In literature, point of view is the perspective from which a story is told. In first-person perspective, a character from inside the story narrates the events, while third person narrators speak from outside the story. Third person can also be limited to only one character's perspective or it can be omniscient, with access to multiple character' thoughts and actions. While this concept is often challenging, creative writing activities, role playing and re-examining classic stories can help middle school students acquire a better knowledge of how point of view works.
Fairy Tales Revisited
While middle school students may think they are too old for story time, using fairy tales can help them see the function of point of view through stories they are already familiar with. Numerous children's books have retold fairy tales from the perspectives of villains or minor characters, such as Jon Scieszka's "The True Story of the Three Little Pigs," which examines the wolf's account of the events. Teachers can read the original version of the story followed by the retold version, then discuss with students how the story changes when told from the perspective of another character.
When a reporter writes about an event, he needs eyewitness accounts. Students can apply this concept by writing eyewitness reports of a recent event at school, such as an assembly, dance or athletic event. They can brainstorm who was there and write accounts from various people's perspectives. If the event is a schoolwide guest speaker, for instance, students might write from the viewpoints of a teacher, the speaker, an interested student and a bored student who is happy to get out of class. This will help students see how point of view can change the way people see the same event.
While first person is an easy concept for many middle school students, knowing the difference between third person omniscient and third person limited is sometimes more challenging. To practice, students can look through magazines and the Internet to find pictures that includes two or more people. Then they can write brief paragraphs summarizing the photos, using the third-person point of view they think best fits the images. For example, a picture of a boy and a girl eating lunch together could inspire an omniscient viewpoint, showing what both of them are thinking of their potential budding relationship.
In this lesson, students will put together improvised skits in groups of three. One will play the narrator, while the other two will be characters with conflicting opinions about something. For example, one skit might involve two friends arguing about what movie to watch after school. The teacher will randomly assign the groups point of views for their skits and the narrator will provide commentary according to that viewpoint. In a skit told from a third-person omniscient perspective, for instance, the narrator would periodically share what each character is thinking between lines of dialogue.
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