In class today, I used the children’s storybook Voices in the Park by Andrew Browne. This is the same story retold from four different points of view. At first, it is not obvious to the students but soon the class becomes suspicious of connections to each part of this story.
Before reading the story with the class, I reviewed several literary elements that I wanted them to identify as we read: point of view, unfamiliar/interesting words, foreshadowing, tone, inferences, imagery. Students recalled point of view categories, however, I explained that in this story I wanted them to specifically clarify the identity of the character telling the story.
I provided you with a chart to record information gathered from the story. On this day, I had students choose a recorder in their group and that person wrote the group observations on their own paper.
I began to read the story which consists of four different voices (a well-to-do mother, a father looking for work, the rich son, and the poor daughter). We stopped after each voice to identify the elements and recorded them on the board, then continue on with the next voice.
By the beginning of the third voice, some students realized that it is the same story (going to the park) told from different characters’ perspectives. We were able to have a discussion as to why the stories seemed different, different experiences, and the value of the various perspectives.
We took time discussing the background because the students were focused on the changes in the background in relation to the voices. For example, the trees with the first voice were dark whereas the trees with the fourth voice were green with life. In the first voice, there appears to be a caterpillar in the background – students decided that represented Charles coming out of his cocoon but not a butterfly yet. The second voice has a figure like Mary Poppins flying in the sky, that could symbolize the fun that is waiting in the world but not being experienced by Smudge’s dad.
The discussion continued; students recognized details that I had never observed. I had to end the discussion because of the end of the period but students came to the conclusion that they do need to look carefully at their reading. There might be more to the story than meets the immediate eye.