Students with social communication disorder find it difficult to take the perspective of another person. This makes it challenging for them to navigate social relationships. It also has an academic impact upon their literacy skills. As our students move on into the early elementary grades, they learn to take into account the perspective of characters in stories. Working on perspective-taking of literary characters can be fun! Using fairy tales is a great way to teach students to take the perspective of another character. Most readers are naturally sympathetic to the plight of little red riding hood. After all, she braved the scary woods to help her sick grandmother! However, many readers have not thought about the tale through the eyes of the villain, the big bad wolf. Think about the wolf’s perspective: He is a wild animal and wild animals do prey upon those that are weaker than them He actually did what was expected of wild animals! We can push our students to look beyond their preconceived notions about the villains in fairy tales (such as the wolf) as well as the other characters in the story. Why fairy tales?
Familiar Fairy tales are easy to read and readers can expect what will happen next in the story.
Fairy tales are entertaining and offer clear competing perspectives of the characters in the story.
There are often actions from characters that promote highly emotional responses. Think about how you felt when the stepmother made Cinderella do all the housework!
Traditional fairy tales are often told from one perspective in a relatively simple way. We are generally not shown the emotional layers or backgrounds of the villains or asked to consider why Cinderella’s stepmother was so cold and heartless to her.
There are often “tricks” that occur in these stories that present opportunities for inferencing and considering multiple points of view. As the gingerbread man was riding on the back of the fox, what was the fox thinking? What was the gingerbread man thinking?
Reading through familiar fairy tales and dissecting and unpacking the perspectives of the characters can be great fun for your students. Students can be asked the following questions about the story:
What does the character see and hear at that moment?
What does the character know at that moment?
What is the character feeling?
How does one character feel about another character?
What does the character want? Do all the characters want the same thing?
Are there any tricks going on in the story?
Why is a character acting in a certain way?
You might also be interested in my Theory of Mind and Perspective-taking: Little Red Riding Hood packet for early elementary grades. It comes with a Little Red Riding Hood storyboard too! Here’s a sample page for thinking about the perspective of the wolf!
You might find some fabulous ways to use fairy tales in therapy or the classroom on my pinterest board: Fairy Tales!