Comprehension: Point of View

by C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady

Point of View seems to be a difficult skill for children to master. I have noticed it is high up on most schools’ lists of standards that need retaught and reviewed. So this made me wonder, “What is it about this skill that is being misunderstood?”

Here are my thoughts:

  • Part of it may be trying to determine “Which points of view are my students supposed to know?” In Oklahoma, the standards are fairly clear for grades 2-4 which emphasizes the ability to identify the first and third person points of view. But 5th grade isn’t as specific so many teachers are left wondering, “Do I include the 2nd person point of view? The Omniscient? . . .” (See a list below of the Pt. of View Stds. for each grade level. It appears they have clarified the 5th grade position since last year.)
  • Some of the confusion may be that students are mostly armed with the keywords regarding various points of view (1st = I, me, my; 2nd = you, your; 3rd = him, her, them, they). I have literally seen students counting pronouns and then declare the point of view based on which pronouns they saw the most of. This means they were not really focused on the overall jist of the story and/or were ignoring the fact that a quote using the word “I” doesn’t necessarily make the selection a first person point of view. This is where too much reliance on beautiful anchor charts on Pinterest can perhaps harm your students.  So be cautious!
  • Some of it may be that students confuse all of those words: Purpose, Point of View, Perspective.  Here is a good, short video from which easily explains the difference. Click here to watch: Purpose, Point of View, and Perspective Video
  • Stay tuned for some cool FREE activities (end of post).

A lot of us love using “The True Story of the Three Little Pigs” by Jon Scieszka. Here’s how these three P’s work out for this story.

  • The author’s purpose is to entertain the reader.
  • This whole story is told from the Wolf’s point of view, so we call it First Person.
  • His perspective might be how he views the events that took place (he was a victim).

I was so concerned about this standard that I asked the OK ELA Elementary director for some advice. She told me that yes, students need to be able to identify the point of view . . . But students (especially in 3rd – 5th) need to be able to go deeper to determine how the point of view affects the information presented in the selection: Is it one-sided? Is it a more global view? Is there just one or multiple points of view? Does the point of view used give more insights into the character or the situation? Just one character or all of them?. I thought these were all very valid points! She also said the ELA Frameworks committee of teachers would be updating information on their website and it appears they have now clarified it, especially for 5th grade (in Oklahoma). See the link below.

So this tells me I have to be super cautious about how I present this information to students.

  • I can’t just make it a key word strategy.
  • I have to help students actually see and experience the point of view (who is telling the story).
  • If it’s first person, what am I able to learn about the character? Does he/she reveal their thoughts, their feelings, their predictions, their worries, etc.? Or does he/she just tell what the actions are in the story? Where is the evidence?
  • If it’s third person, what am I able to learn about everyone involved? Are any of their thoughts revealed – or just their actions? How does knowing the point of view help me evaluate the selection? Where is this evidence?
  • How is a character’s point of view revealed through dialogue?
  • What perspective is involved in how the story is told?

Here is some very helpful information from the 5th grade OK ELA Point of View std.

Here is the 4th grade OK ELA Point of View std.

Here is the 3rd grade OK ELA Point of View std.

Here is the 2nd grade OK ELA Point of View std.

Here is the 1st grade OK ELA Point of View std. 

  • First graders only need to be able to know who is telling the story (not to name it as first or third person).

I have selected some FREE resources I think are worthy of using. If you have some you think are great to share, please let us know!!

  1. Top 10 Books for Teaching Point of View
  2. I like this FREE resource (task cards from Jessica Scott) because it presents the same scenario in three different points of view (first, third limited, and third omniscient). Students get good practice in comparing, contrasting, and analyzing the differences. 3 Points of View Task Cards
  3. From “Teaching With a Mountain View” this FREE resource uses photographs for students to write briefly using different points of view. Perspective is also included. Point of View with Photos
  4. Looking for something regarding perspective and writing / speaking? I love this FREE resource. Here’s an example from Stephanie McCoy: Use the first person point of view to tell your perspective about eating pizza (once as a person who is starving, and once as a person who has been ill all day).  Writing from two different perspectives
  5. Combine this lesson involving the Shel Silverstein poem “One Inch Tall” with point of view (FREE from Brandi Kinsey). She also includes an opportunity for students to write their own poem “If I Were 15 Ft. Tall”: “One Inch Tall” poem and activity

Enjoy!!  Let us know of your experience with point of view vs. perspective.

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