How to Teach Perspective to Children
Teaching perspective to students means asking them to step outside of their adolescent worldviews, which by nature is very egocentric, and see the world through other people's eyes. Assigning a novel is a great way to help students develop an awareness of other peoples' perspectives because it allows for conversations about the author's perspective, narrator's perspective, and other characters' perspectives. With a great novel, students will immerse themselves in the world of the characters, and can compare how they would react to a situation versus how the character reacts to the situation which will further help them understand perspective based on circumstances, background, influences, etc.
1 Select a novel
Select a novel with a narrator or main character that is intriguing, engaging, and creates opportunities for students to empathize with the narrator. Young Adult literature such as "To Kill a Mockingbird" or "The Book Thief" have narrators that students will understand and provide intriguing details that allow students to step into their shoes and see the world through their eyes.
Prompt hypothetical situations after a reading assignment. Ask your students how they think the narrator and/or other characters would react should a particular situation arise. This forces students to think like the narrator and try to understand his perspective.
Ask students to write from the perspective of a character other than the narrator. They need to write using first person as if she is this other character and reflect on the situation and setting from this character's perspective.
Discuss the perspective of the author and how it differs from that of the narrator. Emphasize that although the author shapes the story using his or her perspective, the narrator and the author do not necessarily share the exact same perspective. Focus on the author's intent and purpose by asking questions about the messages and/or lessons the author seems to want to impart. This type of discussion helps students see the events in the book from yet another perspective.
Assign additional writing prompts that are more personal to the students. For example, ask them to write about Christmas morning from the perspective of their mom or dad; or ask them to write something from the perspective of a sibling the last time they got into an argument. Seeing their own lives and actions through a close family member's perspective will help them become more aware of others, which is one of the important lessons of teaching students about perspective.
- Do not pick boring books with uninteresting narrators or students will not stay engaged.
- Use writing prompts that force students to think like someone else throughout the perspectives unit. Having time to quietly think and really put themselves in the shoes of others is very important for teaching perspective.