Helping students to translate academese to everyday-human language is often one of the foundational goals of our classes. Yet, there never seem to be a lot of strategies for higher education teachers to target that particular need.
Here’s where point-of-view responses can help.
What is it?
The point-of-view strategy allows students to think like a “character” or “role” in the text you are studying, and then they respond as that character/in that role to a set of questions based on the topic and text you are reading.
How can I do this?
First, model this strategy for students. To do this, identify a specific character or role from the topic of study at the moment. You then show how you would respond to questions as that person/character or in that role. Here’s an example:
Text: Academic article about how journalists’ agenda setting.
Activity: Draw out how a journalist would read this text.
Ask questions about the text that a journalist would, and identify questions on which a journalist may need more clarification. Lastly, show places a journalist might pull from the article to support their work. It could be essential to show students what gets discarded in this process.
Think about what additional knowledge you need to know to read this article. Are there certain words that stand out? Are there things that you just don’t think matter? How do you arrive at those conclusions? What prior information about journalists helped you to step in their shoes to read this article?
It is important to note that how you respond may differ from how the text you are studying is written. This is where we can help students understand the importance of perspective and language.
Next, choose a role/character you want students to respond to a different text. Give the students their role and then have them read the text from that perspective. They should respond to the text based on the readings but do so from the lens of the role/character. It may help to provide guiding questions you want them to answer, but if they are more advanced students that may not be something you want to do. Here’s an example of some questions:
- How would your role interpret this text?
- What questions would your role ask of the text?
- What takeaways would your role have from the text?
- What clarifications would your need to understand the text?
You want students to write in the first person and elaborate beyond the text because their perspective introduces new avenues to explore.
Now, have students pick an audience and rewrite a portion of the text for that audience—for example, suburban moms. Students need to think about how to turn the text about journalists’ agenda-setting into an engaging text that targets the needs and knowledge of suburban moms.
Conclude the activity by having students reflect on the experience.
Why should I try this?
- Students learn how to translate between text and audience, which then allows for deeper reflection on language use, genres, and cultural awareness.
- Students develop more vital DEI awareness by becoming more sensitive to different perspectives of ideas or events.
- Students learn to elaborate on how someone could or would understand an event, thus allowing students to explain how different people may arrive at different conclusions.
Can I extend this activity or are there different ways to do it?
You can certainly take this in different directions after introducing and using it once. Here are three options for extension:
- Have students apply different perspectives to the exact text.
- Put students in groups and assign different perspectives to each student for the exact text. Have them compare and contrast their responses and consider the importance of issues to how different cultural, economic, political, and social structures may respond to the text. This also allows students to think about code-switching and consider genre responses.
- Have students create interview questions and pose them to another student in class responsible for being a different role/character/perspective. Allow students to discuss how developing questions without considering audiences may cause difficulty in understanding the material. This also allows students to think about how a difficult text may cause misunderstandings between two people, especially regarding interpretation.