group.
  • When the passing is complete, the group can consolidate all of the individual observations and present one final descriptive observation document.
  • Students could be directed to use only one of the senses at each of the passes (e.g. 1st contribution observations only made by their sense of sight, 2nd contribution observations only made by their sense of smell, etc.)

Tools and Templates

Observation Pass with Words and Pictures pdf doc

Tomatosphere™ Observation Pass - Words Only Template pdf doc

Observation Pass - Tomato Seed Germination Video pdf doc

Adapted from IdeaPark by Let’s Talk Science.