Your Reading Comprehension Toolkit: Identifying the Author’s Purpose

Identifying the author’s purpose is an important part of reading comprehension. That’s because knowing why an author wrote a text is the key to knowing what to remember when you’ve read the last page. It’s sort of like setting a purpose for comprehension.

In general, there are 3 basic reasons for an author to write something: to persuade their reader, to inform their reader, or to entertain their reader. You can help your students remember the reasons why authors write with this easy as PIE acronym:

  • P is for Persuade – the author shares their opinion with the reader
  • I is for Inform – the author presents facts to the reader
  • E is for Entertain – the author amuses the reader

Once you’ve helped your students identify the author’s purpose, you can begin to reflect on the book by determining the text’s important take aways. The information that a reader takes away from a text can also depend on genre.

When authors write fiction, they tend to include a message or life lesson (e.g., lying gets you into more trouble than it’s worth; everyone can learn from their mistakes.), then the author is usually trying to persuade readers to believe that lesson is true. But sometimes fiction doesn’t have a clear message or moral. Its purpose can just be to entertain readers with amusing characters and funny situations.

Nonfiction, on the other hand, tends to present facts. usually written to inform the reader about a topic by presenting a series of facts or information. Although sometimes a nonfiction book will try to persuade the reader to do something with the information (e.g., help save an endangered animal, recycle).

Now that you’ve got the basics, you can get started with a BookPagez lesson plan and set of resources. They’re expertly planned and promise to make your job easy as pie! Simply pair these resources with your copy of the book:

Start identifying the author’s purpose with these easy activities.

#1: Focus on the Facts and Opinions

Distinguishing between facts and opinions is a common stumbling block that readers encounter when identifying the author’s purpose. That’s because opinions can easily be disguised as facts. Here is an example:

Flamingos are interesting birds. Their bright pink color makes them more beautiful than other birds.

Because the sentence is about Flamingos, many students will identify it as nonfiction, which might lead them to believe it is a fact that Flamingos are interesting and more beautiful than other birds. But they would be wrong. These two statements can not be researched and proven. Therefore they are not facts. Instead, these statements are two examples of opinions, because other people might disagree with them.

Give students the upper hand when it comes to distinguishing between fact and opinion by playing a quick game of I Have… Who Has…? Click here to download your printable.

#2: Make a PIE to Track Author’s Purpose

Display 3 giant pie pans on your wall (ingredients: bulletin board paper, marker ink, and tape). Be sure to make one for each “flavor” of an author’s purpose (persuade, inform, entertain). Then begin to fill your pies:

  • Read a variety of text with your students
  • Work with them to identify the author’s purpose for writing the text
  • Make a slice of pie for each text. Write why the text is an example of a specific author’s purpose
  • Add the slices of pie to the correct pie pan
  • Track author’s purpose throughout the year and discuss any trends across the books and articles that you read.

#3: Collect Examples from the Real World

Chances are students don’t think of authors as real people. Because we rarely see pictures of the authors that we read, or know what they have to say beyond the pages of their books, it’s easy to think of books as isolated pieces of content. Help your students draw connections between the text they read and the author’s who write them by following the author’s social media profiles.

You’ll quickly collect tweets, interviews, and other short pieces of content that will deepen your student’s perspective on the author’s they read. Try using these short pieces of content to identify the author’s purpose. And, as an added bonus, you’ll begin to teach them to think critically about all of the media that surrounds us.

Want More Ideas Like These?

This post is part of a 10-part series. In each post, we share ideas for making comprehension strategy practice more engaging.

Click here to see tips and activity ideas for the other reading comprehension strategies.