Playing with person

In this exercise, students make changes to pronouns in texts, and evaluate the effects of those changes.

Goals

Lesson Plan

The teacher explains that today, we will make changes to existing texts by changing the personal pronouns in those texts.

Writers often use particular perspectives in their work to create different effects, so while a third person narration allows a writer to describe the actions of someone else and perhaps convey a sense of their surroundings in more detail, a first person narration can often be more involved and allow a reader to see through the eyes of the narrator.

Pronouns can be used to address others directly:

to create a sense of shared identity:

and to create third person narration:

In the slides in the Activity page in the right hand menu, students can view a series of texts that use pronouns. Ask the students to transform texts from one perspective to another, thinking about how the pronouns need to be changed to reflect this, but more importantly, how changing the pronouns changes the way the reader might interpret the writing.

Slide 1 is an example of a first person monologue. What does the first person narration allow this monologue to do that wouldn’t be as easy in a third person narration? Now, ask students to try writing extract 1 as a third person narrative. What changes do they make in the new version and what differences appear in the story?

Slide 2 is an example of a third person narrative from a short story. Try rewriting this text as a first person monologue. Then continue the story, again using a first person monologue. What is the effect of choosing first person?

It’s not just literary texts that make use of different narrative perspectives. Many non-fiction texts do this too, and we can see that many advertisements use the technique effectively. Look at slide 3 and see what you make of the switch from third person into first person and what this adds to the message. Then try writing a first person account from the perspective of Kayleigh, the girl in the charity advertisement.

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Playing with person: Activity

I’m sitting here looking out of the window. Nothing’s happening; it never does. I sit here every day for hours on end, just looking. Looking for what? I don’t know. They never told me what I should be looking for. And I’ve never found out.

I once thought I’d found something, but I couldn’t be sure. It might just have been a trick of the light. How was I to tell?

It was bitterly cold and Susannah felt the chill eating into her bones. She jammed her hands deeper into her pockets and tried to soak some more warmth out of the depths of her coat.

The car would have to come by soon, surely. The message had said ten minutes past eleven exactly but she'd been here for a good five minutes now and it hadn't gone by. She tested the rifle's mechanism one more time and trained the sight on the point in the road where the Minister's car would pass. She thought she could hear the hum of a distant engine getting steadily louder.

Just keep watching. Just keep waiting, she thought to herself as her finger closed around the trigger.

For twelve years, Kayleigh has been living with uncertainty.

Her mum is mentally ill and can't look after herself, let alone Kayleigh or her two little brothers. Her dad is struggling to cope with the demands of a job and a family that seems out of control

What chance have any of them got?

Kayleigh's support worker doesn't see it quite like this:

I've been working with Kayleigh and her family for just under six months and I can already see really positive changes in her life. I've seen her start attending school again and make real progress with her reading and writing. She's coming out of her shell more too and, for me, that's something that's priceless.

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SKIP