Teaching Author’s Purpose: Lesson Ideas, Books and Activities

Hey there, teacher friends! I am excited to bring to you another installment of my blog series about comprehension skills. Comprehension is often ranked as the last in the progression of skills when learning to read but I think it is crucial to weave comprehension into every step of the reading journey. In this post, I will share some of my best ideas for teaching Author’s Purpose including how to introduce the topic, texts and why it’s important!
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Why writers write isn’t something many young readers really consider. This is probably because children ages 6-7 are really only thinking through their lens. It takes a lot for younger readers to think about another person’s perspective.  I stick with the PIE (persuade, inform, entertain) acronym although I have seen others include additional purposes. 
One question I have been asking myself a lot lately is “Why do I want students to know this?”
  • Understand the author’s purpose helps students to look at text more critically. If they can realize that an author is trying to persuade, they can approach the text with a bit of skepticism. 
  • It helps students to understand techniques used within different genres
  • It connects the reader with what they should know by the end of the text. This supports other comprehension skills like central message and main idea
Not only do I want students to think about why authors write, I want them to think about why they write since they are also authors themselves. Establishing a purpose for writing provides a focus and reason making it more meaningful. 
I introduce the skill by connecting it to books we have already read. We might brainstorm a list or just discuss them. Luckily, we already made a bulletin board for February with names of a bunch of books we have read this year so we just referred to that. 
Another way to start off the lesson is to show a kid-friendly commercial. Lead a discussion as to why commercials exist. “What is the purpose of the commercial?”  I chose this slime commercial because 1. my students are obsessed with slime 2. it covers all three purposes and 3. did I mention my students are OBSESSED with slime?
As I introduced the concept using a reference poster, we broke down what “purpose” means. Some students said it means you did something and it wasn’t an accident. I loved that they connected the vocabulary with their experiences. I went through each of the question words and asked “Does purpose answer the question who? what? where? when? why?” Most students knew when I said “why” that purpose was the reason.
Next, we take a look at some pretend book covers (some real titles) and sort them onto reference posters. I encourage students to use evidence from the cover–the title and the picture–to determine what the purpose might be. 
I use Velcro dots to make it easy to reuse the posters. 
The toughest mentor texts to find to fit well with is persuade. I scoured Amazon and found a new super adorable, fun and perfect persuasion texts! A Pig Parade is a Terrible Idea has a ton of persuasive language but it is also HILARIOUS so it fits entertain, too!
 There are so many great nonfiction texts out there like National Geographic Kids, Scholastic News. My favorite part about choosing books for inform is that students can and will read above their “level” when a topic interests them. It’s all about finding books to match the reader. Second graders love reading about animals so Slow, Slow, Sloths was a hit!
I try to focus less on having the right answer as to why the author wrote the book and emphasize more on providing evidence as to why the student chose that purpose. 
This is definitely the easiest category! I can hardly recommend just one or two books. I do like to share with students how entertain isn’t just funny or silly. I read The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane every year even though it makes me cry! How can crying be entertaining? This is a great learning opportunity to share how books that move us to emotion is what makes them entertaining.
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane
Interested in more resources for teaching author’s purpose? Click here or on the picture below!
If you would like to read more blog posts like this one, click here. You can also download the Comprehension Kits guide including suggested mentor texts and link to blog posts by clicking here or on the images below.
If you are interested in all of these materials, you can check out the Comprehension Skill Kits bundle.
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