Wondering how to teach first- and third-person point of view?Try these proven activities! First, teach kids about first, second, and third person. Next, read short snippets from popular children’s books and ask them to identify the narrator. After some focused practice, students read one-page excerpts, identify the point of view, and explore other perspectives.
Ms. Sneed Teaches Personal Pronouns
On Monday morning, our favorite fourth grade teacher, Ms. Sneed, addressed her ELA group. “This week in our daily language review,” she said, “we’ll be talking about pronouns. Can anyone tell me what a pronoun is?”
A girl with red glasses in the third row tentatively raised her hand. “Aren’t they words like you and me?”
“You got it!” Ms. Sneed drew a table on the board. Along the side, she wrote First Person, Second Person, and Third Person. Above the two remaining columns, she put Singular and Plural.
“Time to take notes,” she told her class. After a little rustling around, they all drew tables like their teacher’s.
“Let’s fill this in,” Ms. Sneed continued. “LaTisha said that you was a pronoun. I agree. Where do you think it should go?”
Silence greeted Ms. Sneed. A little smile flickered across her face. “I love it when we learn something totally new,” she said.
“Okay, let’s start with first person singular. A pronoun is used in place of a noun. Get it? Pro + noun. So, my name is Ms. Sneed. Here’s the first person.” She pointed to herself. “What do I call myself?”
“I?” ventured a boy in the first row.
“Yep.” Ms. Sneed wrote “I” under first person singular. “What else?”
“Me?” asked the girl with red glasses.
Ms. Sneed nodded and put me next to I. “How about plural? Let’s say I’m talking about myself and all of you?”
The conversation continued through second and third person. Ms. Sneed identified each point of view in a conversation:
- First person = speaker(s)
- Second person = listener(s)
- Third person = anyone outside the conversation
Subject and Object Pronouns
Ms. Sneed circulated around the room and checked her students’ pronoun tables. “Great work, guys!”
Then she returned to the front of the room. “Funny,” she said. “I see two pronouns for first person singular – I and me. And those are the two I’m always complaining about. You know how I’m always nagging you to stop saying, ‘Me and my friend’?”
Her students rolled their eyes and nodded.
“Well then. Today you will learn why.” Ms. Sneed drew two more tables. She labeled the first Subject Pronouns and the second Object Pronouns. “We’ve already learned about subjects and predicates. Subject pronouns replace nouns in the subject. Object pronouns replace nouns in the predicate.”
With her students’ help, Ms. Sneed completed both tables. Then she wrote a sentence: Me and my friends play games. “Does this sound familiar?” she asked. Her students giggled and nodded.
Ms. Sneed crossed out and my friends: Me
and my friends play games. “Would I ever say, ‘Me play games’?” Now her students laughed and shook their heads.
“Okay, now you can see it. I belongs in the subject. I play games. And me belongs in the predicate, like Play a game with me.”
Introduction to First- and Third-Person Point of View
The next day, Ms. Sneed once again stood in front of her class. “Yesterday we learned about pronouns,” she said. “After you finish your daily language review, I’ll begin teaching literature activities that focus on first- and third-person point of view.”
Ms. Sneed walked to her computer and pulled up the point of view slideshow. As her students finished their daily work, she explained. “This presentation will review pronouns first. Then, you will see some excerpts from popular picture books. If the excerpt uses first person, hold up one finger. For third person, hold up three fingers. Then the fun begins. We’ll see if you can name the picture book and the author.” Her students wiggled in their seats. They loved challenges.
After the pronoun review, the first excerpt appeared on the screen:
I feel quite CERTAIN
there’s a JERTAIN
in the CURTAIN.
“First or third person?” asked Ms. Sneed. Her students raised their hands, and she scanned the room. Yes, they all held up one finger.
“Great job! First person. How did you know?”
“The narrator says I,” replied a child wearing lots of braids.
Ms. Sneed nodded and laughed as she noticed the hands in the air. “Okay, okay. Can you name the book and author?”
“Ooo, mee!” came the cry.
“Since it’s Mathias’s birthday, I’ll call on him first.”
“There’s a Wocket in My Pocket by Dr. Seuss, ” Mathias shouted.
Ms. Sneed’s eyes twinkled. These activities for point of view put student engagement at an all-time high.
After ten more excerpts, Ms. Sneed said, “Sorry, but all good things must end.” Her class groaned.
“To show what you know, I’d like you to complete two activities for first- and third-person point of view. The first one reinforces first and third person. The second asks you to defend their choice.” She began distributing the papers and added, “They’re short, so it won’t take you long.”
Teaching Kids to Defend Point of View
On Wednesday, Ms. Sneed pulled out a one-page story. “This is an excerpt from Swiss Family Robinson. Has anyone heard of it?”
A girl at the side table raised her hand high. “Hey! Isn’t that the story with the tree fort? When I went to Disney World, I went up in it.”
“That’s the one!” exclaimed Ms. Sneed. “I’m going to put the text up here so you can see it. Then I’ll read it aloud. As I read, I want you to think about the point of view. When we’re done, you can tell me who’s narrating the story and how you know.”
After she read, Ms. Sneed’s students agreed that the text was written in first person. They showed her the places in the text that gave them clues, and she annotated it.
“When you work with texts, I want you to mark them up like this,” she said. “Circle or highlight words that help you understand the story’s perspective, and write comments.”
Exploring Different Perspectives
“Now we’ll try another activity,” said Ms. Sneed. “Each table will receive one of these sheets It asks you to retell the story from a different character’s perspective. You can choose one person to write, but all of you will work together to rewrite the story from another point of view.”
As Ms. Sneed distributed the sheets, each group chose a scribe. Then they got down to business. Surprisingly, rewriting the story didn’t take that long. Since they had extra time, Ms. Sneed let them read their work to one another.
Reinforcing First- and Third-Person Point of View with Independent Practice
Now the kids were ready for independent practice. On Thursday, Ms. Sneed pulled out “Alice and the Caterpillar.” Since the text was differentiated for three reading levels, she distributed different versions to specific students in her class. “I love the way this lets me reach each I teach,” she whispered to herself.
After reading and annotating the excerpt, kids discriminated between first- and third-person point of view.
“Remember how we marked up the story yesterday?” Ms. Sneed asked. “Do the same with today’s literature. I’m also giving you a page of questions. Hopefully the questions will help you mark up the story and vice versa. At the end, I’ll collect both.”
The teacher distributed the questions. Then she began to move around the room – answering questions and providing gentle guidance.
Soon all students were engaged in their task. Ms. Sneed’s eyes gleamed. Front-loading students with necessary information and modeling made her job so much easier.
A Creative Activity to Teach Point of View
Finally, Friday arrived. After discussing the point of view for “Alice and the Caterpillar,” Ms. Sneed pulled out a new story. “Have any of you heard of Mark Twain?” she asked.
As they discussed the author, Ms. Sneed distributed an excerpt from Huckleberry Finn and a response sheet. “Today you’ll annotate as before. The activity is different, though. After reading, decide the narrator’s mood. Circle the eyes you think fit best. Then name the author, tell why you chose the eyes, and draw a scene through the narrator’s eyes.”
In anticipation of drawing and coloring, the kids chatted and pulled out their colored pencils. But soon they got down to business.
The following week, Ms. Sneed moved her students to the serious work of constructing a response. After reading “The Sea Chest,” an excerpt from Treasure Island, her students followed a checklist to write a paragraph. They learned to state the point of view in a topic sentence then defend it with the information they annotated.
“We’ll only do one of these per week,” Ms. Sneed told her class. They sighed as a form of thanks. Everyone knew that constructing responses was the hard part.
Fun Activities to Teach Point of View
Between constructed responses, Ms. Sneed read picture books to her class. At first, she chose books that had clear perspectives. Then she read some that were more difficult. With discussion, their understanding of point of view grew.
Writing from Different Perspectives
One day, Ms. Sneed asked, “Do you remember the fable you wrote at the beginning of the year?”
“Mine was about a turtle!” someone shouted. With all the lively banter, the teacher could tell that they did indeed remember.
“Today,” she said, “you will rewrite your fable from a different perspective. And – I have a surprise.” The kids jumped up and down in their seats as Ms. Sneed handed out fancy cardboard glasses and index cards. “After you decide whose point of view to use, write their name on the card. Staple it onto the glasses. Then put the glasses on and see the story from that character’s eyes.”
The kids all talked at once. They told one another about their stories and which character they would choose. Then, without any prompting from their teacher, they wrote on their index cards, stapled, and grabbed their Chromebooks. In no time, every child had found a space to work and was busy pecking away at the keyboard.
As she watched her students work, she thought about their progress. Then Ms. Sneed thought about her own metamorphosis. When she first began teaching, her kids learned about first- and third person point of view with a single worksheet. “No more one and done,” she said to herself. She pursed her lips and once again committed herself to using complete learning progressions. Then she smiled. Surprisingly, the harder she worked, the more she enjoyed teaching.