Let’s talk about point of view! I’m here to share some tips and materials to help you teach point of view to your students. I’ll walk you through some mini-lessons and share some free materials that you can use in your classroom. All of the printables used in this blog post can be accessed for free here or at the end of this post.
First things first:
The post will help students to:
- Understand general point of view
- Define and understand helpful terms associated with literary point of view
- Understand first- and third-person narration
- Identify and compare the type of narration an author uses
- Analyze how the type of narration affects the details that an author includes in a story
- Explain how a story or event is influenced or affected by the point of view and/or perspective
- Explain how a story or event might be different if told from a different point of view and/or perspective
I created this visual to help you understand where students should start and where students need to end in regards to learning about point of view. Think of each number as a step that students must master before moving up a level.
As you can see, I will start with introducing general point of view, but then I will take it a few steps further by analyzing how point of view and narration influences a story.
The text in this blog will read like scripted mini-lessons. Feel free to use any and all parts of this post in your classroom.
Point of view is sometimes a tricky topic for students. Before I introduce the topic in regards to stories, I like to have a conversation with students about point of view in general. A hook into the lesson if you will. I tell them that point of view is the position in which something is seen or observed. For example, stand a picture book up on a desk (or any other object that has two different sides). Have students stand on opposite sides of the book and describe what they see. Have a conversation about the fact that some students see the front cover and other students see the back cover. Each student has a different point of view. When you are viewing something, you are seeing it from your angle or point of view. You might see things the same way, or you might see them differently.
Once you have this conversation with students, hand out the printable titled “An Introduction to Point of View”. Have your students complete this activity. You may have students complete this on their own or together as a class. Once students have the chance to complete it, have a quick conversation about the printable. Make sure you drive home the point that the angle or position from which you are viewing something can change a lot.
Once we’ve talked about point of view in general, I like to introduce key terms and talk about why point of view is important in stories. You can have this anchor chart prepared or define these words together with your students. In addition, this anchor chart is also included as a free printable. Print out a copy for each student to use as a reference.
Next, I ask students: How does this apply to stories that you read?
I explain to students that when an author writes a story, they must choose someone to tell that story. The person who is telling the story is the narrator. When we read stories, we are hearing the story from the narrator’s point of view. Sometimes the narrator is a character in the story who personally sees and experiences the action and events. Sometimes the narrator is a character outside the story who is watching the action and events from the outside.
Authors typically use first-person narrators (a character in the story) or third-person narrators (a person outside the story) to narrate or tell the story. Note: I typically don’t spend a ton of time teaching second-person point of view at this point. I also make sure to spend some time here discussing the different types of third-person narrators since these are more abstract than first person.
Begin by working with your students to create an anchor chart highlighting the differences between first and third person narration.
For the purpose of this blog post, I created the anchor chart for you. However, make sure you make the anchor chart with students. Also, I included a free printable of the anchor chart that you can give to students.
Once students have an understanding of the types of narration, I now provide them with tools to help identify the type of narrator in a sentence. Then, we go further and practice these strategies with a short paragraph.
There are a few different strategies that students can use to identify the point of view in a story. The first strategy students can use is finding the clue words or pronouns within the story. You can refer back to the anchor chart to see the clue words for each type of narration.
First person: I, me, my, us, we, ours, etc.
Third person: he, she, they, them, him, her, names of characters, etc.
After I introduce the clue words, we discuss where to find them. In order to determine the correct place to search for clue words, I teach students how to tell the difference between narration (when the narrator is speaking) and dialogue (when characters are speaking). Students must understand that narration is the only place they can find clue words.
Tell students: When you’re trying to determine the type of narration used in a story, don’t look at the text inside quotations (dialogue). Only look at the narration (all the text outside of the quotations). To make this clear for students, I go through some examples as a class on the overhead. I color-code the dialogue and narration (see printable above) in each sentence.
After doing a few examples, you can grab this download for independent practice or practice together as a class.
Now that students have had a chance to identify the narration in sentences, give them the opportunity to practice using a longer texts.
If needed, refer back to your anchor chart to remind students about the definition of each type of narration and what types of clue words to look for. Also, with these short passages, when the passage is written in third person, the students will have to figure out which third person it is written in, so make sure students have a firm understanding. These texts can be accessed for free at the links at the beginning and end of this post.
Now that students understand point of view in a story and that authors typically use first or third person, we will go a bit deeper to analyze how the type of narration affects the details in the story.
Say to your students: Who the author chooses to narrate in the story can affect different elements in the story. It can change how the reader thinks and feels about characters or events in the story. As you read a book, think about whether the story is told by a character inside the story experiencing the events or an outside person looking in at the characters and events.
To break it down simply:
First-person: The narrator is a character in the story.
Effect on the text: The narrator is a character, so they can only tell the reader things that he or she sees, thinks, and feels. The narrator of the story is experiencing all of the events firsthand. Typically the narrator will say things like, “I think,” “I feel,” and “I see.”
Third-person limited: The narrator is not a character in the story. They know the thoughts and feelings of only one character in the story (often the main character).
Effect on the text: The narrator shares one character’s thoughts and feelings. This narrator can see all the events from the story, but only knows the thoughts and feelings of one character. However, since this narrator sees all of the events from the story, he or she can also tell the reader things that the main character doesn’t know.
Third-person omniscient: The narrator is not a character in the story. They know the thoughts and feelings of all the characters in the story.
Effect on the text: The narrator shares all characters’ thoughts and feelings. This narrator can see the events from the story, and he or she knows the thoughts and feelings of every character. However, since this narrator sees all of the events from the story, he or she can also tell the reader things that the main character and/or other characters don’t know.
This is all highlighted in the posters below. You can hang these posters in your classroom and/or hand them out to students to use as a reference.
*Let’s go a bit deeper with this. You may share this information below with all of your students or save it for your higher students who are able to think a bit more abstractly.
Let’s talk about third-person omniscient vs. limited for a minute. An omniscient narrator is someone who can access the thoughts and beliefs of many characters without limitations and can explain past, present, and future events to the reader. An omniscient narrator can often interpret the motivations of characters or the importance of events directly to the reader. It also has a disadvantage in its loss of intimacy with the reader. This point of view makes a reader feel like they are watching a story versus imagining themselves as part of the action.
A limited third-person narrator is restricted to one particular character’s experiences and thoughts. It again allows a sense of closeness with the reader, but the author is still able to add details that the character may not otherwise know or realize. This allows the author to explain some things for the reader in more detail than is possible with a first-person narrator.
I also explain to students why an author might choose first-person narrators. Readers feel closer to first-person narrators. It feels like the main character is sharing a story directly with you. The narrator won’t tell how every character feels, so you get to figure that out on your own. Pay attention to how other characters react to the speaker.
Use the passages in each of the posters to talk about these differences with students. I also included teacher talking points to help you drive the points home.
At this point, now that students understand the different points of view, they need to understand what perspective is. Perspective is not the same as point of view.
Say to students: Remember, the narrator’s point of view is the vantage point of the narrator in relation to the events of the story (what the narrator can see and know about the events and characters in a story). For example, are they inside the story or outside the story. The narrator’s perspective, on the other hand, is their thoughts, feelings, and beliefs. Perspective is different than point of view. Two people with the exact point of view might describe what they see in very different ways.
Point of view is what the lens sees. It focuses on WHO is telling the story. Perspective is the beliefs and attitudes that shape the lens. It focuses on HOW the story is told.
Create an anchor chart below with your students. For the purpose of this blog post, I created this anchor chart for you to use as a reference.
I also created this anchor chart as a printable so that you can print it and give to your students as a reference.
The picture that is used on the anchor chart can be viewed by clicking HERE. It is a great visual to use with students to introduce perspective.
Now that you’ve had the opportunity to introduce perspective to students, have them complete the comic strip activity. They have to draw a comic strip from the perspective of a swimmer seeing a great white shark and a scientist in a submarine seeing a great white shark.
Now that students have had the chance to understand and identify perspective, have them practice identifying it in short passages.
These passages are written about the same event but from two different perspectives.
Say to students: The way a story is told gives readers access to the inner story of different characters. Readers want to pay careful attention to whose internal thinking they get to hear because when a reader hears a character’s inner thinking, this means the reader is getting access to the perspective of that character.
Now that students have had the opportunity to understand, identify, and practice perspective, you can take it a step further by asking students: how would a story be different if told from a different point of view or perspective? You can do this with most well-written texts.
However, to begin with, have students complete a writing activity to understand how stories would be different if told from different perspectives or points of view. For this activity, I have students use the story starter to write a paragraph from the perspective of each person listed. Students have to think about how each person would describe the event differently based on his or her perspective.
You can continue practicing point of view in your classroom using my Point of View Differentiated Comprehension Passages and Questions found HERE.