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After teaching students how to organize essays effectively, I was on top of the world. I started my own blog about how great I was. I assigned my students another essay, collected it and realized my students did not understand writing for purpose and audience. In shock, I logged on to my blog, erased what I had written, sent individual e-mails to all three people who had read it and cancelled my day trip to Charleston, South Carolina.
I had work to do. I had to devise a lesson plan that helped students understand the importance of writing for purpose and audience. Here's what I came up with.
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1) Cover the following points about writing for purpose and audience:
- Your audience determines what you write, what examples and details to include, what to emphasize, word choice and tone.
- Your purpose for writing determines what you write, the point of your writing, and how you will make your point.
- Knowing audience and purpose gives your writing focus.
2) Divide students in to groups of 3-4
- Assign a topic.
- Give each group a card with a specific purpose (to inform, to entertain, to persuade), and a specific audience. For example, one group could write an informative essay about riding the bus for new students; one group could write an entertaining experience about a bus ride for publication in the school newspaper; another group could write a persuasive article on why there needs to be air conditioning on the school bus to the principal.
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Help students focus on their purpose and audience on the first draft
- Each group writes a paragraph directed to the specified audience with a specified purpose. For best results, use butcher paper.
- When students have completed their writing, ask each group to read it to the class. If they used butcher paper, have them tape the essay to the wall.
- Have students guess the audience and purpose, noting key components.
- Note differences in writing on the board.
Help students revise their own essays
- Instruct students to copy the following questions: For whom am I writing? What point do I want to make? What idea am I trying to convey?
- Instruct students to read their rough drafts, answering the above questions as they read.
- Collect the answers to the questions and instruct students to rewrite their drafts, focused on the intended audience and purpose.
This lesson has been adapted from Susan Geye's Mini Lessons for Revision, 1997.
Lesson Plan: Determining Audience and Purpose
Writing that lacks focus confuses readers. Student writing lacks focus because they rarely have a purpose, do not know how to make a point, and write to an imaginary, non-existent audience. End their pointless meanderings with these simple lesson plans.