Author’s Purpose: 6 Terrific Strategies to Move Beyond P.I.E

Deepen elementary learners’ understanding of author’s purpose beyond PIE using these six effective strategies.

Books, newspapers, TV, signs, and the internet bombard us with loads of information.

Some of that information is purposeful, but much of it is meant to negatively impact our behavior or mindset.

That’s why it’s essential to equip students with the right tools so that they can easily identify the purpose of a writer’s message and its impact on the reader.

Related: See more readers’ workshop mini-lesson ideas.

With Author’s Purpose, How Can We Move Beyond P.I.E?

1. Expand Students’ Author’s Purpose Vocabulary Using Synonyms.

Kids hear “persuade”, “inform”, and “entertain” repeatedly. Many recite those three words without thinking.

When you ask a child about the author’s purpose of a text, he will most likely use one of those three words.

He’s repeating what he’s been taught.

But instead of persuade, he could use “convince”, or “encourage”. For inform, “tell” or “enlighten”. For entertain, what about “engage” or “amuse”?

Teaching a variety of words expands kids’ thinking.

With upper elementary students, this is even more important.

With all of the book genres and texts they read, not all of those books have an author’s message that fits neatly into one of the categories of “persuade”, “inform”, or “entertain”.

So it’s essential that students have a wide vocabulary as it relates to the reason why an author writes a particular message.

2. Expose Students to More Text Genres … Especially Non-Fiction.

Though there are many fiction and picture books that do more than just entertain the reader, nonfiction texts are ideal resources to use when it comes to analyzing an author’s message.

Think biographies, science/social studies-themed books, billboards, slogans, menus, newspapers, campaign signs, advertisements, etc.

These types of real word print are all around us and have clever messaging.

Encourage students to engage with these types of texts.

Assign projects where they have to bring in samples to class for discussion, create their own real world print samples, or participate in a book scavenger hunt looking for evidence/clues to support their opinions about an author’s message.

3. Use Videos.

When teaching author’s purpose, videos are always a hit.

But you’ve got to be strategic.

Child-appropriate commercials, infomercials, and campaigns are amazing for teaching author’s purpose.

Imagine this…

A toy commercial uses flashy objects, colorful pictures, laughing children, and upbeat music.

Why is that?

Do your elementary learners realize that they’re being targeted and encouraged to want those products?

Another scenario…

A commercial with lonesome cats and dogs isolated in cages plays sad, slow music… the camera shows close-ups of the animals’ sad faces, and you can’t help but feel heartbroken, right?

See what that commercial just did there? Yes, of course you do… but do your students?

When we teach students the motives behind the commercials and the tactics used to change mindset and behavior, they are better equipped to make informed opinions about an author’s purpose.

4. Examine with Students How the Author’s Purpose May Change Throughout a Text.

Authors may write for more than one reason. One book or text doesn’t necessarily have one purpose.

For example, a book about recycling may inform the reader about the amount of trash that is thrown out every year per household.

Somewhere else within that book (or maybe even on the same page), the author may try to encourage the reader to recycle.

Not all texts have more than one purpose, but many do.

Guide students in analyzing how and why an author writes for various reasons within one text.

5. Teach Students about Author Bias.

It’s important to teach students that authors usually have a bias when writing.

Authors try to get us to think or behave in a certain way. This fits a personal agenda of theirs whether it’s obvious or not to the reader.

author's purpose beyond pie

This is very evident in billboards, advertisements, and political literature.

These types of texts LOVE to appeal to our emotions, fears, desires, etc.  Subconsciously, we often fall for it, so watch out.

These guided questions help elementary learners decipher an author’s purpose:

  • Why is the author writing this?
  • What behavior is he trying to get me to do?
  • Is the author trying to change my mindset?
  • What action is the author wanting me to take?
  • How much evidence does the author use to support this opinion?
  • Is there any information that the author doesn’t want me to know?

These are questions that students should ask themselves as they analyze an author’s message.

These questions help students think critically, and that’s what we want.

6. Study Text Features.

Authors use a variety of text features to support their message. This is especially true in nonfiction books.

  • Italics and bold type words show importance and emphasize an important idea.
  • Charts and graphs support an author’s message using visual appeal and numbers.
  • Interesting and attention-grabbing headlines or subtitles are sometimes used to entice the reader.
  • Photos and illustrations use imagery to support an author’s message.

Related: Using text features to comprehend text is a great study skill. Check out our ultimate list of study skills for elementary learners.

My favorite children’s author is Gail Gibbons. I absolutely love her books.

When I taught an author book study series to my 3rd and 4th graders, her collection of nonfiction picture books were perfect for helping my students see how photos and illustrations support an author’s message.

Gail Gibbons’ books inform readers about a particular nonfiction topic, and the colorful photos and illustrations entertain the reader while learning.

Let’s think about another nonfiction book about recycling.

If the author shows a photo of a landfill that expands for miles and miles, the reader is more likely to agree with the author that recycling is important because it reduces waste.

And if the reader thinks recycling is important, he or she will probably be convinced to do so.

Authors also organize their texts in a way to reinforce their message.

They may…

  • put the most important ideas at the beginning or end of the book (inform technique)
  • strategically give several examples to support an opinion directly after stating that opinion (persuasion technique)
  • put information in an easy-to-read format (such as bullets or steps) so that the reader can understand it better (inform technique)
  • use lots of pictures and very few words (entertain technique)

Helping students understand how text features support an author’s message will surely help them develop into clever consumers of information!

It’s Time to Explore Author’s Purpose Beyond P.I.E

That popular cutesy P.I.E visual provides a good foundation for author’s purpose.

But when your elementary students are ready, these 6 helpful strategies will definitely help them move beyond P.I.E.

They will grow into mature readers and critical thinkers.

And when they finally go out into the real world and get exposed to a sea of information 24/7, we can be sure that they have the tools needed to be smart content consumers.

Happy teaching and learning