Monday, December 3, 2012

Thinking about Perspective: Monday's Minilesson Magic:

Currently, I am teaching a reading unit focused on the theme of conformity/nonconformity. My main read aloud is Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli. Through this unit, I am teaching/reviewing a number of fiction-focused lessons (like thinking about archetypes) to push students to think about Stargirl and their own reading.
Today I taught a lesson on thinking about the "unheard" characters' perspectives. My teaching point was "Readers think about the thoughts and feelings of characters who we are not hearing from. We consider things from that character's perspective." Because we are not hearing from certain characters, we have to infer what they are thinking and feeling when certain events in the story happen. 

Stargirl is an "unheard" character for much of the story. This often happens with characters who do not have best friends in the story--best friend relationships usually elicit discussions about character's feelings and thoughts, and so we often also get the secondary character's thoughts and feelings this way. But sometimes, like in Stargirl, we can only infer what she is thinking and feeling. (We are on 78 so Stargirl has not yet had any indepth conversations with Leo).

To actively engage students in thinking about Stargirl's perspective, I thought of 4 major things that happened to Stargirl and wrote each on a separate sheet of colored paper.
* Stargirl on the Hotseat
* Stargirl gets left at Red Rock High School because the MICA team tricked her
* Stargirl gets "tomato-faced" when cheering at a basketball game
* Stargirl goes to Anna Grisdale's Grandfather's funeral and Anna's mother attacks her

I then divided students into groups and had them discuss what Stargirl was thinking and feeling during each of these events. (We decided she was shocked, embarrassed, and humiliated for all of these). I found that it helped to push students' thinking by getting them to stop and think about what Stargirl was thinking and feeling in the moments before these events happened. We decided that in all of these situations, she thought she was doing something helpful, kind, or caring. Each of these events shows how she was treated when she had a good heart and was naive to the social expectations and norms of MICA High.

My students are also participating in partner reading. (It's like book clubs, but they are reading and discussing a book with one partner instead of a small group). I chose books that would help us build and compare/contrast the conformity/nonconformity theme.

I ended the lesson by explaining to students, "Some of you have characters in your book whose perspective we don't really get in-depth info about--like Jessica in Firegirl---while in other books, like, Schooled, you are getting lots of characters' perspectives (because each chapter of the book is told by a different character), but because of the way it is told, you do not get every characters' thoughts and feelings on every important event in the story. While in other books, you may get lots of characters' perspectives on the same event, but their perspectives vary, so you have to decide who you believe and most agree with."

I think this lesson was a good introduction for perspective and to get students to think about the "unheard" characters. It's so easy to put ourselves in the shoes of the main character because we are getting his/her thoughts and feelings--as readers, we need to push ourselves to consider other character's feelings. Hope you can use this lesson with your class!

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