To understand perspective taking you really need to understand “theory of mind”. This is the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. To understand their mental state, this includes feelings, motives, desires and intensions.
Most children by school age understand this theory. Some of our students of course will not. For example, children on the autism spectrum have trouble understanding that everyone does not think what they thinking. Just because they are thinking about cars and want to tell you everything about cars, doesn’t mean your interested in cars. They wont ask you or notice your body gestures change to being frustrated or annoyed because you have been standing there for an hour listening to random facts about cars. For these kids we need to explicitly teach this concept.
I found a book series called “Weird”by. There are 3 books and each book is from the perspective of one of the main characters. It allows us the glimpse into all the characters minds to think about why they made decisions the way that they did.
“The Weird series encourages children that are being bullied to stand up for themselves . . . bystanders to act when they see something bad happening . . . [and] children who are bullying others to reassess their actions and motivations.” –“The Children’s Book Review”
I did a lesson using one of the books “Dare”, to teach perspective taking in a grade 4/5 class. My goal was to help them look at the character Sam who plays the bully, and maybe have some empathy and understanding of why she might be a bully. I read the story and then split them up into 6 groups, each group getting a different question about one of the three characters. I was amazed at what the groups who had Sam came up with, the two questions were, “How could you help Sam to be a better friend?”, and “Why do you think Sam is a bully?”. They said, that maybe Sam was lonely, maybe she was being bullied too (at home or outside of school), maybe she doesn’t know how to be a good friend, maybe she is nervous and uncomfortable, maybe she is shy, maybe we could model what a good friend looks like by being her friend… The other main goal was to have them understand that if your being bullied you need to change from being a victim and learn to stand up for yourself. They seemed to grasp both of my goals very well. This was exactly what I was hoping for. For the kids that could not answer these questions, they now had an opportunity to learn from their peers, and then the last question everyone had to answer was what did you learn from this lesson?.