Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Teaching Point of View

Find classroom-ready materials for teaching point of view: Point of View Stories and Activities

Point of view is now a fourth grade skill! Hooray!

Cheering was not actually my first instinct. But I've taught point of view to fourth graders over the past three weeks, and I've learned that it is not actually as hard as I feared it might be. Here are some hints to get started.

Start concrete
When I taught point of view in sixth and seventh grades, I could jump quickly into the abstract. We went right into looking at texts and writing them from different points of view.

With my fourth graders, though, I knew that I needed something more concrete. Enter the basket of stuffed animals! I started with the class favorite, Larry the Lobster, and wrote two sentences:

I live in the ocean.

Larry lives in the ocean.

I asked students, "How are these sentences different?" They could see that the sentences were written differently, and grasped at how to verbalize the difference. Then, I showed two more sentences on index cards:

He eats crustaceans.

I eat crustaceans.

I called on students to categorize the cards. Which ones were the most similar? Why? It was only after they could explain the difference between who was narrating the action that I introduced the terms first person and third person.

Next, students chose stuffed animals for writing buddies. On white boards, they tried writing two sentences about their stuffed animals--one in first person, and one in third person. Once I looked over their sentences, they recopied them onto index cards. We regrouped and took turns classifying each student's sentence and guessing which stuffed animal was the star of the sentence.

Read and share
Once students had an initial understanding of point of view, we had a huge storm. We were out of school for two days and then spent two days in classes at the high school--how exciting! Our school did not have electricity, but the other schools in the district did. The teachers were wonderfully accommodating and the students were great.

The best part about being in the high school was the high school helpers! I have three students who come up to my school to volunteer in the afternoons. When we were at the high school, they came to our temporary room during their free periods to help out. (Did I mention that they are awesome?)

I split my reading class into three so that students could hear read alouds from each point of view. Luckily I had been planning to do a presentation before the hurricane interfered, so my suitcase was filled with books. I needed short, easy books that high schoolers could quickly read aloud.

Shortcut by Donald Crews is one of my favorite go-to books for teaching so many different ideas. Personal narratives, intertextual connections, suspense, use of long and short sentences....and now point of view!

Mr. Gumpy's Outing by John Burningham was a good choice of a third person book--short, easy, and clearly third person.

It's tempting to leave out second person. "No one uses it much," I've heard teachers say. But if you're taking the time to deal with first person and third person, second person is not that tough. Besides, kids love second person. It's the language of the Choose Your Own Adventure and Interactive History books! During our rotations, I read the second person book, choosing excerpts from the Underground Railroad Interactive History. We talked about why authors might choose second person, but why some readers really resist reading texts that are written this way.

While these short read alouds weren't what I originally planned, they worked out wonderfully to teach reading in an unfamiliar classroom in an unfamiliar school.

Deal with dialogue
Once we returned to our own school, with the excitement of our adventures behind us, we continued our study of point of view. A card match activity was fun--students received cards with pieces of a story in either first person or third person, and had to find the student with the corresponding card.

Dialogue continues to be a challenge for students. Often, students will see text like this:

"I can help paint!" Ben said excitedly.

Students see that word I in the dialogue and say that the story is in first person. In these cases, I ask students: Who is telling the story? Is the narrator a character in the story? I try to lead them to think about what the story is really saying. Then, if they are still confused, I just say---"When we talk about point of view, don't pay attention to the dialogue. Look for what's happening outside the dialogue." And sometimes this works.

I'm working on putting together some materials for teaching point of view in the intermediate grades. So much of what I found is geared toward middle school students! If you would like some materials, write me an email. (Again!)

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