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Perspective and Point of View

Ok, I admit it- until I really took the time to do some research this year, I really didn't understand the importance of teaching perspective. I was teaching a specific standard that my kiddos were struggling with, RL.5.6 - Describe how a narrator's or speaker's point of view influences how events are described.

I did a lesson on point of view, and my kiddos seemed to understand the basics of it. We did a few activities over the course of a week, and then we dove into our assessment: rewriting a story from another character's point of view. We had recently finished Shiloh, so I had my students rewrite the ending from Judd's point of view. If you aren't familiar with the book- he is the villain. I was expecting to see the kids produce writing that really showed how different the story would be from his point of view, with lots of character thoughts and feelings included. Shockingly, most of my kiddos wrote the same scene, but changed it to first person point of view. Every time it said Judd in the text, they changed it to either "I" or "me" and called it a day. I was shocked! I re-evaluated my lesson, and decided to start fresh the next week.

After researching over the weekend and looking for new ideas, I realized something important. I hadn't taught my kiddos about perspective! Understanding the difference is difficult, and requires some really explicit teaching, but I am glad I did it. 

Perspective is rooted deeply in a person's schema, or experiences and background knowledge. Everyone's unique schema causes them to see a situation in their own distinctive way. For example, someone who has never seen the ocean before will react differently to it than someone who spent their summers at a beach house. Similarly, someone with a lot of experience with children will react differently to a school at dismissal time than someone who has limited experience. In the same way, positive or negative experiences with something will influence your future interactions with that thing or something like it. In order to truly understand point of view, it's important to understand how the character's schema will affect how the story is told. 

After talking about this anchor chart, we read Two Bad Ants by Chris Van Allsburg.  If you haven't read this book, it's adorable, and a classic for teaching point of view. 

The story is about two ants that go into a house on a mission to find sugar crystals for their queen, and decide to stay behind to live in the sugar bowl. They go through several misadventures, including landing in a cup of coffee and almost being swallowed by a human. Eveything is told from ants perspective- the coffee is described as a lake of "bitter, brown, boiling liquid," and man drinking the coffee is described as the "the lake tilted and began to empty into a cave. The ants could hear the rushing water and felt themselves pulled toward the pitch black hole." We then worked together and made a T chart comparing the descriptions from the ant's perspective with descriptions from the person's perspective. Sadly, I forgot to take a picture of it and threw it while preparing my room for PARCC testing. :(

A couple days later, we read Bad Road for Cats  by Cynthia Rylant (available in PDF if you google it!) and talked about Magda's perspective in the story. We picked out text evidence in our discussion that showed how her perspective was influencing the way the story was told. Then, talked about how the story would be different if the boy told it. We worked together to make a graphic organizer showing his perspective. I did this on my laptop and projected it to the class. Here is what we came up with.

Finally, we rewrote the story from the boy's point of view. What a difference in their writing! Just about everyone showed the character's feelings and thoughts in their writing. Most of them even gave insight into the character's motivations. We really hit on the standard, the kids told me that considering another point of view or perspective just "made sense" now. It was a seriously fantastic unit that the kiddos really enjoyed.

Currently... March!

Thank goodness February is over. It has been a brutal month of winter weather here in Boston! We have over 107 inches of snow, most of which was received in February. Our seasonal average is only 43 inches... and we are getting 3 - 6 more tonight! The weather has been seriously cold, too. Below zero many days without wind chill. Needless to say, I am so ready for this new month and for spring to arrive. Linking up with Farley at Oh Boy Fourth Grade for Currently!

Listening - The sound of a sleeping baby.. is there anything sweeter? My little guy is not a great sleeper, so this is extra special. I'm soaking up every minute of it!

Loving - My new guided reading groups. I'm really in groove lately! I have 7 groups, all in chapter books, so it can be difficult to keep track of. I am staying hyper organized, which has kept us all on track. Fingers crossed we can stick with it!

Thinking - About state testing. Is anyone else taking the PARCC this year? My district piloted it last year, and has adopted it this year. It's a big change from our previous state test! We are still working out the kinks. It's been a challenge, to say the least, because there is so much information that we do not have yet. I've been using the PARCC model content frameworks and the published practice tests to prep my kiddos, but I wish I had more to work with.

Wanting- A magic housework fairy. Do they make those? :) There just aren't enough hours in the day!

Needing- To catch up on correcting. I seem to get in a slump this time of year and the papers pile up. I hate holding on to things! I much prefer to give immediate feedback and let the kiddos see my comments right away. I definitely have to get back on track.

Spring break plans- none for me! I'm in Massachusetts, and most schools here have two "spring vacations"- one in February and one in April. I'm not sure why, but it's been this way for as long as anyone (including my grandparents, who are in their seventies) can remember.

My district is currently out of contract and in negotiations. One of the items that our city would like to add to the contract is breaking up our paychecks over the course of the calendar year. Currently, we are paid only during the school year. This would be a mandatory change. It got me wondering, how is everyone else paid? Help me out- participate in my anonymous poll!

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