Today, we’re going to look at teaching author’s purpose. When an author writes a nonfiction text, there is usually a reason or a purpose for writing the text. The students’ job is to find the reason why the author wrote that. We’re going to explore how to teach author’s purpose in a nonfiction text. Throughout this blog post, you’ll see some anchor charts, read alouds, and engaging resources. The resource shown throughout the blog post is from my 2nd grade RI2.6 unit. The link is below as well.
Author’s Purpose Standards:
Typically, when there are Common Core standards for reading skills, it ranges from kindergarten all the way through fifth grade. Each grade level builds on top of the one prior. However, the Author’s Purpose skill only shows up in 2nd grade. Yes, author’s point is covered in many grade levels, but author’s purpose only shows up in 2nd grade Common Core standards. That certainly doesn’t mean you can’t introduce it in first grade and reteach it in third grade, though!
- 2nd Grade: Identify the main purpose of a text, including what the author wants to answer, explain, or describe.
How Has Author’s Purpose Changed?
When we first started teaching author’s purpose, we taught “PIE” (or Persuade/Inform/Entertain). Now, Common Core standards have come out with a new way of showing why an author writes a nonfiction text. They have teachers teaching author’s purpose as “ADE” (or Answer/Describe/Explain). In my opinion, I think it’s important that you still teach both ways. Start your unit with the PIE method because that teaches a more broad topic. Then, you can get into HOW they show their purpose using “ADE”.
For example, they can try to inform their readers by answering a question. Or they can try to entertain their reader by explaining something.
Use Anchor Charts to Introduce
One way to get students involved is with interactive anchor charts. This anchor chart/Post-it note activity have students searching for books they have read that fall under each category. First, as a class you will introduce the “ADE” headers and explain what each one means. Then, as you read aloud texts or as students read texts independently or with partners, they will add their titles to a Post-it note and add it to the anchor chart. In this activity, the students are trying to show HOW the author conveys their point.
This is the same format as the previous anchor chart, however, the students are simply identifying if the texts are persuading the reader, informing the reader, or entertaining the reader. First, they will read texts. Then, they will fill out a nonfiction title that fits each category.
Teaching Students to Find the Author’s Purpose
This activity comes from one of the mini lessons for RI2.6. It asks students to sort specific quotes into their purpose. The activity will help students practice their ability to recognize what sort of sentences and lingo the author will be using in each type of text. For example, in the Describing Examples category, you’ll find two sentences that describe foxes and sharks to the reader. This can be a guided activity or it can be a partner activity where the students work together and then the teacher reveals the answers for self-assessing.
Another way to have students practice is to have them read short paragraphs or collections of sentences. This is also a mini lesson activity in RI2.6. Then, they will read the three purpose options and decide which fits best. Students will be looking for whether that paragraph answers something, describes something, or explains something. Don’t worry if your students struggle with this skill at first. It’s a harder skill to master to decide how the author conveys their purpose.
Great Texts for Teaching Author’s Purpose
Here is a collection of nonfiction texts that I think work perfectly for read alouds when you’re teaching this unit. These texts come from my Nonfiction Mentor Text blog post that outlines 6-8 books for each standard.
- Boy, Were We Wrong About Dinosaurs by Houghton Mifflin
- Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors by Tanya Lee Stone
- Turtle Tide: The Way of Sea Turtles by Stephen R. Swimburne
- If the World Were a Village by David J. Smith
- You Wouldn’t Want to be an American Pioneer by Jacqueline Morely
- George Washington and the General’s Dog by Frank Murphy
Giving the students books to read is vital when teaching the standards. However, it’s equally as important to give them short passages to read as well. One reason is to simply practice their reading comprehension and text evidence skills. Another reason is that students need to start seeing these types of reading formats for test-taking practice. In the future, they will be tested with passages and follow up questions. So giving them short passages to read while asking them to find the author’s purpose gives them a very focused purpose when they’re reading.
More Activities for Practice and Mastery
Above, I discussed the importance of reading books and short passages to practice. Another way to practice teaching author’s purpose is with graphic organizers. Finding a graphic organizer that can work with any text is very beneficial because you give students a bit more choice in their learning. They can find a text off the shelf or out of a selection you’ve chosen ahead of time. Then, they can independently or partner read the text and answer the standards-based questions after.
(Link: Teach Two Reach)
Here is an adorable idea from Teach Two Reach to practice the different types of books that you may find in each type of author’s purpose category. Searching through old Scholastic flyers and reading a synopsis of an informational text to determine what the purpose is would be a great way to practice.
(Source: Teaching Fashionista)
Here’s another way to practice. There are two ideas you can do with these fold and snip activities from Teaching Fashionista. First, you can use this to simply explain what it means to persuade, inform, and entertain. Then, you could also use these to lift the flaps to write about specific book examples of each P/I/E category. The students will also get to make them their own when decorating!
Need Author’s Purpose resources?
Since 2nd grade is the only grade where Main Purpose is explicitly taught, I only have one standards-based unit for this reading skill. It can definitely be used in neighboring grade levels, however. You can use it in first grade and third grade as well if you’re wanting to teach this skill in other grade levels.
Thanks for reading! Here is a Pin for you to add to your reading or Common Core Pinterest board to come back to later when you’re reading to teach your author’s purpose unit.