I’m back to my series on the Common Core Standards. This time focused on the fourth grade literacy standard 4.6, which reads as follows:
Compare and contrast the points of view from which different stories are narrated, including the difference between first and third person narrations.
First of all, this is one of those standards that makes me look at common core haters and shake my head in wonder. I mean seriously, why wouldn’t you want kids to know about first and third person points of view? And why not put it in a specific place, like fourth grade, so that we can be assured that every student gets it?
Anyway, this is a fun one to teach. Fourth graders generally love to read and tell stories, and my students are always fascinated by the differences between personal narratives and realistic fiction. When I explain the difference between first and third person points of view, it’s like a light clicks on and they suddenly have a name for something they’ve always noticed.
Of course, there’s always a kid in the front who asks, “What about second person?” Second person, I explain, is when the reader is the real subject of the text. There are some stories written in second person, but they’re rare. They include the “Choose Your Own Adventure” series. There’s also my personal favorite, a non-fiction book called “The Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook.” But the most common form of second-person text is written directions. The next time you get a math worksheet, I warn, you’ll be reading something in the second person point of view.
But the main focus of this standard is the difference between first and third person. And it’s pretty easy to figure out; first person texts use the word “I” a lot and the narrator is an actual character in the story; usually the main character. Third person is when the author tells the story about other characters and is not involved in the story.
Obviously the best way to get kids to understand the distinction is with examples. Fortunately, our reading adoption (Benchmarks Literacy) has a genre study included in each of the ten, three-week units. And even more fortunately, biographies come first, personal narratives come second and realistic fiction comes third. So my students start off the year with great examples of books from the two main genres.
I like to tie my writing program to the genre study, which is another way to home in on this standard. I prefer to have them write autobiographies; however, since writing a biography well takes a considerable amount of research. It also allows me one more avenue to point out the difference between first and third person narratives.
Standard 4.6? I think I’m good to go!