April 13, 2013

POV Writing Workshop Minilesson Idea

One thing I'm going to try to start posting more often on here is ideas for minilessons that are fun, creative, and have worked well in a middle school classroom.  The minilesson that I'm going to post today is something that we did after working with students on point of view.  In Reading Workshop, we were transitioning between being able to recognize and identify point of view within their independent reading books to actually critiquing the author's choice in point of view and making inferences as to why the author may have selected that point of view to tell the story.  

We sometimes try to plan so that Reading Workshop and Writing Workshop compliment each other, so the lesson that I'm going to share with you came during a time where we were working with point of view in Reading Workshop and thought it would be a nice compliment/reinforcement to try it out in Writing Workshop as well.  The goal for this day was for students to take a favorite or memorable scene from their independent reading book or literature study book and re-write the scene from a different character's perspective than the author chose to tell the story in.  To model this to students, I used the book Sounder and wrote from the perspective of one of the white men who came to arrest his father for stealing the ham.

Here it is:

Minilesson Statement:

Have students write down the following minilesson statement in their writer's notebooks:

"Writers infer what a story would be like if it were written from a different character's perspective so that they can accurately show the feelings of the other characters in the story."


(My example that I wrote to share this concept with students: I rewrote the scene from Sounder pages 21-16 from the perspective of one of the white men arresting the boy's father.  I wanted to choose a perspective that would involve a lot of inference into the character's thoughts and feelings while still holding true to the details in the text.  As a reader, we know nothing about how the sheriff and his deputies feel while arresting the boy's father, but I inferred that although they seemed like horrible men, maybe the quiet one who didn't say anything actually felt guilt and shame in what they were doing but was unable to voice it.  This really got my students thinking about their literature study books and how to really take on a character's perspective that completely stepped outside of the box.  Before I read them my rewrite of the scene, I read the scene from the book out loud to students.)

As we pulled into the yard of the small, simple cabin, I couldn't help but think about how different my life was than the people we were about to encounter inside.  They literally had nothing.  It wasn't a surprise that the man stole the hame from the smokehouse.  The poor guy was probably just trying to keep his family alive.  My thoughts were snapped off when the sheriff turned to the deputy and I and said, "It's time to lock this thief up once and for all."  I swallowed a large lump in my throat and tried to push my guilt aside as I reminded myself that I was just doing my job; I had no choice.

It seemed a complete blue as we pushed in the door and burst in on the family of six.  I tried to keep my mouth closed as I saw the tiny, one-room house.  The sheriff's words to the man were harsh.  So harsh that tears started welling up in my eyes as I glanced at the expressions of the young children.  Their looks were a mixture of confusion and fear as they clung to the hip of their mother.  The mother kept a surprisingly strong face and hardly seemed to blink an eye, as if she had been expecting this for days.  As I was snapped back into reality the only thing I could think to say was, "I'll get the wagon."  I had to get out of that house, away from the large brown eyes starting sadly at me.  As I rushed out of the house, I heard a sound so deep that I expected a pack of dogs to come charging at me.  Instead a mut of some sort sprinted toward the door.  The oldest boy quickly took hold of the dog's collar and held him tight.

I heard the sheriff say, "Don't let go boy, or we'll have to shoot him."

I tried to let my mind escape into a different world as the sheriff and his deputy hauled the man into the wagon and told him to move.  I couldn't think of the man in the back of the wagon as a thief; I could only think of him as a father.  I told the horses to start moving, and we began to pull away, abandoning the wife and four children.

"Shoot him!  Shoot him!" I heard the sheriff yell to the deputy.  I was frozen in horror as he deputy raised his shotgun and fired at the mut who was not relentlessly chasing his master down the road.  The mut fell on the gravel behind us.  I closed my eyes and prayed that he didn't die.  All I could think about was how we had literally taken everything from this family in a matter of moments as I kept the horse trotting down the road.


Ask students to turn and talk and discuss with a neighbor what scene and character perspective from their independent reading book they'd like to write about.


Give students independent writing time to select a scene from their independent reading book or literature study book and re-write that scene from a different character's perspective.


Share by having students read their writing to a neighbor or have several students share with the full class.

*This lesson was very fun.  Students came up with such interesting perspectives and really did quality writing.  The lesson combined reading and writing together because in order to be able to write the scene from a different perspective, students had to have a deep understanding of the characters and events in the book.  Each day in our 90 minute Language Arts block, we do a reading minilesson during Reader's Workshop and a writing minilesson during Writer's Workshop.  If you're interested in learning more about the structure of these minilessons check out my freebies below.  Also, be on the look out for more posts on my blog with free minilesson examples to try out in your own middle school language arts classroom.  

Enjoy your weekend, everyone! :)



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