Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Going Deeper with Author's Purpose

This week has been a little crazy at school because we're starting MAPS testing. Computer problems, anyone?

What was supposed to be an hour long test turned into much longer, and we're only on day 2. I haven't had a day yet that I've been able to pull all of my groups, and today was worse than most. Hopefully they will all be finished by Friday so I can start a normal schedule next week.

I have been able to push in to my 4th grade classes for an author's purpose lesson, though, and I thought I could at least share it!

A few years back, I wanted to create something to help my students get past "PIE" for author's purpose. I knew they weren't really understanding enough, so I made this little pack.

I first ask students what they think an author would really say if they were being interviewed about why they wrote their book. I want them to realize it would be silly for them to simply respond, "To inform". Then we brainstorm a few things they might say (I usually go with J.K. Rowling since I have older readers).

After that, I explain to them how they can find different pieces of evidence to help them determine the author's purpose: characters/topic, setting, choice of language, details, and genre. We talk about each of those pieces and then practice with a book.

The only section that really takes a lot of explaining at this level is language. They all want to write "English" and move on with it. I have to give lots of examples for each part. Here are my examples:

  • Persuasive books will have words such as "should", "the best", "don't", etc.
  • Informational books will always include facts. You only need to choose one or two to write.
  • Entertaining books will have story elements ("Once upon a time"), characters, and events that are not necessary for the story line. I explain that if there are any funny or scary lines, these would be good to include.

If I had more time, I would show how to fill out the sheet on an informational or persuasive book as well as a fictional story, but I could only do one. This year I chose to read a chapter from Sideways Stories from Wayside School (Chapter 10: Paul) because it's one of my favorite. Plus I know it will hold the students' attention even without pictures. You could do this activity with any book, though.

I also included a few practice paragraphs for students to try writing the author's purpose a little more. They need a lot of guidance at the beginning, so I usually ask them to work with a partner or even a table to come up with the purpose (as I walk around to each group and help) until they're a little more comfortable with it.

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