Teaching Point of View: Getting Past 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Person

Ideas for teaching point of view that encourage students to think more critically about biases and whether an author's point of view can be trusted.

When teaching point of view, a lot of teachers focus exclusively on teaching about 1st, 2nd, and 3rd person point of view. In fact, when I googled “teaching point of view,” almost the entire first page of results were lessons on what point of view the narrator tells the story in.

Ideas for teaching point of view that encourage students to think more critically about biases and whether an author's point of view can be trusted.

Teaching Point of View

But point of view is so much more than that. Teaching point of view means encouraging students to recognize that people don’t always agree on things because we all of have different life experiences that have helped shape our opinions. Teaching point of view means helping students understand that you can’t trust everything you read because authors have biases. Teaching point of view means modeling to students how to disagree with somebody that has a different opinion in a constructive rather than a hurtful way.

In this age of googling for information, where anybody can find information on any topic at the click of a mouse, it all the more important to teach point of view in a way that encourages students to think about and justify their own point of view rather than just blindly trusting what the Internet has to stay.

When teaching point of view, I think the most important things to consider are:
1. Teaching Students to Disagree in a Respectful Way
2. Teaching Students to Understand Both Sides of an Argument
3. Teaching Students that Authors are Not Always Right

Teaching Students to Disagree in a Respectful Way

This is a skill that many adults still need to learn! When talking with others that have different points of view, our emotions often get in the way. We get angry and say hurtful things rather than having a respectful conversation that allows us to learn more about the other side of the issue.

With students, you could start off by discussing things like whether a dog or cat makes a better pet, or whether P.E. or art is more fun. But in order to really practice this skill, you need topics that elicit stronger emotions from students.

Some possible topics could be:
• If you find a pencil on the ground and take it, is that stealing?
• Should girls be allowed to play football with boys?
• Should you have to share an expensive toy with anybody who wants to play with it?

After deciding on a topic for discussion, use these discussion sentence starters to help students have respectful discussion. This is a part of my Point of View Activities Resource, but you can find the sentence starters (and many other free resources) here for free. Just look for the “POV Nonfiction Discussion Sentence Starters” resource. And while you’re there, download all of the other free point of view resources!

Creating a safe place where students are able to disagree with each other and explain their reasoning is a great way to get students to think about different points of view.

Free Point of View Discussion Sentence Starters to help students learn how to disagree and share different points of view in a respectful way.

This is also an excellent opportunity to integrate writing into your discussion of point of view. Check out these no prep ways to integrate writing while teaching point of view.

Teaching Students to Understand Both Sides of an Argument

This kind of goes along with the first point, but is more deliberate about encouraging students to give reasons to support both sides of an argument – even the side they disagree with!

Use this free point of view graphic organizer to help students organize their thoughts about both sides of an argument. Look for the “POV Nonfiction: Thinking About Both Sides Reusable” resource.

Give students plenty of time to think about reasons to support BOTH points of view. Modeling how to think about both points of view first can be very helpful. Some fun topics that can be used with this graphic organizer are:

Nonfiction point of view graphic organizer - 2 sides to every story.  Has students think about sides of an argument.

• Asking permission to use the restroom/going to the restroom whenever you need to
• Homework assignments/no homework assignments
• Raising your hand before speaking in class/speaking whenever you want

You also might want to check out these other point of view graphic organizers.

Teaching Students that Authors are Not Always Right

I think this is especially important in this age of Internet and self-publishing. Most people tend to trust that the information that they read in nonfiction articles and text is true and accurate, but that is not always the case. ANYBODY can set up a website and say whatever they want. As teachers, it is important for us to teach our students that all authors have biases, and some authors are more knowledgeable than others.

This is harder to teach then you would think. Teachers are constantly looking for the BEST nonfiction books for our students to read – we don’t ever deliberately look for books or articles with inaccurate or strongly biased information.

Fortunately (in this instance), most schools are poorly funded and have textbooks with outdated information in them! If you have a textbook like that (for example, science textbooks claiming Pluto is the 9th planet, or social studies books with outdated maps), you can use it as an example to students that just because this information is in a book – a textbook even – doesn’t mean it’s all true.

You can also search for articles online with clearly inaccurate or strongly biased information. If your Facebook feed is anything like mine, you’ll see articles like this on a regular basis.

A few of the reading passages in my Point of View Activities Resource were written to be deliberately and obviously biased. I included questions to encourage students to think about whether or not they should trust the author.

Hands on point of view activities to help make teaching point of view easy!

Don’t stop teaching students to identify first, second, and third person point of view, but do make sure to encourage students to think about other point of view topics!

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