Lesson 1: What’s the Point of View?
America Street | 870L
- Learning Goal
- Identify the point of view in multiple short stories, including first-person, third-person objective, third-person limited, and third-person omniscient points of view.
- Approximately 2 Days (35 minutes for each class)
- Necessary Materials
- Point of View: Definitions Handout
- Point of View of "The No-Guitar Blues" Chart
- Point of View of "The White Umbrella" Worksheet
- Pointing Out the Point of View Worksheet (Student Packet, page 6)
- Chart paper
- America Street, edited by Anne Mazer
Before the Lesson
Read and complete the Student Packet Worksheets for “The Wrong Lunch Line,” “No Guitar Blues,” “The White Umbrella,” and “Hamadi.”
Activation & Motivation
Have each student turn and share a memory with a partner. When the student shares the memory, he or she should go into some detail, describing what happened and how he or she felt. Next, ask students to share their partner’s memory with the class. Repeat this with more than one student.
will explain that the memories we heard were told from different points of view. When you shared your memory with your partner, you spoke using “I.” For example, “I remember the taste of my grandma’s chili.” When you speak using “I,” you are using the first-person point of view. When your partner shared your memory with the class, he or she spoke using the third-person point of view. For example, “Jason remembered the taste of his grandma’s chili.” Just like when we retold our memories, short stories also contain a point of view.
In a story told from the first-person point of view, the narrator tells the story and is a character in the story. In a story told from the third-person point of view, the narrator tells the story from someone else’s viewpoint and is not a character in the story. The narrator is an observer outside the story.
I will introduce first-person point of view by explaining that the narrator is telling the story and is a character in the story. I will discuss how sentences written in the first person usually use the pronouns “I,” “me,” and “my.”
I will introduce the third-person point of view by explaining that the narrator is telling the story from someone else’s viewpoint and is an observer—not a character in the story. I will discuss how sentences in the third person usually use the pronouns “he,” “she,” and “they.”
I will further explain that there are three types of third-person point of view: objective, limited, and omniscient. I will explain that the difference among the third-person points of view is the extent to which the narrator is aware of the characters' thoughts and feelings. In the third-person objective point of view, the narrator does not reveal what any character thinks or feels. In the third-person limited point of view, the narrator knows the thoughts and feelings of only one character. In the third-person omniscient point of view, the narrator knows the thoughts and feelings of all the characters.
Here is an example of a sentence written from the third-person objective point of view: Jason ate his grandma’s chili. An example of a sentence written from the third-person limited point of view would be this: Jason remembered the taste of his grandma’s chili. And lastly, here is an example of a sentence written from the third-person omniscient point of view: Jason and his sister both fondly remembered the taste of their grandma’s chili.
When we are reading short stories, we want to know who is telling the story. Is it the main character? Another character in the story? An all-knowing voice beyond the story? We can tell from which point of view a story is being told based on who is telling the story. I will use the Point of View: Definitions handout to explain how to identify the point of view of a short story.
One way to figure out the point of view is to look for pronoun clues in the text. For example, the pronouns “I” or “we” are used to identify the first-person point of view. “His,” “her,” “they,” “him,” “she,” etc. are used to identify the third-person point of view. To distinguish among third-person objective, limited, and omniscient, I will look for evidence of character thoughts. It is important to note that there may be dialogue in the story. If you see “my” in dialogue quotations, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you are reading a story written from the first-person point of view, because the character speaking may not be the narrator.
I will identify the point of view of “The No-Guitar Blues.” As I begin reading the first paragraph aloud, I will look for pronouns. I notice in the first paragraph that “he” and “his” are used in reference to the main character, Fausto. As I continue to read the story, I will gather evidence about point of view. As I read, I see that pronouns associated with third-person point of view continue to be used. I will write these clues on chart paper. Note: See the Point of View of "The No-Guitar Blues" Chart for additional details and examples.
I will look at my clues and draw a conclusion about which point of view the story is told from. I can conclude that “The No-Guitar Blues” is written from the third-person limited point of view. The story is told by a narrator who isn’t part of the story. If the story were written from the first-person point of view, it would sound like this: “The moment I saw the group Los Lobos on ‘American Bandstand,’ I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life—play guitar.”
Since the story is written from the third-person point of view, I will then identify whether the story is third-person objective, third-person limited, or third-person omniscient. I will ask myself, “Does this third-person story share information about what the characters are thinking?”
To answer my question, I will continue to read the story. If I come across information about a character’s inner thoughts and feelings, I will write these details on my chart. I will explain that the author shares information about what Fausto is thinking in paragraph one and beyond. I will write this information in my chart. By reading the text, I can conclude that “The No-Guitar Blues” is written from the third-person limited point of view. Fausto is referred to with the pronouns “his” and “he,” and the narrator talks about Fausto’s ideas and feelings, even though the narrator is not present. This narrator knows the inner thoughts and feelings of only Fausto. The narrator only describes the actions of the other characters and states their dialogue. The narrator does not reveal those characters’ inner thoughts and feelings.
Ask: "How can I figure out the point of view of a text?" Students should respond that they can look for pronoun usage to determine whether a text is written from the first-person or third-person point of view. To determine whether the point of view is third-person objective, third-person limited, or third-person omniscient, they can look for text that describes the thoughts and/or feelings other characters might have.
will determine the point of view in “The White Umbrella.” We will reread the story together and then read the excerpts found on the Point of View of "The White Umbrella" Worksheet. Note: These examples can also be directly read from the book. Ask: "What pronouns are being used in the excerpts?" We see that “I,” “my,” and “me” are used. We will continue reading aloud to see if these pronouns continue throughout the story, making sure that they are not simply in dialogue quotations. We will conclude that “The White Umbrella” is written from the first-person point of view. We will write this on our chart and explain our reasoning.
will reread “Hamadi” and then examine several excerpts on the Pointing Out the Point of View Worksheet. (See page 6 in the Student Packet.) You will identify any clues that help you determine the point of view, including pronoun references, being careful about dialogue quotations, and references to the inner thoughts of a character. You will use the clues to explain how you came to your conclusion about the point of view in “Hamadi.”
will come back together to share our findings about the point of view of “Hamadi.” We will engage in a class brainstorm. Ask, "If this story were written from the other points of view, how would it be different?" Responses may vary. For example: “The story would have more first-person pronouns, and Susan would be telling the story herself.”
Build Student Vocabulary diverted
|Tier 2 Word: diverted|
|Contextualize the word as it is used in the story||When Mona and her sister are waiting for their mom, the piano teacher, Miss Crosman gives them a white umbrella to stand under in the rain. In the car, the girls hide the umbrella from their mom, but she keeps asking what they are hiding. They hit the car behind them. The main character says, “I was relieved to have attention diverted from the umbrella.”|
|Explain the meaning student-friendly definition)||Diverted means to become distracted or to draw attention away. When the main character says that she was relieved to have attention diverted from the umbrella, she meant that she was relieved to have her mother’s and sister’s attention focus on the car accident rather than on the umbrella.|
|Students repeat the word||Say the word diverted with me: diverted.|
|Teacher gives examples of the word in other contexts||The crash diverted my attention from reading. The principal’s announcement diverted the students’ attention during the lesson.|
|Students provide examples||What has diverted your attention? Start by saying, “My attention was diverted when ____________________.”|
|Students repeat the word again.||What word are we talking about? diverted|
|Additional Vocabulary Words||nonchalantly, distracted, mimicked, stupendous, tedious, wail|
Texts & Materials
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