A Creative New Approach to Character!

By
Emily Hayden

Editor's note: Emily Hayden is a Literacy Specialist for students in grades 1-4 in Kenilworth, IL. The Storyworks Ideabook crew were thrilled when she reached out to Lauren Tarshis with such a brilliant, doable point of view lesson. This is the type of email we love getting and sharing - which is exactly why the Storyworks Ideabook was born. Her lesson included everything we love: (1) A simple-to-try idea that can work with many stories, (2) a delightful opportunity for engaging classroom discussion about reading, (3) arts and crafts. Give this one a try with your students and share your point of view ideas in the comments. Thanks Emily! 

The Poisonous Duck from the December 2016/January 2017 issue of Storyworks provided a perfect opportunity to introduce point of view to my third graders. 

In this story, two brothers, Thaddeus and Linus, have a verbal exchange that grabs the reader’s attention and keeps us wondering. Thaddeus, ever the wise trickster, is out to use his advanced vocabulary and wild imagination to convince his gullible brother that there is a poisonous duck at the lake.  Linus tries to work around Thaddeus’s tricks by asking question after question about this so-called poisonous duck, “So what does a poisonous duck look like? How does one tell them apart from ordinary ducks?”  The ending shows how two brothers can spend time verbally duking it out, while still admiring each other’s talents.

Here’s how you can this story to develop understanding of point of view:

I  had the students read the story several times, silently and out loud, taking notes about the language, the characters and the plot. After discussing point of view, as part of a formative assessment, I had them fill out a Character Perspective Chart for Thaddeus and Linus. (See  Shanahan, T. and Shanahan S., Character Perspective Charting: Helping Children to Develop a More Complete Conception of Story, The Reading Teacher, May 1997).

A Character Perspective Chart is actually really easy to create and complete: Just make two columns on a piece of paper, put each character’s name on the top, and then fill add rows for each of the following: Setting, Problem, Goal, Attempt, Outcome, Reaction, Theme.  As the students fill in the information from the story according to each character’s point of view, they begin to see how differently the story plays out, depending on the character.  This is a great opportunity to review plot structure, theme, etc. as well as point of view.  It was a challenging but fun activity for the students, and a great way to see how well they understood the story.

 

Finally, to make use of the students’ visual skills, I had them color in a paper cutout of a human shape, drawing Thaddeus on one side and Linus on the other. Each student then wrote information from the Character Perspective Chart on drawing. They loved using their knowledge of the text to create their own versions of the characters,  as well as adding the information from their chart.

That’s it! Close reading, point of view, and a visual created by each student. Point of view made easy!!

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