Perspective Taking in Literature

For the second blog in our SGM® Summer Study Series, we will focus on Perspective-Taking in literature, using an example that Maryellen Rooney Moreau presented last weekend at Michelle Garcia Winner’s Social Thinking Providers’ Conference in San Francisco. In 2003, Winner stated: “Perspective taking is needed for social interaction, academic success and personal problem-solving as an adult.” Social Thinking, the work of Winner, heavily focuses on perspective-taking. Maryellen’s presentation, meant to exemplify this statement, was called Let’s Think About It! Perspective-Taking And The Thought Process Of Opinion/Argument Using The Story Grammar Marker®. In her presentation she covered the following topics:

  • Narrative development in relation to perspective taking
  • Speaking and listening Common Core State Standards and narrative development
  • The role of mental models and social emotions in perspective taking
  • The Situation Model and the Story Grammar Marker®
  • Critical thinking and its relation to perspective-taking and argument
  • The shift to Expository text structures in ELA due to the Common Core State Standards
  • Thinking about, planning and writing opinion & argument

These are all topics that Maryellen weaves into her workshops as she travels to school districts. (Click here to request information about how Maryellen could come to your district.)

In our book, Making Connections, we dedicate a whole chapter to perspective-taking. Perspective-taking is the ability to see points of view other than one’s own. Researcher Gordon Moskowitz of Lehigh University says: “We must be able to stand in the shoes of others, see the world through their eyes, empathize with what they are feeling, and attempt to think and react to the world in the same way that they think and react to the world” (Moskowitz, 2005, p. 277). Perspective-taking is essential for relating to the world, solving problems, developing peer relationships in school or at work, maintaining friendships, initiating and nurturing romantic relationships and joining & belonging to sports, extracurricular activities, groups & clubs. Below are two perspective-taking maps from Making Connections that can be used to explore kick-offs, feelings and mental states of people/characters.

Making Connections Book Cover

According to research, perspective-taking can be divided into three areas: the perceptual level, understanding how others perceive the world, the cognitive level, understanding others’ knowledge and beliefs (theory of mind) and the social level, understanding others’ motivations, feelings and thoughts. (Tsunemi, et al., 2014). This research by Tsunemi, et al suggests that children with autism in particular have difficulty in all three areas of perspective taking but that most studies of autism emphasize impairment at the cognitive level also known as theory of mind problem (ToM) .

The Story Grammar Marker® is a tool for narrative development. It is interesting that the study done by Tsunemi et al found that experience with narrative comprehension would increase social perspective-taking abilities in children with autism. They noted that understanding the mental states of others in social relationships could be improved by reading about and analyzing characters in stories. They explained that “understanding a narrative requires one to understand the intentions, goals, emotions as well as other mental state of characters, which is known as mentalizing (Frith and Frith, 2003). For narrative comprehension, one must take the perspective of a character and mentally represent his/her emotional state. This is the essential process of successful social perspective-taking” (Tsunemi, et al., 2014, pp 6).

Use of MindWing’s Critical Thinking Triangle® of the Story Grammar Marker® is a visual, explicit way of analyzing the motivations, feelings, thoughts/mental states and plans of characters (and of people in real life situations). In the following example, we analyzed perspectives of four different characters using the Critical Thinking Triangle®. This example would be great to use in summer school. We used a selection for middle/high school since most of the time examples are geared toward elementary age students.

This example uses Emma, a book by Jane Austen, who is an exemplar author found in Appendix B of the Common Core State Standards. Often times, finding engaging ways to present complex literature to adolescents is a challenge. First published in 1815, the main character of the book Emma is Emma Woodhouse, whose attempts at matchmaking, her imagination and her social perceptions drive the plot of the story. The movie version starred Gwyneth Paltrow, Ewan McGregor, Toni Collette & Jeremy Northam. Below is a scene from Chapter 43 of the book. Please view it and then see the analysis of perspectives using the Critical Thinking Triangle® - a great example of social perspective taking.


Miss Bates Perspective

Mr. Knightly perspective

Mrs. Weston perspective

Emma’s perspective

References:
Austen, J. (1999). Emma. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications.
Moreau, M. (2010). Making Connections. Springfield: MindWing Concepts, Inc.
Moskowitz, G. (2005). Social Cognition. New York: The Guilford Press.
Tsunemi, K., Tamura, A., Ogawa, S., Isomura, T., Ito, H., Ida, M. and Masataka, N. (2014). Intensive exposure to narrative in story books as a possibly effective treatment of social perspective-taking in schoolchildren with autism. Frontiers in Psychology, 5, 2. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00002

Blog by Maryellen Rooney Moreau, M.Ed. CCC-SLP, and Sheila M. Moreau.


Maryellen Rooney Moreau
Maryellen Rooney Moreau

Author

Maryellen Rooney Moreau, M.Ed., CCC-SLP, is founder of MindWing Concepts. She earned her University of Massachusetts at Amherst Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication Disorders at University of Massachusetts at Amherst with Departmental Honors and her Master’s of Education degree in Communication Disorders at Pennsylvania State University. Her forty-year professional career includes: school-based SLP, college professor, diagnostician, and Coordinator of Intervention Curriculum and Professional Development for children with language learning disabilities. She designed the Story Grammar Marker® and has been awarded two United States Patents. She has written more than 15 publications and developed more than 40 hands-on tools based on the SGM® methodology. Maryellen was awarded the 2014 Alice H. Garside Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Dyslexia Association, Massachusetts Branch.



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