Recognizing an author’s purpose (or purposes) for writing or creating an informational source can help a student determine what’s important in a source, remember what they read (or heard in a video or saw in a graphic), and begin to think critically about the information in a source.
Last week I had the honor of teaching a lesson on author’s purpose to a group of students. The teachers and I used the three-phase lesson plan and an article on the benefits of recycling from NEWSELA ( the second or “con” article). (This was part of a larger teaching lab experience where teachers planned in small groups and then we brought in students for each group of teachers to teach.)
Below are notes about the phase 2 lesson that I led with a small group.
Phase 2 Meet the Strategies
With the anchor chart pictured above, I introduced the what, the why, and the how of identifying author’s purposes.
What: Readers know that authors have a reason or purpose for writing an informational source (a purpose they have PRIDE in :). Authors’ purposes include to persuade, to recount or tell a true story, to instruct (or teach us), to describe, and to explain.
Why: Identifying an author’s purpose can help you think about what is important in a source. For example, if you notice that an author seems to be instructing you or teaching you how to do something, then you will be looking for specific steps or directions you can follow.
How: As you preview and then read or reread (like today) a source, look for clues as to the author’s purpose. Try to notice and name the author’s purpose. You can do this by keeping the types of authors’ purposes in mind.
Let’s do this kind of thinking with the article we just read on recycling. What do you think the author’s purpose was?
The students quickly identified the author’s purpose as to persuade: to persuade the reader to do or believe something. Together we wrote a purpose statement on a blank piece of paper.
Then I pushed them to identify details in the text that made them think this was the author’s purpose. You might think aloud about a detail or the use of a word that signaled persuasion–share what you learned from a sentence (or detail) and then what that made you think related to the author’s purpose.
Then you can ask the students to reread the source (or part of it) with these questions in mind – What did I just learn (in this sentence or section)? What does that make me think (related to what I think the author’s purpose is)?
When we regrouped, during our discussion of what they learned and noticed, I took notes–with just enough words to trigger memory of what they learned or thought about. These notes can be used to help students write a response during the Phase 3 Meet the Response part of the lesson.
BTW – During this lesson I didn’t get into noticing “author’s point of view,” “supporting premises,” “textual evidence” and so forth. That’s too much for some students who are new to analyzing a persuasive text. (I tried that in a lesson and it bombed!!!!) I casually referred to “details you noticed that make you think the author is trying to persuade you” and “why that makes you think so.”
A BIG thank you to Amanda in North Kansas City Schools and her colleagues for coming up with the fantastic mnemonic for author’s purpose. When I posted this on twitter, an author, Patricia Newman (who writes fabulous nonfiction!!!!), responded with how this resonates well with her as a writer with a purpose!
I’ve included a one page guide that describes introducing author’s purpose and how you might do this during a series of Phase 2 lessons. (This is from the new edition of Close Reading of Informational Sources out in spring 2019!)
Last thought (of many) – Identifying an author’s purpose can REALLY help when students begin to analyze the information in multiple sources! If you have a copy of my new book Nurturing Informed Thinking: Reading, Talking and Writing Across Content-Area Sources, check out Chapter 3, Lesson 8, p. 66!
Hope this helps.