I’ve been browsing for lessons about identifying the author’s purpose, both because this is now a main focus with the Common Core and the PARCC test, and because being a curious (sometimes cynical) person, I have always deeply valued being able to infer this about an author. I have named each of the three lessons for easier reference in this analysis.
Part I: Research on What Exists:
1. “Poems and PIES” – In this lesson from ReadWriteThink.org, the teacher introduces author’s purpose by giving the children three poems to read, and then models with think-alouds and scaffolded questioning to narrow down the author’s purpose in each poem as being persuade, inform, entertain, or share. On chart paper, the teacher draws a pie with four quadrants and writes down the textual evidence that supports the identification of author’s purpose from each poem into the appropriate quadrant. Guided practice with new poems follows this. Then, independent practice with another set of poems and a worksheet of the pie chart where students work on filling in text evidence themselves. At the end, students share their results with the class.
2. “Centers”—In this lesson, the school librarian collaborated with teachers to create five author’s purpose centers, consisting of three books each (one to persuade, one to inform, and one to entertain), and quiz sheets in which the students identify the author’s purpose for each book by looking at text features (not by reading the entire books) followed by a more specific, inferential author’s purpose question about one part of each book. Afterwards, student use the app gradecam to scan and check their answers.
3. “Class Collage”—In this lesson, the students go through newspapers to cut out, identify, and explain examples of author’s purpose (persuade, inform, entertain). Then they put all their examples with explanations up on a bulletin board for the whole class to see.
All three lessons that I chose, deal with identifying author’s purpose primarily in texts, rather than images. Poems and PIES looks at poems, Centers looks at entire books (using text features to scan), and Class Collage uses newspapers. The first two lessons are for fifth grade and the third was created for sixth grade. While Poems and PIES introduces the skill, models it, provides guided practice, and independent practice, Centers and Class Collage are collaborative activities for formative assessment after the skill has been taught. While Centers and Class Collage categorize author’s purpose in three ways: persuade, inform, and entertain, Poems and PIES includes a fourth category: share. While both the Poems and PIES lesson and Centers give students two or three texts within which to differentiate the author’s purpose, the Class Collage lesson has students looking through a large, potentially limitless number of texts (newspapers).
Differentiation is not mentioned in any of the lessons, although it could easily be worked into the guided practice portion of the Poems and PIES lesson by giving kids leveled texts and then practicing them in guided reading. Differentiation could be added into Centers through purposeful groupings: in heterogeneous groups, the strong students can help the struggling students; in homogenous groups, the inferential questions for each book could provide hints (ex: remember to check topic sentences!). In Class Collage, differentiation could be added if the students worked in homogenous groups, the teacher providing more scaffolding or lower level newspaper texts/images to the lowest group, while providing little to no scaffolding and/or higher level texts to the more advanced students. Differentiation could also be designed by giving the groups different analysis criteria to write up about each newspaper cut out to include in the collage. For example, the lowest levels could identify the author’s purpose and write one sentence explaining why, followed by text evidence. The higher groups could do the same but add onto the analysis the additional component of comparing it to another clip out, evaluating which one is more successful and giving text evidence to support the evaluation. Ultimately, we want all of our students to reach this level of analysis; however, struggling learners can be given more time and more lessons to get to that point.
Part II: How to Incorporate New Teaching Trends:
The lessons discussed above all give me great ideas for applying new trends to teaching author’s purpose in texts. I’d like to extend the analysis to include images, as these are often a more accessible and memorable way to introduce and practice literary analysis and are also required by Common Core—looking for text evidence becomes looking for visual and auditory evidence to support your claims.
We will start with a flipped lesson in which the students go home and watch a video (resource 1) that explains PIE (persuade, inform, entertain). The students will write down definitions and examples into their notebooks from the video lesson. They will also write down a “2-1”: two things learned and one question about the lesson to share with the class tomorrow.
The next day, students share their “2-1” first with a partner, then with the whole class, promoting student-lead and student-generated class discussion about the terminology. Now, for guided practice, the students use their notes to practice identifying author’s purpose in nine short video clips (resource 2). The students draw a T-chart on a piece of paper and number it 1-9. On one side is the identification (PIE) and on the other is “text” evidence (words said or images seen). The class discusses 1-3 together, the teacher modeling think alouds and scaffolded questioning to determine the author’s purpose by looking at “text” evidence. Together, students and teacher write it onto the charts together. Video clips 4-6 are discussed in small groups with limited teacher assistance before being discussed as a class, and video clips 7-9 are done independently and then discussed, all the while writing this visual and auditory “text” evidence into the chart.
For assessment, students use Jing (resource 3) to take a screenshot of their favorite, school approved, webpage, and then annotate it by highlighting and explaining the text/image evidence that shows the author’s purpose. Thinglink (resource 4) may also be used for this if the student wants to dissect an image, such as an advertisement. With Thinglink, the student places an icon over every bit of text/image evidence. When the icon is clicked, a text box appears with the student’s analysis of how this text/image evidence shows the author’s purpose. Students then use these online images to teach a lesson to their classmates about how to identify author’s purpose.
- Flipped Lesson found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ECE0I0AeXXE
- Video activity for author’s purpose found at: http://lauren2014.globalblogs.org/authors-purpose-lessons/
- Jing, a tool for taking a picture of their computer screens and then marking up the screen with notes. Great for close reading! http://www.techsmith.com/jing.html
- ThingLink, a way to annotate a picture with pop-up bubbles of text: https://www.thinglink.com/