Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Importance of Author's Purpose

I always thought author's purpose was easy and kind of a waste of teaching time. We would just quickly skim over the purpose and never got into "why's" or "how's" of the purpose. My kids were able to get those answers right on the benchmarks and other comprehension tests, so why spend any more time on it than I did? But then I realized that my kids didn't really understand "how" the author was able to entertain, inform or persuade us, which in turn was making their writing - to put it nicely - not so good. So we started looking more closely at the "how", we examined words, phrases, illustrations, genre and theme to help us see how the author entertained us, informed us, and persuaded us. It was a breakthrough for not only me, but the students as well.

Author's purpose is simply the reason why the author wrote the story/book/article/blog post, etc. Four of the most common reasons for writing are:

1. to persuade, text type persuasive
2. to inform, text type expository
3. to entertain, text type narrative
4. to teach a moral or lesson, text type fables

Other reasons would be:

5. to show {effects, similarities & differences}
6. to explain {how to do something}
7. to give an account {as in biographies}
8. to share {an experience}
9. to encourage {giving support}

Actually, when you think about it there are a ton of reasons why someone may write a piece of text and as teacher's it is our job to help our students figure out that reason. We will just focus on the first three (and let's face it, on tests, there are usually only 3 choices, to persuade, to inform, to entertain).

Why does author's purpose matter? It matter's because understanding not only the "why" the author wrote the story but the "how" the author wrote the story tunes us in to what we should know by the end of the text. Essentially, understanding the reason behind the writing will help with the understanding of the writing. It gets your mind focused on what you will be reading. For example if you are thinking you are going to hear an entertaining story and it is informational, you may be distracted by the use of words or disappointed with the content, and this will make you miss the message or story completely.

"Distracted by the use of words", what do I mean by that? Well, specific purposes require precise vocabulary, for example, something that is written to inform will include words such as: explain, teach, state, tell, update, and many others. These words tell your brain that you are getting information and you may need to recall some of the facts to make an informed statement or decision.

If a piece of writing was written to persuade, then the author is going to use words that will convince you to do something or change your mind, such words and phrases are persuade, convince, a fact {did you know that...}, a statistic {4 out of 5 students said...}, reasons {3 reasons why...}, I believe that..., and many others. These words help you to focus in on what the author is trying to make you believe.

When writing to entertain there are really no specific words but the way sentences are written. The use of punctuation, onomatopoeia, likeable characters, intriguing story lines, visually obtainable setting descriptions, relatable lessons and attractive illustrations all lead to a very entertaining piece.   

When teaching author's purpose it is important that your students know the linguistic patterns that would be used when asking and answering specific author's purpose questions. Some of the questions might be:
  • What was the author's purpose in writing this?
  • The reason for the author writing this piece was...
  • The author probably wrote this because...
  • Why did the author write this?
Before you can answer the above questions, you need to ask YOURSELF the following questions to help guide you to the right conclusion.

  • Did the author try to make me laugh? (Entertain)
  • Did the author want to tell me a story? (Entertain)
  • Did the author try to amuse me? (Entertain)
  • Did the author give me facts? (Inform)
  • Did the author try to teach me something? (Inform)
  • Did the author try to convince me? (Persuade)
  • Did the author want to change my opinion? (Persuade)
When it is time to answer these questions here are the linguistic patterns you should be using to write a complete author's purpose answer:
  • The author's purpose was _________
  • The author wants the reader to _________
  • The author wants the reader to learn _________
  • I thing the author's purpose was _________ because the text said ___________
Here are 3 posters with the above questions to help guide students to the correct purpose.There is a link at the bottom of the post that will take you to my TpT store to download.

I always loved to use graphic organizers with my students and for author's purpose the circle map is the best. It helps focus in their thinking and learning. I like to have my students find 3 examples from the story to confirm their purpose. For example:

  • to entertain - the students might find silly words, talk about the illustrations, find sentences or phrases that are entertaining.
  • to persuade - the students might find facts, a statistic, the "thing" the author is trying to convince you of, a sentence with the word persuade or convince. There might be a question to the reader about their thoughts on the topic.
  • to inform - the students might find a sentence that has the word tell, explain, or inform. The student should also be able to tell you what they learned from reading that text.
Here is an author's purpose graphic organizer for you to use. Link below.
 If you are going to keep track of a group of books using a chart like the one below would be good.
 Now for the importance of teaching/learning author's purpose. Once you know how to identify the purpose and recognize the words and phrases that are essential to that purpose it will help students then become better writers. We are always asking our students to write a personal narrative, or a how to, or a persuasive essay and if they don't understand that ALL author's have a purpose, they may have trouble with writing for a particular purpose. Being able to find evidence from the text that supports their conclusion on the author's purpose will help them focus in on their writing and what they need to do to convince, inform or entertain their readers. Recognizing what vocabulary they should use and how sentences and punctuation are used in books will help students incorporate that into their writing.

The following links are some resources on line that I found with bookmarks, charts, lessons and projects.

If you haven't dug deep into the "how" of author's purpose, I hope you give it a try. I think you will find that when it comes to your student's writing and you ask them to find the evidence or how their piece is entertaining, informative or persuasive, they will be able to see if that evidence is there.

Click HERE to grab this from my TpT store.

A proud contributor to Manic Monday at Classroom Freebies!

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday
Have fun!


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. These are such great visuals for author's purpose! Ironically, I just came across your blog yesterday and started following! Come check out my blog when you have a chance!
    A Turn to Learn

    1. I am glad you like them, I hope they help! Thanks for stopping by and becoming a friend, I will be visiting you soon!

  3. I love these posters for author's purpose. They are great. I found you through Manic Monday. Come visit me if you have the time!


    1. Hi Ashley,
      Thanks for stopping by, I hope you find these posters useful! I have already been by your blog and have been following for a little while, some great stuff!

  4. Replies
    1. Hi Teresa,
      Thanks! I hope you can use these!!

  5. Replies
    1. Hi Nicole,
      Thanks! I hope they come in handy when you teach this!

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. I love your graphic organizers. They have been really helpful in my planning! I can't wait to use them in my classroom.

  8. Loved it, very interesting your explanation. moderninha wifi.

  9. Reading Makes Your Child Smarter

    Reading is known to have numerous benefits. It increases your world knowledge, enhances your vocabulary, and works to improve your reading comprehension abilities.

    But did you know that reading can actually make you smarter?

    In fact, reading not only can make a child smarter, the very act of reading can even help to compensate for modest levels of cognitive ability in children by building their vocabulary and general knowledge! This is a finding reported by researchers Cunningham and Stanovich in a report titled "What Reading Does For the Mind".

    The simple fact here is that reading can make your child smarter, and that learning to read early on is directly linked to later success in life.

    1) Did you know that your child's vocabulary at 3 years old predicts his or her grade one reading success? [1]

    2) Did you know that vocabulary and reading ability in first grade strongly predicts grade 11 outcomes? [2]

    3) Did you know that your child's reading skill in grade 3 directly influences high school graduation? Studies have found that children who cannot read proficiently by grade 3 are four times more likely to leave school without a diploma than proficient readers! [3]

    >> Give your child the best possible head start. Teach your child to read today. Click here to learn how.

    But how do you teach a young child to read, and isn't that the job of the school and teachers?

    You can't be more wrong...

    With the right tools, knowledge, and techniques, teaching young children to read can be a simple and effective process. I'd like to introduce you to a fantastic reading program called Children Learning Reading, a super effective method for teaching children to read - even children as young as just 2 or 3 years old.

    The creators of this program have used it to teach their four children to read before age 3, and by reading, I mean real, phonetic reading.

    I can understand if you find that hard to believe... In fact, I had a difficult time believing it myself as well... that is, until I saw the videos they posted documenting the reading progress of the their children - not to mention all the videos other parents have sent in showcasing their children's reading progress after using the Children Learning Program. After learning more about their methods and techniques, it became clear how it's possible to teach young children to read effectively.

    It is truly within your ability to teach your child to read in a relatively short period of time spending just 10 to 15 minutes each day.

    >> Click here now to watch the videos and start teaching your child to read.

    1. Vocabulary Development and Instruction: A Prerequisite for School Learning
    Andrew Biemiller, University of Toronto

    2. Early reading acquisition and its relation to reading experience and ability 10 years later.
    Cunningham AE, Stanovich KE.

    3. Double Jeopardy How Third-Grade Reading Skills and Poverty Influence High School Graduation
    Donald J. Hernandez, Hunter College and the Graduate Center,


Thoughts and comments are always welcome!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...