Multiple Perspectives: Building Critical Thinking Skills

4 - 5
Lesson Plan Type
Estimated Time
Eight–nine 30–40-minute sessions
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This lesson develops students' critical thinking skills through reading and interacting with multiple-perspectives texts. Students analyze selected texts, using metacognitive strategies such as visualizing, synthesizing, and making connections, to learn about multiple points of view. By studying Doreen Cronin's Diary of a Spider/Worm/Fly books, students develop a model for an original diary based on an animal of their choosing. Students conduct online research on their chosen animal and use the information gathered to create several diary entries from the perspective of that animal. Students' completed diaries are shared with the class and the larger school community.

Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice

  • As a result of state standards that require students to engage in critical and analytical thinking related to texts, teachers have been turning toward the notion of critical literacy to address such requirements. Though it is an educational buzz word, there is no clear definition of critical literacy, which creates difficulties for teachers who attempt to incorporate deep, critical thinking into their instruction but do not get much guidance from state standards as to how to design instruction.

  • Clarke and Whitney provide a three-part framework for incorporating critical literacy into the classroom: (1) Students start by digging beyond the surface of a text, deconstructing it, and then analyzing and interrogating the layers of meaning; (2) students take what they have learned from analyzing the text to reconstruct it and create new ways of thinking; and (3) by taking what they have learned from deconstructing and reconstructing the text, the students can connect to the larger world and even take social action.

  • Multiple-perspective books, which intentionally emphasize different viewpoints, help students develop critical thinking skills and learn how to see beyond their own lives to the world outside. Such books, coupled with Clarke and Whitney’s framework, help students to understand, visualize, and empathize with someone else’s struggles.

Common Core Standards

This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.

State Standards

This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.

NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts

  • 1. Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.
  • 3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
  • 4. Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
  • 5. Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.
  • 7. Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems. They gather, evaluate, and synthesize data from a variety of sources (e.g., print and nonprint texts, artifacts, people) to communicate their discoveries in ways that suit their purpose and audience.
  • 8. Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.
  • 11. Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.
  • 12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).

Materials and Technology

  • Computers with Internet access (one computer per student, if possible)
  • Pencils, crayons, markers, colored pencils, erasers
  • Construction paper for cover of diary (one piece for each student or student pair)
  • Seven Blind Mice by Ed Young (Philomel, 1992)
  • Fish Is Fish by Leo Lionni (Random House, 1998)
  • Diary of a Worm by Doreen Cronin (HarperCollins, 2003)
  • Diary of a Spider by Doreen Cronin (HarperCollins, 2005)
  • Diary of a Fly by Doreen Cronin (HarperCollins, 2007)
  • Assorted Zoobooks or Ranger Rick magazines
  • Baseball caps labeled Fish and Frog (optional)



  1. Print out several copies of the Red-Eyed Tree Frog photograph (enough for a small group of students to share) and cut each photograph into several pieces.

  2. Make one copy for each student of Sketch to Stretch, Can I See Different Perspectives?, Fish Is Fish Script, Fish Is Fish Venn Diagram, Doreen Cronin as Our Mentor, Diary Planning Sheet, Research Notes, and Self-Assessment: What Did I Learn?

  3. Make three copies for each student of the Partnership Reflection Form.

  4. Make five copies for each student of the Diary Entry Template.

  5. Bookmark Websites for Research on classroom computers or bookmark each of the websites on the list.

  6. Print one copy each of the Teacher Rubric: Student Diary Entries, Teacher Rating Form: Sketch to Stretch and Teacher Rubric: Fish Is Fish.

  7. Obtain one copy of Seven Blind Mice by Ed Young and practice reading aloud.

  8. Obtain one copy of Fish Is Fish by Leo Lionni for teacher reference.

  9. Obtain multiple copies of Diary of a Worm, Diary of a Spider, and Diary of a Fly by Doreen Cronin.

  10. Obtain an assortment of Zoobooks and or Ranger Rick magazines for initial research.

  11. Reserve time in the computer lab for Session 5, if necessary.

  12. Familiarize yourself with all of the Websites for Research so you can assist students in navigating and searching these sites.

  13. If desired, have students bring in baseball caps prior to Session 3 and label each cap with either Fish or Frog. Each student needs a baseball cap, and because students will be working in partners, one student will receive the “Fish” label and the other student will receive the “Frog” label.

Student Objectives

Students will

  • Develop a basic understanding of narrative perspective

  • Become aware of the presence—and the value—of including different voices in a text; and understand how presenting an issue from various vantage points adds multiple layers of meaning

  • Practice research skills by using both print and online sources

  • Organize and synthesize facts from research

  • Use critical literacy skills to view life from the perspective of a selected animal

  • Practice writing factual information from a specific point of view, in a diary format

  • Develop teamwork skills through working with a partner and sharing the responsibilities of research, planning, writing, and creating the final diary from the chosen animal’s perspective

Session 1: An Introduction to Multiple Perspectives

  1. To begin the exploration of perspective, explain to students that you are going to give them a small piece of a larger picture, which has been cut into pieces.

  2. Model how to create a picture based on a small part of the photograph.

  3. Organize students into small groups of 3–4 students. After groups have been formed, distribute pieces of the photograph to the members of each group. Have students draw what they think the rest of the photo might look like, without looking at the other pieces. (Remind them to focus on their part only.)

  4. Have the members of each group share their illustrations with one another. Engage students in discussion about the similarities and differences of their illustrations. Ask them to predict what the entire picture might be.

  5. Assemble all of the pieces of the picture to reveal the entire image.

  6. After completing the photograph activity, introduce the concept of perspective. Explain that perspective is point of view: how someone sees a situation, their feelings about a situation, their opinions of a situation, and the like. Make connections and provide examples, such as the following:

    • Connect to photograph activity, where each student formed a different idea of the original photograph because each was seeing it from a different perspective.

    • Point out that there are always at least two sides to every story, which is why people go to court and why teachers ask each student involved in a disagreement to tell his or her side of a story.

  7. Relate the idea of perspective to reading: Explain to students that when we read, we see the story from the perspective of the narrator, such as  whoever is telling the story at a particular point. Sometimes the narrator is a character in the story. Some stories have more than one narrator, so we get different perspectives on the story.

    • Explain that we come to understand a character’s perspective by creating mental images.

    • When we pay attention to a character’s perspective (or all of the characters’ perspectives), we are engaging in critical thinking, and this kind of thinking helps us be better readers.

  8. Sum up the explanation of perspective with the analogy of “walking in someone else’s shoes.” In the case of reading, you are taking off your own shoes and putting on the narrator’s shoes to walk through the story.

Session 2: <em>Seven Blind Mice</em>

  1. Introduce the book Seven Blind Mice by telling students that it shows the perspective of seven different characters. Explain that they will first take apart (deconstruct) the story and sketch it from each character’s perspective and then put together all of their images and see if they can get an idea of the entire picture.

  2. Distribute a copy of the Sketch to Stretch sheet to each student and explain that each block is to be used to depict the perspective of one of the mice in the story.

  3. Activate students’ schema by having them briefly discuss how a mouse’s perspective is different from a human’s. Before reading, have students pretend to take off their shoes and imagine that they are putting on a mouse’s shoes.

  4. Read aloud Seven Blind Mice. Stop after each mouse’s description of the object (pillar, snake, spear, cliff, fan, rope) and have students complete a box on their Sketch to Stretch sheet.

  5. Before reading the ending of the book, have the students try to put together the images from the different perspectives to infer what the entire picture might be. After this discussion, finish the book.

  6. To close the lesson, have the students complete the self-assessment form Can I See Different Perspectives?

Session 3: Walking in a Character’s Shoes

  1. Introduce the book Fish Is Fish and ask students to predict what the book might be about. Also encourage them to ask questions about the book and think about what kinds of pictures they might see in the book. Encourage students to explain their thoughts as they discuss.

  2. Review the idea of perspective and connect it to Fish Is Fish. Ask students whose perspective they think Fish Is Fish will be told from and why. Then explain to the students that Fish Is Fish is told from the very different perspectives of a fish and of a tadpole that turns into a frog.

  3. Create student partnerships (2 students—if an odd number of students, one group of 3 and modify the activities as necessary). Students will complete the remaining sessions and activities with this partner.

  4. Distribute copies of the Fish Is Fish Venn Diagram and explain how students will fill in the characteristics of Fish and Tadpole/Frog in the appropriate spaces as they read.

  5. Distribute copies of the Fish Is Fish Script. The students will verbally read aloud the script with their partners. Note to students that whoever reads Fish’s part also must read as Narrator 1 and the partner who reads Frog’s part must also read Narrator 2. Provide students with the appropriate labels for their baseball caps (optional).

  6. Circulate and observe as students read through script with their partners.

  7. When students have read through about half of the script (about the halfway mark where Fish and Frog say good night), ask them to stop and jot down their thoughts about each character’s perspective. After they finish the book, they will complete the Fish Is Fish Venn Diagram and discuss as a pair.

  8. Have students discuss in their pairs which character (Fish or Frog) had a more positive perspective of life and why. Then, share thoughts as a class.

  9. To close the lesson, ask students whether playing the part of the fish and the frog after learning about perspective helped them feel as though they were thinking like the fish or frog.

Session 4: Using an Author as a Mentor

  1. Tell students that during the next two lessons they will complete a project using their skills of thinking from the perspective of someone or something else.

  2. Introduce Diary of a Spider, Diary of a Worm, and Diary of a Fly, and ask students how the books are similar. (Make sure students’ response is that they are all the diary of something.) Also ask students to predict what kind of project they think they will be working on (creating a diary from the perspective of an insect/animal).

  3. Tell students that they will be writing a diary from the perspective of an animal of their choosing. Students will be working with the partners they read with during the last session to create this diary. At this time, students can just begin to think about which animal they would like to “become.” A final decision does not need to be made at this point in time.

  4. Ask students how they think they could learn about the perspective of a particular animal (researching, asking questions, reading about the animal).

  5. Tell students that similarities among an author’s books can be used to form a “recipe” for another story. Distribute one copy of each book to each set of partners. If there aren’t enough copies, give each partnership one book and allow students to skim for about three minutes and then rotate with another group. After students have looked through the books, ask students what similarities they notice among the Diary of a Spider/Worm/Fly books. What is similar in the story lines? The entries?

  6. Distribute copies of Doreen Cronin as Our Mentor. Read through the list of “ingredients,” and have each student identify at least four entries they would like to emulate in their diary. You may want to require that all diaries follow Cronin’s formulas for beginning and ending but that the fifth entry of each student will be either the beginning or the ending. Encourage students to use different diary entry ideas within their pairs and to choose different items to emulate, as they will be writing the diary together.

  7. Distribute a copy of the Research Notes worksheet to each student, and have students go over the different types of facts they should look for about the animal.

  8. Provide students with time to discuss with their partners what animal they will research. You may want to go through your magazines ahead of time so you know which animals you have information for. Different partnerships may choose the same animal as long as information sources are available for each partnership.

  9. Bring students back together for short whole-class instruction. Model how to form additional questions students will need to answer to complete their animal diaries. For example, for a diary entry about the animal at school, you might think aloud, “Hmmm, we learn things in school. What might this animal need to learn when it is young or at some point during its lifetime?” For a diary entry about a nightmare the animal might have, you could think aloud: “Well, when I have nightmares they are always about something I am afraid of, so what might this animal be afraid of—afraid enough to have a nightmare?”

  10. Guide students to begin skimming through the Zoobooks or Ranger Rick magazines to gather some information about animals. Quickly review how the headings on each page can guide the reader to particular information.

  11. To close the session, have two sets of partners meet and share information about what they have found.

Session 5: Gathering the Ingredients

  1. Ask students what they remember about the concept of perspective from the previous sessions, and review the points covered in the sessions.

    • When we read a story we see it from the perspective, or point of view, of the narrator, who may also be a character in the story.

    • Different characters in the story have different perspectives on the events.

    • Awareness of different perspectives is a type of critical thinking.

  2. Remind students that they will be working to write a diary from the perspective of a chosen animal. If necessary, review research and note-taking techniques.

  3. Have students review the preliminary research they conducted with Zoobooks or Ranger Rick magazines during the last lesson, and formulate some additional questions they would like to answer through their research.

  4. In the computer lab or on classroom computers, have students open the Websites for Research. Explain that students should use these sites to find information about their chosen animals and answer as many questions as possible on the Research Notes worksheet. Assist students in navigating the sites and finding the needed information. Partners can work together to gather the information, or each partner can work separately and compare and combine information in the end.

Session 6: Planning for the Diary

  1. Have students review their Research Notes from the previous session and select interesting facts to include in their animal diaries.

  2. Distribute copies of the Diary Planning Sheet and explain that students should use the sheet to structure their diaries, filling in what will go on each page of the diary. Model for students how to construct a diary entry using the information gathered along with possible types of entries listed on the Doreen Cronin as Our Mentor handout. For example, information about an animal’s young could be presented as a “Family happenings” diary entry. Students will be working with their partners to decide which entries will be used and who will be writing which entries. Make sure that each set of partners does the following:

    • Decides who will write the opening entry and who will write the closing entry

    • Decides on dates for entries 1–10 ahead of time so that the entries are in consecutive order when written and then combined to form the diary
    If you prefer, you can provide the Diary Planning Sheet in electronic format and have students complete the worksheet on their computers.

  3. As students finish planning, provide each student with five copies of the Diary Entry Template. Students can begin working on their entries today and complete them in Sessions 7 and 8.

Sessions 7 and 8: Writing From a Different Perspective

  1. If not distributed during the last session, provide each student with five copies of the Diary Entry Template. Allow students 30–40 minutes to work on constructing journal entries from their animal’s perspective. Encourage them to use their skills in thinking from another’s perspective while creating journal entries. Guide and assist students as needed while they create their journal entries.

  2. After students have written all of their entries, they should illustrate the various entries.

  3. Have students create a diary cover including the title (Diary of a ______) and the name(s) of the author(s). Assist students in assembling their diaries, alternating pages by student.

Session 9: Sharing Our Learning

Set aside a class session for partner sets to share their diaries with the class orally. Since students worked in pairs, photocopy the diaries so that each partner has a copy. After sharing, make sure to distribute Self-Assessment: What Did I Learn? form for each student to complete independently.


  • Have students use Microsoft PowerPoint or Smart Notebook software to create a digital version of their diaries. Assist them in adding a soundtrack of themselves reading the diary aloud if desired. Upload to the school website to share with students’ families, other classes, and the community.

  • Have students visit younger classes and share their diaries as read-alouds or in a Readers Theatre format.

  • To continue their study of multiple perspectives, have students read The Big Orange Splot by Daniel Pinkwater and rewrite the text as a script for Readers Theatre.

  • Have students shadow another person—mother, father, teacher, sibling, or even a pet—for several days, taking notes and, if possible, interviewing the subject. Students could then write a diary from the perspective of the person they “shadowed,” using Doreen Cronin’s entries as models.

  • Students can use Fish Is Fish Script for a Readers Theatre performance.

  • Students can visit the Diary of a Fly website to remind them of their project and connect their learning to technology.

Student Assessment / Reflections

  • At the end of Session 1, have students assess their ability to understand characters’ perspectives using the self assessment Can I See Different Perspectives?

  • Use the Teacher Rating Form: Sketch to Stretch to reflect upon the students’ success with the Sketch to Stretch activity in Session 2.

  • Use the Teacher Rubric: Fish Is Fish to assess students’ success with using critical thinking skills to think from different perspectives.

  • Observe as the students discuss the similarities between Doreen Cronin’s books, as well as the entries they are interested in. Are students noticing similarities? Are they focusing on a particular subject that they find interesting?

  • Observe students as they formulate additional questions for research. Are their questions appropriate for finding the information needed for their diary entries? Are students formulating questions with ease or do they require assistance in formulating questions?

  • Observe students as they engage in research on the web. Are students locating information with ease? Are they using their worksheets to record and organize information?

  • Assess students’ writing, research, and critical thinking skills through the use of the Teacher Rubric: Student Diary Entries.

  • Students will reflect on their work by completing an end-of-unit Self-Assessment: What Did I Learn?

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