K-12 Teaching and Learning From the UNC School of Education
Woman at water tap with water pot in a bamboo basket slung on her back

In Nepal, a woman carries a water pitcher in a bamboo basket on her back. (Photograph by Margery H. Freeman. More about the photograph)

Developing empathy through literary analysis

Being able to understand or even examine another person’s point of view is an important part of growing up, not just a skill in literary analysis. This lesson in writing from an alternative point of view is intended to help students to understand the positions and experiences of others.

Even though the story is being written from the perspective of an inanimate object, students should gain some competence in and appreciation for empathizing with another individual’s experiences and feelings. As students learn to recognize the point of view in a short story they may be more likely to demonstrate compassion for others in the real world.

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This lesson is designed to introduce students in grade 7 to the first-person point of view through literature and social studies. Students will examine selections from the LEARN NC multimedia collection and use their observations, the text, and other resources to gather information for writing original stories for a younger audience. The class will read and study Ed Young’s book I, Doko: The Tale of a Basket as an example for researching, writing, and illustrating their own first-person narratives.

Learning outcomes

Students will:

  • analyze at least five photographs from the LEARN NC multimedia collection.
  • make inferences about the lives of the people in the photographs.
  • make inferences about the purpose of individual objects in the photographs.
  • use their observations to write questions and conduct further research about a selected photograph.
  • synthesize the resulting information by writing and illustrating an original story.

Teacher planning

Time required for lesson

This lesson may be completed in five to six hours of class time. To reduce the amount of class time needed, independent work may be assigned as homework. Students may complete the assignments using LEARN NC multimedia materials in class and be given the independent research and/or writing tasks to complete on their own. One class period should be scheduled at the conclusion of these independent projects so that students can share and discuss what they have learned and created. A suggested breakdown of the necessary class time by lesson follows:

  • Optional: one pre-activity lesson for introducing the meaning of animate and inanimate
  • One lesson (including a 30-minute block of time in library) for reviewing key literary elements and locating examples in the library challenge activity
  • One lesson for reading and discussing the children’s picture book I, Doko: the Tale of a Basket, by Ed Young
  • One lesson for examining the images and text related to baskets in Nepal in the LEARN NC multimedia collection
  • One lesson for writing questions, conducting further research, and drawing conclusions to be used in a creative writing assignment
  • One to two lessons (alternatively assigned for homework), for independent first-person narrative writing project
  • One lesson for editing and constructing a children’s book to share with a younger audience
  • One lesson for sharing original stories and illustrations

Materials needed

  • “Animate or Inanimate?” worksheet
  • One copy of the book I, Doko: The Tale of a Basket, by Ed Young, adapted from a Nepalese folktale
  • Notebook paper and pencils
  • Computers with internet connections — at least one for each group of four students
  • Word processing software program
  • Printer and printer paper
  • Materials for illustrating books: Watercolors, crayons, colored pencils, markers, etc.
  • Materials for making book covers (e.g. cardstock)
  • Binding materials for the final publication.

Pre-activities

Students should understand these literary elements:

  • narrator
  • narrative voice
  • point of view
  • character
  • setting
  • plot
  • theme

Students should be able to distinguish between first-person, third-person omniscient, and third-person objective points of view in narrative text.

Before the lesson, you may wish to make copies of the library challenge assignment in activity two, the reading guide questions in activity three, and the writing assignment in activity five to hand out to students.

Activities

Activity one

  1. Introduce the meaning of the adjectives animate and inanimate.
  2. Divide the class into two equal groups by having students alternately say “A” or “I.” Ask the “A” group of students to access an online dictionary (such as Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary.) This group should type in the word animate to find a definition and other information about the word. Ask the “I” group of students to do the same for the word inanimate.
  3. Instruct both groups to read the dictionary entry for the word they have looked up, including its definition, part(s) of speech, and etymology.
  4. Have students compare and contrast the two words. Ask students which word (animate or inanimate) can be used as both an adjective and a verb in its original form. Which word is only used as an adjective? (Note the suffix necessary to change inanimate into a noun: -ness.)
  5. Hand out a copy of the “Animate or Inanimate?” worksheet and have both groups of students classify each word as animate or inanimate. If an object moves (such as the ocean, water, the moon, etc.), students should add a comment to explain the classification. Share and discuss different results, since both groups may have claimed the same words.
  6. Have students follow the instructions on the worksheet to select an inanimate object and consider its point of view.

Activity two

  1. Ask students to briefly share their ideas from the point-of-view exercise.
  2. Point out that artists, including authors, poets, painters, and sculptors, often endow or give life to inanimate objects. Ask students to think of examples of stories or poems in which an inanimate object is the first-person narrator. (In poetry the literary term for narrative voice is “speaker.”)
  3. Give students the following library challenge assignment. The assignment may be done during class time or may be used for independent practice in identifying point of view.

    Library challenge assignment

    Use your library collection to locate one work of literature to exemplify each of the following narrative points of view. Try to find at least one narrative told from the point of view of an inanimate object. Record the title, author, and a narrative voice quotation (including page number) for each example. Use proper citation for each publication.
    The action in a short story can be seen and narrated through:

    1. The third-person omniscient point of view, in which the narrator knows all the thoughts, motives, and feelings of each character;
    2. The third-person objective point of view, in which a detached observer acts as the narrator to describe the characters and what they do, think, feel, and say but does not relate their thoughts and feelings;
    3. The first-person point of view, in which the main character tells his own story and uses the pronoun “I.”

Activity three

  1. Have students share a few examples from the point-of-view library challenge assignment. Ask students to think about what particular advantages and disadvantages this point of view might present to an author. Would it be difficult to create a realistic or believable narrative voice? What would a writer need to consider? Students should use examples from their library search to support their observations. Briefly discuss ideas, making collective notes on the board for future reference, if desired.
  2. Tell students that they will now share a story told from the point of view of a doko, an Asian bamboo basket. The story is adapted by Ed Young from a folktale appearing in various forms in Nepal and in many other Asian countries. Ask students to listen carefully to the voice of the basket as the story is read aloud. Hand out copies of the following reading guide questions prior to reading the story to help focus their attention on key literary elements as they listen to the story.

    Reading guide questions

    Though written and illustrated for children, I, Doko: The Tale of a Basket, a legend adapted by Ed Young, includes details that portray authentic hardship, pain, loss, grief, and human cruelty. As you read or listen to the story, use these questions to guide your attention to key literary elements:

    1. Identify the setting. Provide specific details for both time and place.
    2. Examine the role played by Doko in the story’s plot. Doko narrates the story but also acts as a character within the story. Find examples of Doko’s:
      1. practical use as a basket
      2. place in and relationship to the family
    3. Does Doko ever express emotion or have an opinion? If so, when and about what?
    4. What is the theme of this tale? What lesson does Wangal teach the village? Summarize this lesson and explain the role Doko plays.
    5. What things change in the story? How?
  3. Read I, Doko: the Tale of a Basket to the class. Show students the illustrations as you read so that they can see the position of the basket in each scene. Allow time for note-taking as students listen for clues to answer the reading guide questions.
  4. Use the questions to guide a discussion after students have had a chance to listen, take notes, and respond in writing.

Activity four

  1. Have students work in pairs or small groups to access and view the following images from LEARN NC’s multimedia collection. Each of these images has been selected using the tag words “basket” and “Nepal.” Students should be directed to examine the images and text related to baskets, remembering Doko’s point of view in the tale of the basket. Ask students to consider this question: How do these images support the portrayal of the basket “I, Doko” in the story and illustrations? (Ed Young’s illustrations and descriptions of the basket, how it is used, worn, and valued are remarkably authentic. Students should be able to make specific comparisons between the images in the multimedia collection and the details captured in the children’s book text and illustration.)
  2. Ask each pair or group to summarize a collective set of observations and notes about the images. Allow time for each group to briefly share an interesting detail or observation from these notes.

Activity five

  1. Ask students to access the LEARN NC multimedia collection. Have each student select a favorite photo or set of photos by performing a word tag search: From the dropdown menu at the top of the screen, select “multimedia,” then type in keyword(s). Alternatively, if you’d like students to select a photo or photos from a particular culture, you may have students access LEARN NC’s collection of international multimedia. Students may browse images by selecting an individual country.
  2. Have students take notes, write questions, conduct further research, draw conclusions, and use these in a creative writing assignment:

    Creative writing assignment: Independent first-person narrative

    Select an inanimate object found in an image from the LEARN NC multimedia collection. Find out as much as possible about this object using your best research skills. Use the writing process to plan, write, edit, and illustrate a children’s book to share with a younger audience. Be sure the book meets these requirements:

    • You must write from a first person point of view, using the pronoun “I.”
    • You must include realistic details to accurately portray the inanimate object’s location, purpose, size, material, value, and life span. (Doko, for example, survived and was useful for several generations in the Nepali family household.)
    • You must consider audience and purpose.
    • You must edit your text.
    • You must illustrate your book with pictures based upon images you have located through research of this object.
    • You must provide proper citation of any references used, including the LEARN NC multimedia collection.
  3. Allow one class period for sharing original stories and illustrations, preferably with an audience of younger students.

Assessment

Activities one through four may be readily assessed on the basis of participation and completion.

The final project, a children’s book, may be assessed using this rubric:

Assignment: Independent first-person narrative
Title:
Author & illustrator:
1 = weak
2 = good
3 = very good
4 = excellent
Comments
Select an inanimate object found in an image from the LEARN NC multimedia collection.
Find out as much as possible about this object using your best research skills.
Use the writing process to plan, write, edit, and illustrate a children’s book to share with a younger audience.
Write from a first person point of view, using the pronoun “I.”
Include realistic details to accurately portray the inanimate object’s location, purpose, size, material, value, and life span.
Consider audience and purpose.
Edit your text.
Illustrate your book with pictures based upon images you have located through research of this object.
Provide proper citation of any references used, including the LEARN NC multimedia collection.

Critical vocabulary

  • Animate
  • Inanimate
  • Point of view
  • First person
  • Third person objective
  • Third person omniscient
  • Realistic
  • Authentic
  • Portray

  • Common Core State Standards
    • English Language Arts (2010)
      • Reading: Literature

        • Grade 6
          • 6.RL.6 Explain how an author develops the point of view of the narrator or speaker in a text.
        • Writing

          • 6.W.3 Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, relevant descriptive details, and well-structured event sequences. 6.W.3.1 Engage and orient the reader by establishing a context and introducing a narrator...
          • 6.W.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience. (Grade-specific expectations for writing types are defined in standards 1–3 above.)
        • Grade 7
          • 7.W.3 Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, relevant descriptive details, and well-structured event sequences. 7.W.3.1 Engage and orient the reader by establishing a context and point of view and introducing...
          • 7.W.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience. (Grade-specific expectations for writing types are defined in standards 1–3 above.)

  • North Carolina Essential Standards
    • Social Studies (2010)
      • Grade 7

        • 7.G.2 Apply the tools of a geographer to understand modern societies and regions. 7.G.2.1 Construct maps, charts, and graphs to explain data about geographic phenomena (e.g. migration patterns and population and resource distribution patterns). 7.G.2.2 Use...

North Carolina curriculum alignment

English Language Arts (2004)

Grade 7

  • Goal 2: The learner will synthesize and use information from a variety of sources.
    • Objective 2.01: Respond to informational materials that are read, heard, and/or viewed by:
      • monitoring comprehension for understanding of what is read, heard and/or viewed.
      • analyzing the characteristics of informational works.
      • summarizing information.
      • determining the importance of information.
      • making connections to related topics/information.
      • drawing inferences and/or conclusions.
      • generating questions.

Information Skills (2000)

Grade 7

  • Goal 4: The learner will EXPLORE and USE research processes to meet information needs.
    • Objective 4.01: Identify information needs and formulate questions about those needs.
    • Objective 4.02: Describe several research models.
  • Goal 5: The learner will COMMUNICATE reading, listening, and viewing experiences.
    • Objective 5.01: Respond to reading, listening, viewing experiences orally, artistically, dramatically, through various formats (e.g., print, multimedia).

Social Studies (2003)

Grade 7

  • Goal 3: The learner will analyze the impact of interactions between humans and their physical environments in Africa, Asia, and Australia.
    • Objective 3.03: Examine the development and use of tools and technologies and assess their influence on the human ability to use, modify, or adapt to their environment.