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Lesson Plan

Analyzing First-Person Narration in Sharon Draper’s Out of My Mind

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Analyzing First-Person Narration in Sharon Draper’s Out of My Mind

Grades 5 – 8
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Eight 50-minute Sessions (depending on number of small group meetings)
Lesson Author

Scott Filkins

Scott Filkins

Champaign, Illinois

Publisher

National Council of Teachers of English

 

Overview

Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice

 

OVERVIEW

As part of their study of Sharon Draper’s Out of My Mind, students analyze the ways in which Draper creates the first-person narrator of Melody and the effects these choices have on the story and the reader.  Melody has cerebral palsy; instead of asking students to research about the condition before reading, this lesson invites students to learn about it through the narrator herself in the context of her story. Students meet to discuss the narrator at several pre-determined discussion points and eventually write a brief analysis of the narration.  This lesson does not intend to represent a complete approach to learning about Out of My Mind, but rather focuses on one important aspect that can supplement other activities and approaches.

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FEATURED RESOURCES

Analyzing First-Person Narration in Out of My Mind Handout:  This graphic organizer is divided by thematic sections from the book and supports students' selection of textual evidence and analysis of the first-person narrator.

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FROM THEORY TO PRACTICE

Discussing the complex appeal of first-person narrators, Carol Jago (2004) writes that “readers know they are hearing only the narrator’s side of the matter, and that the account is likely to be biased and unreliable. They can’t witness anything the narrator chooses not to tell us. Yet instead of detracting from the power of the story, these limitations draw readers deeply into the narrator’s world” (Jago, p. 54).  She goes on to explain that sometimes teachers are motivated to provide extensive background knowledge to compensate for the limitations a narrator brings to a story, but contends that “the solution to students’ lack of background knowledge isn’t more field trips. The kind of travel that students...need is textual. As young readers view the world through points of view seemingly foreign to their own, the boundaries of their world expand” (p. 54-55).

Smith & Wilhelm (2010) offer students tools that help to expand those boundaries while also analyzing point of view, rather than accepting it completely at face value.   This lesson will make use of several of their scales that provide continua on which a narrator may lie, including

  • equal to author/separated from author
  • omniscient/humanly limited
  • completely reliable/totally unreliable
  • respect for audience/contempt for audience
  • clear attitude/hidden attitude  

Combining Jago’s (2004) appreciative stance of using the narrator as a window into an unfamiliar life world and Smith & Wilhelm’s (2010) layered critical stance of narrator as construction of an author offers students a chance to learn from Melody’s story and appreciate Draper’s craft in constructing her.

Jago, C. (2004). “Broadening students’ point of view one first-person narrator at a time.” Voices from the Middle. 12(1): 54-55.

 

Smith, M. W., and Wilhelm, J. (2010). Fresh takes on teaching literary elements: How to teach what really matters about character, setting, point of view, and theme. New York: Scholastic & Urbana, IL: NCTE.

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