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Clarify Purpose versus Point of View versus Perspective
February 06, 2015
FAQ: How do you teach purpose, point of view, and perspective?
ANSWER: Students often confuse three “P” words—purpose, point of view, and perspective. This misunderstanding is perpetuated when assessment questions and curriculum resources interchange these terms. To combat this problem, define each of the words explicitly for your students.
The author’s purpose is why he wrote what he wrote. To help students understand this concept, explain that there are three common purposes or reasons authors write. The three reasons are easily remembered with the acronym P.I.E.
P—Authors write to persuade.
I—Authors write to inform.
E—Authors write to entertain.
Point of View
If the author’s purpose is the why behind the writing, the point of view is the who. Point of view is all about who is telling or sharing the details. In informational text, it’s the author telling the details. However, determining the point of view gets trickier in literature.
Although the author literally wrote the words, it’s necessary to determine which character is rolling out the details. For example:
In The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs, the author is Jon Scieszka, but the book is written from the point of view of the wolf. In that example, one character tells the entire story. There’s one point of view.
Many chapter books have multiple points of view. In Wonder, there are eight different parts—with a different character telling each part. Each change of character represents a change in point of view. Auggie tells part of the story. Jack tells part of the story. Summer, Via, and several other characters also offer their own unique points of view.
Students need to understand that purpose is why the author is writing. Whereas point of view is who is telling or sharing the details. Once students understand point of view in literature and can identify who is telling different parts of the story, it’s time to introduce perspective.
Perspective is all about how a character feels in the story. Perspective requires inferring. Students have to look at a character’s actions, reactions, and dialogue to collect clues. Students have to determine how the character feels in a certain situation or how the character feels about the conflict in the story.
Perspective is relevant beyond just characters in literature; it also applies to informational text. It’s important to consider the author’s perspective on a topic or an issue. We have to know not only why the author wrote something (his purpose), but we also have to know how the author feels about the issue (perspective). Is the author for or against it? Is the issue a good thing or a bad thing?
Two great resources to utilize are the Split History and Perspectives Flip Books. Both series are set up the same way. The front half of the book reveals one perspective on an issue. And the back half of the book reveals arguments for the opposition.
Once students understand perspectives in informational text, be sure you are building text sets that include multiple texts on the same topics/concepts so students can practice discerning different perspectives.