5 Ways to Teach Students How to Discover the Author’s Purpose

The acronym PIE (persuade, inform, and entertain) and the cutesy anchor charts that go along with it are undoubtedly already familiar to anyone who teaches pupils about an author’s goal.

Although those are practical umbrella terms, the underlying motivations for nonfiction writing are frequently more complex. Authors of textbooks write to instruct. Bloggers are passionate about the subjects they write about. Information is spread through writing by journalists.

Students today are immersed in information. A crucial talent is discerning the precise motivations behind authors’ writings and not taking every viewpoint at face value. Students must recognize bias, determine the author’s purpose, and come to their judgments as they read.

These five techniques will show pupils how to determine why authors write as they become more adept at working with informational material.

  1. Start with Why.

The central inquiry used to determine the author’s motivation is, “Why did the author write this piece?” Post several forms of nonfiction (such as an advertisement, opinion piece, news item, etc.) around your classroom and ask students to rapidly identify a reason for each to assist students in deepening their knowledge of “why.” Or keep a running list of the numerous motives behind authors’ writing on an author’s purpose board.

  1. Talk about Structure.

Authors use different structures—sequence, problem, solution, compare and contrast—for different purposes. For instance, one author may use sequence to explain an event, while another uses compare and contrast to put that event into perspective.

  1. Get to the Heart.

Authors try to get readers to feel a certain way when they write. Perhaps the author of an article about dolphin conservation wants readers to feel sad about the plight of dolphinss. Or the author of a letter may wish to make the reader feel better about a situation. After readers read a text, stop and ask: How do you feel? And how did the writer get you to feel this way?

  1. Connect to Students’ Writing.

Reading and writing are interconnected. Encourage pupils to write for various reasons to increase their understanding of why individuals write. Students will better understand the writing process when asked to describe a process, share a personal recollection, or write about a subject they believe everyone should be aware of.

  1. Identify How to Purpose Changes Within a Text.

Although the author’s intent is frequently examined through the work, authors can have various motivations for producing specific texts. An author might, for instance, use a humorous anecdote to pique the reader’s interest. They might then go into a list of details that aggravate the reader about the predicament. They might then appeal as their final move. Take a brief piece and dissect it, pointing out the many goals so that students may understand how the author’s intention shifts as they read.

Extra: Three Ways to Instruct Kids How to Identify Bias

Your students could accept all nonfiction readings at face value right now, but as they grow as readers (and information consumers), they must learn how to assess bias.

  1. Mind the Gap.

When writing to persuade readers of a point, authors select evidence that does so most effectively. Students should read with an eye on what information is missing. For instance, if a writer advocates for the legalization of horse-drawn buggies in New York City, they can focus on the advantages (such as tourism) and ignore the disadvantages (e.g., horses holding up traffic).

  1. Review the Experts.

Ask pupils to gather the names and positions of the individuals mentioned in an article. Who was included, and what can students learn from them? And how reliable is each professional?

  1. Seek Out Stats.

Draw on facts, figures, graphs, and other numbers to present a different picture of the author’s point of view. What does the author want readers to take away from the information? Was anything included? What was left out?

Every time a child reads, they discuss with the author; when they are aware of the author’s goals, this conversation is even more fruitful.

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