America Street | 870L
- Learning Goal
- Compare and contrast multiple perspectives in a collection of short stories.
- Approximately 2 Days (40-45 minutes for each class)
- Necessary Materials
- Provided: Multiple Perspectives Example Chart 1, Multiple Perspectives Example Chart 2, Dueling Perspectives Worksheet (Student Packet, pages 15-16)
Not Provided: Chart paper, markers, America Street edited by Anne Mazer
Before the Lesson
Read and complete the Student Packet Worksheets for “Thank You, M’am,” “The All-American Slurp,” and “The Loudest Voice.”
Activation & Motivation
Pair students up and give them the following “Moving Day” scenario to role-play: One of the students is forced to move out of the home they have lived in for all their life, while the other student is moving into that same home (a dream home). Advise students to talk to each other about how it might feel to be moving in or moving out. Then, have students switch roles so that the one who was moving out is now moving in, and the one who was moving in is now the person who has to move out.
will explain that there can be more than one perspective in a story. In our exercise, we each had a very different perspective of “Moving Day,” depending on which role, or character, we had. By examining more than one perspective in a story, we can get a better understanding of the whole story. While we usually empathize with one perspective in a story (the main character), by viewing a story from very different perspectives we get the complete picture about what’s happening and why characters act and react the way they do throughout the story.
To compare and contrast different perspectives in a story, I am going to focus on a problem in the story. Then, I will choose two characters that witness or are part of this problem. I will identify evidence for how each character thinks and feels about the problem by looking for information in dialogue, inner thoughts, or actions that express inner thoughts. Finally, I will analyze how and why these perspectives are similar and different. Previously, we explained how a person’s culture influenced their perspective. Other factors that influence how characters think and feel about some event in a text include gender, parents’ political beliefs, life experiences so far, age, how much money you have, etc. In comparing and contrasting different perspectives in a story, good readers pay attention to why a character feels the way they do about an event, and how this may explain the similarities and differences in perspectives.
I will use the Multiple Perspectives Chart 1 to compare and contrast the perspectives of different characters in “Thank You, M’am.” First, I am going to identify a plot problem—Roger attempts to steal Mrs. Jones’ purse. Then, I am going to choose two characters involved in the problem—Mrs. Jones and Roger, since they are the main characters in the story. Note: See Multiple Perspectives Example Chart 1 for an example chart.
Next, I am going to record their thoughts, actions, and feelings about the attempted purse snatching. First, I will record Mrs. Jones’ thoughts, actions, and feelings. For example, Mrs. Jones is bothered that Roger tried to steal her purse. I know this because she says to him, “Did I bother you when I turned that corner?” She is being sarcastic and actually means that she was the one who was bothered in the situation. She also feels that if Roger had money, a caring family, or a stable home, he would not go around trying to steal. I know this because she takes him home, cleans him up, feeds him, and buys him his blue suede shoes. Finally, she is sympathetic toward Roger’s behavior and understands his motivation. I know this because she remembers that she used to do similar things that “she wouldn’t even tell God.”
Now I will record Roger’s perspective using text evidence about his internal thoughts and feelings. For example, Roger feels upset that he did not successfully steal the purse because he wants to buy a new pair of shoes. Also, Roger feels scared of Mrs. Jones’ reaction to the theft. I know that he does not want Mrs. Jones to call the police and I know he is frightened because the text said Mrs. Jones “dragged the frightened boy behind her.” I also notice that he keeps looking for escape routes from Mrs. Jones’ apartment. He knows what he did was wrong.
Now I will compare and contrast the characters’ perspectives on the problem. Mrs. Jones finds Roger’s attempted theft irritating and irresponsible, while Roger justified that it was what he had to do to get new shoes. Yet, the two characters shared an understanding that the best thing to do was not call the police. Because Mrs. Jones could relate to the experience of not having enough money to buy what you want, she understood Roger’s perspective. However, because she was older and she knew the importance of adult involvement, she could see the bigger picture and share her wisdom about the consequences and risks involved with committing a crime.
Ask: "How can I compare and contrast multiple perspectives in a short story?" Students should answer that you identify a problem in a story, and at least two characters who witness the problem. Then, you record their inner thoughts and feelings in a text about the problem (by using information in dialogue or the text, or drawing a conclusion based on a character’s actions), and compare and contrast them to each other. Finally, you might think about why these perspectives are different and the same based on the background influences on the characters’ perspectives.
will compare and contrast multiple perspectives in “The All-American Slurp.” We will focus on one plot problem—The Lin family is struggling with many American cultural traditions and practices, like American table etiquette. We will identify at least two important characters involved in the problem— The Lin’s daughter (the narrator) and the Gleason’s daughter, Meg. We will write this information in our Multiple Perspectives Chart 2. Note: See Multiple Perspectives Example Chart 2 for an example chart.
We will identify what each character feels about the Lins adjusting to new cultural surroundings in America. The Lin’s daughter feels embarrassed and cautious about eating an American meal at the Gleason’s home and also at the Lakeview restaurant. We can tell she is embarrassed because she doesn’t get anything after the potato salad at the Gleason’s home and because she hides in the bathroom after slurping at the Lakeview restaurant.
Ask: "What does Meg think about this problem?" While Meg feels comfortable eating an American buffet-style meal with raw vegetables, she is worried that the Lins didn’t eat enough at dinner. We know this because she expresses her concern the next day at school. Meg Gleason realizes that the Lins are trying to fit in and she tries to support her friend. We can tell because she lets the Lin’s daughter dress in her clothing.
We will compare and contrast the information in our chart, and we will discuss how the characters’ perspectives are similar and different. For example, we might conclude that while the narrator is embarrassed about going back to the buffet at dinner or taking out the celery strings from her teeth at the Gleason’s house, and she is worried that Meg will think she is weird for not knowing American customs, Meg thinks her mother just made too much food. Meg does not think the narrator is weird. However, both girls share the experience that their moms both “put everything on the table and hope for the best.” Encourage students to further engage in a class conversation about the similarities and differences in the character’s perspectives. Ask, "How does the Lin’s daughter change her perspective at the end of the story? Why?"
will fill out the Dueling Perspectives Worksheet in your Student Packet for the short story, “The Loudest Voice.” You will compare and contrast Shirley and Mrs. Abramowitz’s perspective of a plot problem in the story. (See pages 15-16 in the Student Packet.)
will share our thinking about “The Loudest Voice.” We will discuss which perspective is strongest in the story and which perspective we can relate to the best.
Build Student Vocabulary smugly
|Tier 2 Word: smugly|
|Contextualize the word as it is used in the story||“Father’s approach to English was a scientific one. He was always making diagrams of verbs and their inflections, and he looked for opportunities to show off his mastery of the pluperfect and future perfect tenses, his two favorites. ‘I shall have finished my project by Monday,’ he would say smugly.”|
|Explain the meaning student-friendly definition)||If something is said smugly, it is said in a confident manner. It shows that the speaker is overly satisfied with themselves. When father smugly said, “I shall have finished my project by Monday,” he spoke in a confident manner and showed that he was satisfied with himself.|
|Students repeat the word||Say the word smugly with me: smugly.|
|Teacher gives examples of the word in other contexts||She smugly spoke about her successes. I try not to be too smug because it can bother others.|
|Students provide examples||Have you (or someone you know) ever said something smug? Why? Start by saying, “I smugly said _______________ because _______________.”|
|Students repeat the word again.||What word are we talking about? smugly|
|Additional Vocabulary Words||release, barren, glistening, disobedient, prone|
Texts & Materials
(To see all of the ReadWorks lessons aligned to your standards, click here.)