Sunday, September 13, 2015

Author's Purpose in Upper Elementary... Increasing the Rigor

At a staff meeting about nine years back, our principal had us look at the previous year's test results, identify one or two areas of weakness, and then write a plan of action for improving that weak strand. Well, my colleagues and I recognized that Author's Purpose was a weak area for our third, fourth, and fifth graders that year. We wrote what we thought was a fabulous plan to help our students better understand the concept of Author's Purpose... and thus be better equipped to score higher in that area on the annual spring standardized tests. Our plan even included placement of a huge "pie" in the central part of the hallway, where each class wrote the titles of books they had read that fit into each category!

As teachers, our confidence soared as State Assessment time approached! When assessment time arrived, however, my heart sank. As an ESL teacher, I was providing the accommodations of reading the test questions aloud to limited-English proficient students. I felt more and more defeated with each test question I read aloud that was related to author's purpose.  I realized that the test authors did not limit the answer choices to persuadeinform, and entertain.  Rather, I saw answer choices that included words like explaindescribe, share, and occasionally even illustrate.

Furthermore, I realized that sometimes, the test authors required students to differentiate the main idea.  For example, answer choices might include:
          A.  To inform the reader about the formations found in caves
          B.  To describe the formations in a cave
          C.  To entertain readers with a story about a cave
          D.  To inform the reader about how caves are formed

It was then that I set out to do more than just teach the basic PIE method for Author's Purpose! I happened upon the PIE'ED method online, and from there created several resources to support this approach and ultimately increase the rigor for my upper elementary students.

I used my newly created materials the following school year, and was encouraged by what I saw! Whereas in previous years, students often seemed to "skim" a passage to decide which of the PIE purposes best fit the passage, once I started using this new approach, I observed students reading the passages more carefully.  When testing time arrived again, I felt assured that I had done everything in my power to set my students up for success.

What is the PIE'ED method of Author's Purpose?
P-persuade (to convince the reader of something)
I-inform (to provide the reader with information)
E- entertain (to provide a story readers will enjoy - it can be sad, scary, or happy, and often includes dialogue)
E-explain (to give the reader directions or explain a process)
D-describe (to appeal to most or all of the reader's five senses)

If you decide to dive deeper into author's purpose, but fear you don't have the materials to support this approach, here are some materials to help you get started (the first two are FREE!).  You can also hop to my store and click on the custom category "Author's Purpose PIE'ED".

This set of 5 passages addresses the need for students to be able to determine the main idea along with the author's purpose, like in the multiple choice question shown above. 
FREE Posters!

 These two passages are part of my 49-slide Author's Purpose PowerPoint.

Author's Purpose Task Cards
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