Monday, February 22, 2016

First Person Narrative vs. Third Person Narrative

My students and I have been having great discussions around point of view. It began as an assignment in my college course. I had to write a story in first person. I told them I was struggling with it, the idea I had was in third person. This led to students examining the books they were reading to see what point of view they were written in and cumulated in the students writing their own fiction stories beside me, in first person, of course.

This week my own college course has moved on, we are now studying third person. Today I was reading my assigned text before school. It indicated that children have a preference for texts written in third person because, according to the book, it is "too difficult for a child to put themselves in the place of the main character" as first person would ask them to do. This, of course, made me pause. Kids are pretty imaginative, would they really struggle with this? And what did my fifth graders prefer? I had to find out. 

During independent work time today I moved around to survey the kids. I asked two questions - what point of view was their favorite text in and what point of view did they prefer reading on a regular basis. Each class (70 kids in total) said they preferred first person. Two of the three classes, however, had more favorite books written in third versus first. Interesting. They had many reasons. By and large they preferred first because they felt closer to the character. 

In our discussion they came up with a few questions I didn't know how to answer. They wondered what point of view authors preferred writing in and was there a reason behind it? Did book ideas come to authors with a point of view in mind or did authors play around with the idea and figure out what point of view worked best? What, they wondered, made authors write in first versus third, or vice versa? If anyone has any ideas to answer the kids, I'd love to pass your thoughts on.

How about you? Do you have a preference for what you read? For me, I am still marveling over Rebecca Stead's Goodbye Stranger - three storylines, three different points of view. Unreal! I can't wait to continue this conversation with my students tomorrow. I'm sure they will teach me something new.