reading and writing

This activity includes all four language skills and will help ELL students understand and express that details and described events are shaped by the perspective of the writer.

It can also be a lot of fun, if you and your class enjoy a bit of drama!

This plan is written for a fifth grade class and supports Common Core English Language Arts Standard for RI (Reading Informational Text) 5.6: Analyze multiple accounts of the same event or topic, noting important similarities and differences in the point of view they represent. The plan outlined below can be adapted to other age groups by using a different reading passage and assigning different roles.

First, choose an interesting reading passage at the students’ level. (The passage below is extracted from a free iPad app for 5th grade reading comprehension called Smart Alec 5.)

Then, follow these steps that are designed to help the ELL students understand the text and the issues of differing viewpoints.

  1. Lead the students through some prediction. What is the picture? What do you know from the title? What are the drawings on the right? What do you know will be in this reading? What do you think will be in this reading. What do you want to learn from this reading? Chart the know/think/learn predictions for all to see.
  2. Pre-teach key vocabulary that you have determined will be necessary to an understanding of the reading.
  3. Read the passage to the students. If appropriate in your classroom, have students read orally in small groups.
  4. Do comprehension checks so students demonstrate their understanding of the passage.
  5. In small groups, have students discuss the accuracy of the predictions they made in the know/think/learn activity.
  6. Do an all-group summary of the predictions.
  7. Introduce the idea of reading from different perspectives. “Depending on the purpose, you will see different things in the reading. If we are different people, we will write this history differently.”
  8. Demonstrate. Retell the story as if you were George Washington. Be dramatic and presidential!
  9. Assign the following roles: James Hoban (the architect), an architect who lost the contest, a European craftsman, an African-American slave, John Adams, Mrs. Adams, and a neighbor. (If you use the entire reading, you can imagine other roles as well.)
  10. Ask the students to read the passage again silently and think about the information from the viewpoint of their assigned role.
  11. In groups (one of each role in the group), have students retell the story from their perspective.
  12. Ask for volunteers to tell the story from their perspective. Provide props if possible.
  13. Have students write this history of building the White House from the perspective of their assigned role. Discuss the importance of choosing facts and words depending upon the point of view they are expressing.
  14. Make a class book — each chapter is written from the perspective of the assigned role.

These activities will help students appreciate that readings need to be analyzed in part by looking at the author’s point of view. These activities will also give practice in presenting different points of view of the same events.

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Nancy Butler

Founder of The School of Teaching ESL at The School of Teaching ESL
"I expect all of the teacher educators at the School of TESL to model our teaching philosophy. I want our teacher education classrooms to represent much of what our students' ESL classrooms will be."