Two-Voice Poems: An alternative method to teaching point of view

Sometimes students just do not get “it.”

Everyone knows what “it” involves. It is the content which a teacher wants a student to know when the bell rings, but it looks different in every class and possibly to every teacher as well. One struggle my students often (unfortunately) inflict upon me is needing a different way to explain or approach a specific content standard. In this case, the point of view standard shown below.

RL.8.6:  Analyze how differences in the points of view of the characters and the audience or reader (e.g., created through the use of dramatic irony) create such effects as suspense or humor.

 My colleagues and I jousted on breakdown of this standard back and forth over quite sometime. Some viewed it as looking at their perspective and feelings while other looked at whether a text was written in first, second, or third point of view (POV). Both components are necessary in understanding the standard, but it takes more thought than ever to have a student fully understand the standard and display mastery of the concept.

Prior to going in-depth with RL.8.6, students must understand the basics of first and third person POV because those are the two most common in the middle grades.  One strategy in doing so involves using two-poem voices which looks at one common subject. One of the greatest models, shown below, is one I use to open up my class session because it’s engaging to students.

I ask students to watch and tell me what they notice about the performance. It begins a conversation where students can view two different voices and perspectives on the same topic. In addition, group discussions are hopefully going to discover that participants are repeating the same lines at certain moments which shows a commonality among their perspectives.

Afterwards, students can read examples like the “The Lunch Room” and take a deeper look into the structure of the poem. Honestly, some students cannot even understand how to read the poem, but most do. This is another excellent opportunity to breakdown the passion behind each character’s voice as well as the importance of punctuation.



Giving the example shown above, the perspectives (or voices) are stating the same phrase, but it has a different punctuation. The one of the left is shown with quote which is what the character’s actual dialogue. The same phrase on the left does not show quotation marks and is meant to be interpreted as the voice’s internal thoughts. Also, the same right phrase has question marks which shows the voice is displaying her confusion because she is not the popular voice that is always invited to sit with the popular crowd.

At the conclusion of breaking down the format — this can be done as long as its deemed necessary by the teacher — students can easily practice writing two-voice poems and writing them as well.

Two-Voice Poem

Two-poem voices allows two contrasting characters to look at one similar topic.


Alternative Form of Assessment

There is nothing better as a language arts teacher when you can share one of your success stories and shows colleagues how it can be used in their classroom. One example of utilizing two-voice poems as an alternative form of an assessment comes in the social studies content. Whether its focusing on current events or a specific theme in history, there are often contrasting view on one single topic. When writing the poem, students can be directed to cite certain amounts of textual evidence from both perspectives to display the contrasting perspective towards the topic (i.e., Ferguson Trial, Civil War, Sudan’s Civil War, etc.).


About briancookeducator

Husband, Daddy, teacher, #Mountaineer, coach, and aspiring school leader | Thoughts are my own.
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One Response to Two-Voice Poems: An alternative method to teaching point of view

  1. Pingback: 2015 in review | Classroom and Leadership Reflections

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