Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Why Did You Write That?

Martha Todd
Santa Rosa District Schools


In this lesson, students use actual written media to learn to identify and discuss an author's purpose for writing.


The student identifies the author's purpose in a simple text.


-Several examples of written material all written for different purposes (examples: newspaper article, persuasive editorial, comic book, cookbook, textbook, instruction booklet, joke book, encyclopedia, cereal box, magazine advertisement, etc.)
-Selections cut from a newspaper - at least one per student(examples: comic strips, persuasive editorials, news articles, advertisements, etc.)
-One copy of teacher checklist (see attachment)
-One copy of homework assignment per child (see attachment)


1. Collect examples of written material representing different author's purposes (see materials list).
2. Cut out selections from newspapers to be used to identify author's purpose, one per child (see materials list).
3. Xerox one copy of Student Checklist (attached) for the teacher.
4. Xerox one copy of Homework Sheet (attached) per student.



1. Display written materials pre-selected by teacher (for list, see materials list).

2. To make students more aware of the importance of writing, ask the students if writers worked on each of these examples and discuss the role of the writers for each. (Many will not realize writers work on cereal boxes!)

3. Explain that the writers of the media displayed had a purpose for their writing. Write the four purposes for writing on the board(to inform, persuade, explain, or persuade),and discuss each.Write the types in a horizontal list so that the students can later place the written material under the correct purpose.

4. Discuss the fact that being aware of an author's purpose for writing will help them be an informed reader. For example, when you realize that a commercial or advertisement's purpose is to persuade you, you might look at the product more carefully. When you read a newspaper, understanding the author's purpose will help you distinguish fact from opinion.

5. Let students know that they will be learning to identify, explain, and discuss the author's purpose in written material.

6. Have several students select one of the written examples displayed. Each student determines the correct purpose for writing their selection and places it in the chalk tray under the correct purpose for writing on the board. Conduct a class discussion of why the material fits into that category.

7. Brainstorm with the students, and write several examples of each type of purpose for writing on the board.

8. Give homework assignment (see Homework Sheet, attached).


1. Students share their homework orally with the class and briefly describe their written material. The student also explains the author's purpose in their selection. Other students are encouraged to ask questions of the sharing student. The teacher takes part in the discussion and guides the students if an incorrect purpose is given.

2. After all have shared, pass out teacher-selected parts of a newspaper to each student. Students attach their selection to a piece of paper, and write the author's purpose as well as a brief explanation of their reasons for selecting the purpose.

3. Teacher collects papers after completion and checks them (see Student Evaluation Form, attached).

Day 3
1. Students are put into small groups, and papers are returned randomly. Students should not have his/her own paper. Each student reads the written material he is given and looks over the purpose given. Students take turns sharing a brief discussion of their written material as well as the purpose. All students in the group should say if they agree or disagree with the selected purpose. The teacher should monitor the groups and step in when needed. During this time, the teacher will use the same student evaluation form used for the homework and will note if each student is participating in the discussion.


Students identify the author's purpose in a selection from the newspaper. The student will write a statement explaining why he/she thinks that is the author's purpose. Students discuss their conclusions in small groups. Using the Student Checklist (attached), the teacher assesses learning by evaluating their newspaper assignment (Day 2) and by observing the student discussion of the author's purpose (Day 3)


If students don't pass all sections on the Student Checklist (attached), more newspaper selections are used to discuss author's purpose with those students in a small group. They can be assessed again, using the same checklist and different newspaper clippings.
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