Many students do not like marking in their Bibles. After years of trying to get people to try it, there were still many that did not want to. For some it was a waste of time, and for others it was too tedious.

Of course, Bible study can be tedious if you let it. But, above all it is fun! I love it. I can’t wait to study. But, it is work, very hard work, but rewarding work. And, one important key is to use all the eyes God gave us. This point is ever so forcefully made in the story, The Student, The Fish, and Agassiz.

So, early on, after seeing that many were hesitant about marking in their Bibles, we used a piece of paper with the segment of study on the left side of the sheet (landscape mode) and blank space on the right side. This was designed to allow the student to make observations, notes, lists, comparisons, etc. – anything that put down on paper the observations that were being made as they are being made. This was intended to free the mind to make more observations as the thoughts flowed.

In high school, I took Latin for 3 years. No, really, I did. And, I had one of the most influential teachers ever-Margaret Hardwick. In her eighties, she was as sprightly as her slight frame would allow. She was sharp as a tack and you could not pull anything over on her. She taught us much about life as well as Latin. Anyway, she always made us take out a sheet of paper before every class and we were to entitle it our Talking Paper. This was where we would ask questions in class while she was lecturing without interrupting her – by talking on paper.

At the end of class she took up all the papers. At the time, I thought this was crazy. But, later I saw the value in it. She could get feedback from students and in a way where they were not demeaned by classmates for actually participating in class. And, she could tailor her teaching accordingly. There is a Latin phrase, nullius in verba, also used as the motto of the Royal Society, which means, ‘in the words of no one’. I suppose this would properly characterize the concept of the observation worksheet – to see what is there, to investigate thoroughly, to make informed conclusions. One of her sayings was,

“The more you know you know, the more you know you don’t know; the more you know you don’t know, the more you know you need to know.”

So, the observation worksheet may be an offshoot of Mrs. Hardwick’s Talking Paper.

Alternatively, and after many years of teaching this method, with a significant number of my own observation of how students choose to take notes and mark up text, I have moved into using a different method of text markup. This is a combination of using various techniques and methods and the contributions of others.

I use something now I call the Surveillance Worksheet. We were going through the Jonah series and at the end of the Second Segment; I decided it was time to modify the observation worksheet.

The Surveillance Worksheet, being the next evolution of the observation worksheet, is also very similar to the observation sheet used by Duvall and Hays (Grasping God’s Word) of which I am only vaguely familiar. I don’t want to misstate their method. But, I do wish to acknowledge that it has influenced my thinking. The point is – make observations, lots and lots no matter how seemingly insignificant.

The Surveillance Worksheet has the segment in double-spaced type in the center of the page (also landscape mode). The student is encouraged to make any notes, any things that stand out, or seem strangely placed, etc in the midst of the page (above, below), using circles, or highlights, underlines, anything to emphasize.

Then, the student is to come back to them later after going through the text until it is believed that the initial standouts have been noted. Then, each noted item should be investigated, researched and, if reasoned to be significant, made more permanent. If an item is not initially deemed significant, don’t discard it so quickly. Surprise may came later, when after exhausting seemingly all attempts at determining significance, it is found to be indeed significant. There was a reason, after all, that you marked it the first time.

So, we will walk though it in the Jonah series in the Third Segment.