Common Core Standards: ELA
Like word choice, the point of view from which a text is told and its purpose both affect the content and style of a text. Point of view and purpose shape choices like what is told, what is left out, what order events unfold and, especially in the case of poetry, the shape of the words and lines on the page. Understanding point of view and purpose helps readers reveal bias in a text and predict what information is missing, if any - a key skill in dismantling advertising, for example.
There are some loaded terms in this short sentence, so in the words of DJ Lance Rock, “Let’s break it down” (feel free to dance as you read this):
- Point of View (POV): In non-fiction, this may be the author’s perspective; in literature, this refers to the narrator or speaker. Students must be able to identify the point of view and comment on its effectiveness. They also need to analyze how the point of view affects the content of the text. How would the story be different if told by someone else?
- Purpose: Students are commonly taught that the purpose of the text is “to inform” or “to entertain” or “to persuade.” These options do work as a quick description, but truly the purpose goes beyond “to inform,” and should include a bit of the message. For example, “to inform readers that polyester suits are, in fact, back in style.” To understand the author’s purpose is to understand his choices and possible biases. Maybe his perspective is skewed by his undying love for polyester.
- Content: The insides of the sandwich. The story’s…everything. Students are asked how POV and purpose can shape this, and that’s a pretty hefty weight to carry. The best way to approach this task is to consider how the text would read if it was written differently. Would the plot be presented the same way if it wasn’t in first person or if a different character was the narrator? Do we understand something through the third person narration that we otherwise would not? For non-fiction texts: How would this argument be presented differently if written by someone with a different perspective or set of beliefs? What might change about the text if the purpose was to persuade rather than inform?
- Style: This doesn’t refer to your retro outfit (so done, move on), but the way an author uses word choice, syntax, literary devices, and structure. Style gets at some of the more elusive elements of a text, like voice and tone. Just as with content, the point of view and purpose will affect the author’s stylistic choices, and students need to be able to discuss how and why. You can help them analyze style with a similar set of questions: How would the author’s word choice or syntax change if the text was from a different point of view? How might the author structure the text differently if the purpose was to persuade? What words reveal the author’s perspective on this subject?
Take Me Away
Putting these things together may make your students want to run for cover, but keep in mind this is no small task; you shouldn’t expect them to understand the full implications of point of view until the end of a text. Reading to this extent can be tedious. As the teacher, you’ll need to help students get their heads in the game and encourage them to keep shooting for the goal.
Quiz QuestionsHere's an example of a quiz that could be used to test this standard.
Read, Answer, Repeat: