Teaching point of view is fun! There are so many creative ways to teach students how to recognize the three types. Follow these tips for your point of view lessons.

What is point of view?

There are three types of point of view: first person, second person, and third person perspective.

Essentially, point of view is the term used to describe how the reader is presented the materials of the story. A simple question to ask to determine this is “who is telling the story?” or “who is the speaker/narrator?”

Characteristics of First person point of view:

  • this is generally a character within the story

  • this character may be a major or minor character who witnesses and tells the events of the story

  • the reader can recognize the first person point of view because it is written using the first person pronouns “I” or “We”

  • even though this narrator may speak with authority, the narrator has limited knowledge. The reader may know the speaker’s thoughts and “sees” events through the narrator’s eyes, the reader’s knowledge is limited

Examples of short stories with this point of view:

  • “The Tell-tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe

Characteristics of second person point of view

  • this point of view isn’t commonly used in literature

  • the reader can recognize second person point of view because it is written using the second person pronouns “you” or “yours”

  • this point of view is used in “choose your own adventure” texts and “how to” instructions

Examples of texts with this point of view:

  • any choose your own adventure book
  • “how to” books

Characteristics of third person point of view

  • the reader can recognize this because it is written using third person pronouns “he” “she” “it” “they” and character’s names

  • the narrator isn’t a character in the story but is more of an outside reporter of events

Three kinds of third person point of view:

1.third person omniscient point of view. The narrator sees all and knows all. The story isn’t being told from any one character’s point of view. The narrator isn’t a character in the story.

Examples of this point of view can be found in fairy tales and myths.

2. third person limited point of view. The narrator tells the story from the point of view of one character. The narrator is limited because they don’t know all the characters’ thought or actions. A limited point of view usually focuses on one character.

Examples of a short story with this point of view:

  • “All Summer in a Day” by Ray Bradbury

3. third person objective point of view. The narrator reports the story without sharing the characters thoughts or feelings. This point of view is almost like a news story stating the events of the plot.

Examples of a short story with this point of view:

  • “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson
view point, bench, sea

Identifying Point of View improves reading comprehension.

Why is it important to be able to identify a speaker’s point of view?

Authors choose consciously what viewpoint they will use when crafting a text. The author may even choose to have different points of view for multiple characters in different chapters.

It’s important for students to understand and identify different points of view because it will help them analyze characters, themes, conflict, and other literary elements.

Additionally, by understanding point of view, students practice critical thinking skills — by asking why is this point of view important? How is the text different because it’s told from this point of view.

Students will have a deeper understanding of texts when they consider the point of view from which it is being told.

Finally, identifying the author’s point of view helps the reader relate to the story. When students interact with the text, their comprehension improves — along with their enjoyment of the story.

How to teach point of view

Try this simple but fun activity.

Provide students with a pair of binoculars (an empty paper towel tube) or a view finder (basically a small frame).

Project a picture or use a photo or other image. For example, this painting by Alex Grimmer.

Use this image to teach different points of view

Start by having students look carefully at the painting. What do they notice? What is happening? Start by having them write a short narrative of the piece. It may be helpful to tell them that the title is “The Marketplace.”

Next, ask students to choose a person in the painting. They can isolate the character by using the “binocular.” Write a short dialogue or what a person is thinking from the first person point of view.

For example, can you tell which main character, this is:

  • “I’m exhausted. My back is killing me from pushing this barrel around the market all afternoon and no one wants to buy it. I don’t know why my lucky red hat didn’t help me today. I know one thing, I’m putting two wheels on this cart for next week. It will be easier to push!”

Students can read their dialogue to a partner or the class and let classmates guess whose correct point of view it is.

Keep going!

Students can then practice second person point of view by describing a small section of the painting.

  • For example: You are looking at a man pushing a small wooden cart that contains a barrel.

Finally, have students do the same thing from the first and third person point of view. They can practice all three types.

There are so many painting you can use, so you can reteach this activity or even use it as a warm up or creative writing lesson. This one came from The National Gallery of Art.

If you love this activity, you’ll love these ten free slides you can use for practice point of view.

Once students grasp this

Point of view isn’t a “one and done” activity. Students can apply this skill to nearly any text they read.

Encourage students to ask “Who is talking?” whether they’re reading a poem, news article, or novel. This can often open up a new way for them to engage with the text.

More ideas for teaching point of view

  • provide students with mentor texts for each type. This doesn’t need to be an entire text, but a few paragraphs. Have students put these in their resource books for reference.

  • use picture books. This is a quick way to allow students to explore point of view. Use them for a survey or point of view scavenger hunt.

  • look at fiction and nonfiction texts. Consider using a speech like Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream.”

  • don’t forget that you can include poetry. Poems have a point of view as well!

  • create an anchor chart so students have an easy reference

  • as you are teaching new texts, continue to ask students what the point of view is and how they know

  • discuss how point of view differs from opinion

binoculars, lenses, vision

Try these POV activities.

Point of view classroom activities

Once students are able to identify POV, there are many fun and creative activities that will help them practice understanding it.

  • rewrite a text from an alternative POV

  • write a description of an event (birthday party, for example) from different points of view

  • create a readers theater or role play using different POV

  • draw a scene or setting from different points of view. This can be as simple as the scene of your classroom

You can find digital slides to help you teach point of view to your students here.

How does point of view help reading comprehension?

In order for students to understand point of view, they’ll need to these reading comprehension skills:

  • identifying the primary elements of the plot

  • understand the main characters

  • identify the conflict

  • be able to read dialogue between characters

  • infer meaning

  • paying attention to details

Analyzing point of view follows naturally as you discuss a text. After determining, what is happening, and who is involved, you can ask “who is telling the story and why is this important to know?”

Using nonfiction texts to teach point of view

Teaching point of view with nonfiction texts is an important critical thinking exercise.

Most nonfiction texts are written in the third person point of view. But, depending on the text, the writer may have included opinions or bias that aren’t readily visible.

Consider using a news article, a commercial, and a “how to” text. Create a Venn diagram to look at how point of view differ between nonfiction texts.

Is the narrator reliable?

It’s helpful to ask the students if the narrator is reliable or not. Students may find this question puzzling if they haven’t had much experience with an unreliable narrator.

Questions like: How do you know the narrator is telling the truth? What part of the story might the narrator be missing? Is there a reason why the narrator is telling the truth — or not? Does the narrator have an agenda?

Questioning the reliability of a narrator helps build critical thinking skills as well.

Teaching point of view can be lots of fun! Give some of these ideas a try!

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