Encouraging students to consider multiple perspectives to a text is a challenge I enjoy and find quite rewarding. It’s frankly exciting to see students’ understanding of a text evolve into something far more nuanced than that with which they began.
I have found that asking students to create a dialogue between themselves and one of the characters or the narrator of a text is a terrific way to invite them into this type of learning. As we read through a text, I ask students to pay attention to moments when characters confuse them, interest them, upset them, or otherwise catch their attention. We keep track of those moments — sometimes as a class, sometimes in individual learning journals — as we progress through the story.
After we’ve finished reading, I ask students to choose one character who has caught their attention most often. Their next task is to develop a dialogue with that character. They start with a series of questions that they would like the character to answer, and then go about trying to answer them from the perspective of the character. The final product is a written dialogue, usually in the form of a script, although sometimes in the form of a letter or email exchange.
What I appreciate about this format is that it encourages students to explore a text, to wonder, to investigate without having a pre-fabricated answer in the form of a thesis. Students tend to finish the exercise more positively than they do that of writing a five-paragraph essay, which is always important for me. (I want to have students leaving my classroom excited about reading, not discouraged by it.)
I’d wager, too, that students have done at least as much hard thinking in the process of creating this dialogue as they have in defining a thesis and mustering evidence to support it.
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