Author's Purpose: 8 Steps Easy as Pie

I love teaching author's purpose...maybe it's the cozy PIE image it conjures up, or maybe it's the fact that for most kids, this is a concept that they "get" for the most part (with a little bit of explaining and some hands on practice). It's kind of the opposite of long division that way, if you know what I mean! :)

So, how do I teach author's purpose? I follow an 8 step recipe:

1. Use Mentor Texts
Mentor texts are my go-to strategy for almost anything to do with reading and author's purpose is no exception. I round up some great examples for each of the three PIE strategies (Persuade, Inform, Entertain) and read them to the class over a few days. Sometimes we can even read just a few pages for the kids to get the gist of what the author was trying to do. Doing this as a whole class is always great because it reinforces the kids who are on the right track, and it helps the kids who are lost in the woods, to get some help from others.

2. Use Baskets of Books with Small Groups
I love to put the kids in small groups of about three and hand them a basket full of books to sort into PIE categories. I usually supplement my collection of books with picture books from the school library, especially to find books that are meant to persuade. The kids really love this scavenger hunt type "game" and I like it because it allows them to go through multiple books at one sitting. 

3. Do a Book Order Sort
Here's another way to practice identifying types of purposes and kids really enjoy this one. I save extra book orders (Scholastic, for instance) and pass them out. Kids cut out the tiny pictures of books and determine which category they fall into. A bit of glue onto a three sectioned piece of paper, labeled with PIE, and we're set!

4. Make a Flip Book
After sorting through so many examples, my students are feeling more comfortable with the concepts and are ready to make their own flip book. We make a simple one using 9 x 12 construction paper, fold it hot dog style and then using rulers, we section the top flap into thirds by marking off the 4 inch and 8 inch places, so we know where to make the cuts (on the top side only). Please note that I teach 4th/5th, so they're able to do this themselves. Younger kids might need this step simplified for them. On the top of the Flip Book, we put the three types of author's purposes, with BIG capital letters to start each word. On the inside, you can put a variety of things. Kids can list the titles of the books they sorted, from the small group activity. They can glue the Scholastic Book order books here for each category or they could make a list of the kinds of reading materials that would typically be found under each category. For example, fiction passages are usually "Entertain", a travel brochure is usually "Persuade" and a text book is often "Inform". The possibilities for the Flip Book are endless.

5. Task Cards
No concept in reading is complete in my mind until the kids have done at least one set of task cards. These little gems will give your kids the quick, but oh so meaningful practice that they need. I always give my kids a clipboard and put them into pairs to go around the room and tackle the task cards together. When I hear them quietly discussing the author's purpose, and everyone is on task, enjoying the day while learning, my little heart sings!

6. Introduce Three Topics for One Purpose
This is where it becomes a bit more challenging. We talk about how a topic might be presented in a number of different ways, depending upon what the author wanted to say. I like to use the example of a cat because all of the kids are familiar with them and most generally like them. We make an anchor chart showing how we might persuade someone using this topic. It might be that cats are the best pets, or maybe it's to persuade our mom or dad to buy us a cat...Then we talk about how an author would write to inform us about cats. Maybe he/she might write about different types of cats, or how house cats are related to big cats...Lastly, we discuss how an author would write to entertain us using the topic of cats. Could he/she use a joke book or comic book to tell the story of a superhero cat? Or maybe it's a folktale or a fairy tale about a cat... 

Another idea for three topics for one purpose, is to use fun sized candies (M&M's if you have no peanut allergies or Skittles if you do...if your school allows candy). I like to have the kids make a three sectioned poster describing how they could write for each of the three purposes, with the candy as the topic.

7. Have Your Kids Become the Authors
This is the time when I ask the kids to become the authors and to choose a topic (it could be anything they're interested in) and then to choose a purpose. They can write to persuade, to inform, or to entertain. Each child writes a mini-book that showcases one of these purposes and then we share them out. I like to have the kids share in small groups and to have their classmates identify the purpose after the story is read.

8. Time for More Practice with Text
Next, I like to give the kids practice with lots of passages. I have created an Author's Purpose unit for third grade and one for fourth and fifth. These not only have lots of opportunities for practice with text, but have a set of task cards included too. It's nice to just print and go!

They also include a set of Author's Purpose Posters that I offer as a freebie in my TpT store. Grab them here:

What types of activities do you use for author's purpose. I always love to hear what other teachers are doing!



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