Point of View Study
Lesson 8 of 9
Objective: Students will work to determine the POV a story is told from, as well as to determine how the POV impacts the story.
Students write in their ISN for 3 minutes to start the class period, responding to the prompt on the board:
Which point of view do you feel provides the most reliable narration of a story? Which point of view do you feel provides the least reliable narration? (Please be sure to provide thorough and logical evidence to support your claims.)
I then ask a few students to share what they wrote about the first half of the prompt. I try to get differing opinions whenever possible because it gives the students something to connect ideas to later on. I follow that up with a few students sharing out what they wrote about the second half of the prompt. I find that this discussion helps when we discuss writing at various times throughout the school year, most specifically when writing essays and other more traditional "academic" types of texts. As the students continue to develop a more solid concept of how trustworthy a particular POV is, such as writing all academic works in 3rd person, the more they are able to see the WHY behind that requirement/expectation.
I then have students take discussion notes on the same page in their ISNs. I inform them they are expected to take notes on each and every concept regardless of whether they feel they know the information or not. I find this to be particularly valuable as students are working to recognize and consider alternate perspectives, beliefs, and understandings, synthesizing them with their own. Even if a student feels especially confident in their understanding of a topic such as this, they can ALWAYS learn from one another. I also like students to participate in the process of writing ideas down in the moment because it requires them to prioritize information they are receiving, while also forcing them to make connections continuously and consistently during the discussion.
I begin by asking a student to describe aspects of a first person narrator. They tell me things about how this narrator uses words like "I" and "we" in the narration. I ask the students to tell me what kind of words "I" and "we" are. It usually takes a moment for them to switch gears, but they typically label them as pronouns pretty quickly. They then continue by expressing that this type of narrator is also a character in the story. I then ask students to share with me some examples of stories or books with a first person POV. Nearly ever time, the students will begin with "Raymond's Run" since it is a story we recently read.
We then move on to the far-less-common second person point of view. Students will commonly sit there and look around the room at one another, waiting for someone to share something. I let it go for a minute as it builds the desire to learn and thus increases engagement. I begin by sharing that this POV also has pronouns as a big indicator, but in this situation the pronoun to look for is "you," particularly. I continue by sharing that this POV is reasonably rare and directly addresses the reader/audience. I continue by defining this approach as being an "imperative voice." I ask the students to tell me where they recall using the term "imperative" before. Again, it takes a moment for the students to switch gears, and they typically don't guess it correctly. I then guide them a bit by asking them to think about "sentences" when thinking about the term "imperative" and what I mentioned about how this style uses the term "you." At this point, I usually will get a few hands in the air to take a stab at it. These students often correctly state that imperative is one of the sentence types (along with interrogative, declarative, and exclamatory). Then you see the light bulbs going off in the student's heads. I ask the students to take an extra moment to write about this POV style in their ISN as if they had to explain it to someone else. I find that this is an important task to give them as they need a few moments to process this new information.
We then move on to the third person POV which includes limited, omniscient, and objective. At my school, students come into 8th grade with a reasonably solid knowledge of limited and omniscient, but objective is new to them. I again approach this by asking the students to describe for the class what some aspects of a third person limited POV are. They share things like "the narrator is not a character in the story" and "the narrator only knows how one character is feeling or what that character is thinking." For the most part, the students are commonly able to nail this one on the head with little to no tweaking from me. I simply provide confirmation. The conversation then shifts to "omniscient" where I ask the students to tell me, first, how third person omniscient is similar to third person limited. They share that "the only real similarity is that the narrator is not a character in the story." I then ask them to share what they know about third person omniscient that is different than third person limited. They share ideas to the effect of "this is a god-like narrator" or that it is a narrator that "knows what multiple characters are thinking and/or feeling."
The talk then moves to the POV of a third person objective narration. I ask the students to make some educated guesses about some details that define this POV, based on what they know about the other two third person points of view. Often, the students will ask if this one has a narrator that is not a character in the story, which I confirm and congratulate them for. I then talk about what it means to be objective. I explain that being objective means to be free from bias. I give them the definition of "objective" that reads: "not influenced by personal feelings or opinions in considering and representing facts." I then ask the students to think about a way a narrator can remain unbiased and only represent the facts. I choose to not have them share their thoughts here, but instead to consider their own ideas to determine how correct they are as we make the official definition of the third person objective point of view. When I define this for the students, I always do a comparison example. My personal script is pretty close to the following:
In third person limited POV, it is like having a student who is not in our class come in and tell a story about us, where he is only able to share what 'John' is thinking and feeling. In third person omniscient, it is like a student who isn't in our class coming in to tell a story about us, but he is able to share what each one of us is thinking and feeling. In third person objective POV, the narrator is still the student who isn't in our class, but all he can share in his story about us is what he can see, hear, taste, touch, and smell; Only what his five senses can gather. He cannot get inside any of our hearts or minds to share those details with the audience. He is limited to "the facts."
I then ask the students to write for a moment in their ISN describing the third person objective point of view as if they were trying to explain it to someone else.
At this point in the lesson, I have the students use small, dry-erase which boards that are at their tables to draw a graphic that explains one of the POV types we have discussed. The graphic must be a non-linguistic representation (no words at all) I assign each table a different POV in order to make sure each concept is addressed. I give the students 5 minutes to complete the image. While they are discussing and drawing their graphic, I am moving throughout the room to select the example I want shared with the class for each of the POV types. I do this to ensure the best examples are the ones that students keep in their minds. Once the five minutes is up, I give each of the selected tables about a minute to share their graphic and the rationale behind it. I follow this by sharing one of my own non-linguistic representation of one of the POV types: 3rd Person Omniscient POV .
I have the students participate in this activity as it aligns with one of Marzano's most effective strategies. When students create a visual representation, they are working at a very high cognitive level, working to align ideas and concepts in a way that can be most clearly conveyed to others without words. It isn't easy to accomplish this task, regardless of how complex or difficult the concept may be.
I typically do not tell the students what I want them to put on the left page of their ISN for notes we take in class (that go on the right page), but I do for this activity. I show them a modified bubble map (see resource attached) that they should use to show the similarities and differences between each of the following POV types: third person limited, third person omniscient, and third person objective. I also ask them to do a double bubble (see resource attached) comparing and contrasting first person and second person points of view.
I also give them an index card with one of the POV types written on the back. This part of the lesson is more about each student writing a 1-2 paragraph mini-story in the assigned POV. I sometimes provide the more commonly familiar types of POV to my struggling writers in order to set them up for greater success. This way, they can focus on the writing process, more, and the concept, less. I make the assignment due the following day at the start of class. I use this strategy in order to allow the students to develop increased confidence. I also find that the students use this process as an opportunity to act as a resource for one another in regard to their particular POV. Any time that I can help the students to develop and cultivate a culture of mutual support and concern for one another, I call it a victory.