Beacon Lesson Plan Library

What's the Purpose Anyway?

Martha Todd
Santa Rosa District Schools


In this lesson students use real-life written material to learn to identify, explain and discuss an author's purpose for writing.


The student identifies and discusses the author's purpose in text.


-Teacher-selected examples of written material (examples: newspaper article, comic book, cookbook, textbook, instruction booklet, joke book, encyclopedia, cereal box, magazine advertisement)
-Selections from newspapers, one per child (examples: comic strips, persuasive editorials, news articles, advertisements).
-One copy of Student Checklist (attached)
-Chalkboard and chalk


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. Duplicate one copy of Student Checklist (attached) for the teacher.


Day I
1. Display written material collected (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 (students may not be aware that it takes writers to write cereal box material!)

3. Discuss the fact that if they are aware of the author's purpose for writing, they will be a more 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. It will also help you when reading a newspaper- the editorial section and the news section have different purposes!

4. Explain that the writers of the media displayed had a purpose for their writing. Write the purposes for writing (to persuade, inform, explain, and entertain) on the board horizontally, beside each other. Discuss each purpose for writing, and that sometimes an author has more than one purpose(examples: encyclopedia, cookbook.)

5. Explain to students that they will be learning to identify, explain, and discuss author's purpose.

6. Have students select one of the examples and place it in the chalk tray under the correct purpose for writing. Conduct a discussion of why it fits into that category. To inform and to explain are closely related- some items may need to go between the two on the board.

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

8. Assign students to go home and look in the newspaper and magazines (with permission) for ads that have specific purposes and are aimed at a specific audience.

Day 2
1. Students share their homework orally with the class and briefly describe their selections and explain the author's purpose. Other students are encouraged to ask the speaker questions about the author's purpose. The teacher will lead the discussion and guide the students if an incorrect purpose is given.

2. After all have shared, pass out teacher-selected newspaper clippings (one per child). Students will attach their selection to a piece of paper and write the author's purpose and a brief explanation of their reasons for selecting this purpose. Collect papers and check them using Student Checklist (attached).

Day 3
1. Put students in small groups and pass out papers from yesterday, randomly. Students in groups will check the paper themselves and discuss the author's purpose. Students are informed that they are expected to take part in the discussion. Walk and monitor, helping as needed. As the discussion goes on, use the Student Checklist (in the Associated File) from yesterday to monitor for students 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), assess learning by evaluating the newspaper/magazine assignment (Day 2), and by observing the student discussion of author's purpose (Day 3)


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

Attached Files

The Student Checklist.     File Extension: pdf

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