Discussing a story from different perspectives

Little children need to learn that there is usually more than one way to view a situation.  This includes viewing a reading passage from different perspectives.  How can you teach children to look at situations from various perspectives?

One way is by creating “hats,” one for each important character in a story.

Suppose, for example, you have read kindergarteners the story of Cinderella.  You could separate students into groups of four, and give each student a crown-like band to wear on top of the head.  The bands could be made from construction paper in four different colors.  The pink band could go on “Cinderella’s” head; the gold band on the “fairy godmother’s” head; the black band on the “stepmother’s” head; and the blue band on the “prince’s” head.

Ahead of time you have prepared a set of questions to ask, such as

  • At the beginning of the story, is this person happy or not happy? Why?
  • Why is the ball important to this person?
  • How does this person help or stop Cinderella from going to the ball?
  • At the end of the story is this person happy or not happy? Why?

By calling on some students wearing different hats for each question, students will learn that not all the characters think the same way about the events in the Cinderella story.

This same “hat” strategy can be used to discuss unrelated topics such as precipitation (rain, hail, snow); phases of the moon (full moon, half moon, quarter moon, new moon); and community jobs (police officer, fire fighter, teacher, grocery store owner).  By reading first about precipitation or the moon or community workers, children have a basic understanding.  Creating questions which force students to think about the ideas from various perspectives encourages young students to learn there are many different ways to understand the same circumstances.

I have spoken to many adults who say that as children, learning that not everyone did things the same way as their family did things came as a surprise.  And that not everyone thought the same way as their parents came as an even bigger surprise.

The “hats” strategy can be used not only to better understand literature, but also to understand the world around young children.

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