5+ Effective Ways to Teach Author’s Purpose to Young Learners

Author's purpose is a challenging skill for most kids, but in this post, you'll get teaching tips and activities to help break down this skill for your students. Free printables includes as well as linked resources and support.

Author’s purpose seems to be a problematic skill for young kids, but it doesn’t have to be. If teachers have the tools to break down the skill for kids, they will learn to not only recognize the author’s purpose, but use that knowledge for deeper understanding.

An author’s purpose is the reason the author is trying to do with their writing. Knowing the author’s purpose helps kids better understand the parts of their reading that have the most value or importance. For example, if the author’s purpose is to inform, the reader will look for the main idea and supporting details, important facts, nonfiction text features and structures. In this post, I’ll share ideas you can use for teaching author’s purpose effectively and efficiently.

teaching author’s purpose:

In the primary grades, we focus on PIE. What does PIE stand for? persuade, inform, or entertain or PIE. There are so many great texts to use to teach your students how to identify an author’s purpose. To use mentor texts to teach the author’s purpose, you can read a book to or with your students and have them identify the purpose of the book based on the events, facts shared, or opinions. The key is in the language used. Here are a few titles to get you started.

  • Persuade: Convinces the reader to feel a certain way about the selected topic. Texts you can use include advertisements and commercials, persuasive letters, or books with a convincing problem. Titles include: I Want an Iguana, The Day the Crayons Quit, Hey Ant! , and Otto Runs for President.
Author's purpose is a challenging skill for most kids, but in this post, you'll get teaching tips and activities to help break down this skill for your students. Free printables includes as well as linked resources and support.
  • Inform: These texts provide information. They are typically nonfiction texts that give factual information on one topic. History Smashers Series by Kate Messner, Crying is Like the Rain by Heather Hawk, A Tree is a Plant by Clyde Bulla, and From Seed to Plant by Gail Gibbons.
  • Entertain: When we think of entertaining texts, we think of a story or humor. Examples of these texts would be something like Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parrish, Clifford by Norman Bridwell, or Brave Irene by William Steig.

For upper elementary, we expand by adding two more purposes; Explain and Describe.

  • Explain: Texts that explain tell directions or how to make something. They tell a process. Texts that are explanatory include: Recipes, Directions, or book likes, How to Babysit a Grandpa, How to Build a House, and How to Read a Book .
  • Describe: These texts use specific language to share details that reach the senses. This purpose includes poetry and descriptive writing. Texts you might include are In November, Owl Moon, and Come On, Rain.

Guiding Questions on Author’s Purpose

Question stems are very helpful to students. Here are a few ideas to get your started. You might put them on task cards for your groups to help support them as they read books on a variety of purposes.

  • I think the author’s purpose was _____ because I saw ______.
  • To identifying author’s purpose, I _____.
  • The author’s message is _____ and this shows me the author’s purpose was_____.
  • This passage was written mainly to …
  • In the last paragraph, why did the author end the passage with ?
  • What does the author mean when he/she writes ?
  • How does the author let you know about …?
  • How does the author help readers BETTER understand how to…?
  • What is the author’s reason for ?
  • In order to show readers that _____, the author includes_____ .
  • Why did the author include the section ?
  • Why does the author _? What was the author’s purpose in ?
  • What is the purpose of the first (paragraph, illustration) is to ?
  • What clues helped you determine the author’s purpose for…?
  • How did the author let the reader know his/her perspective on the topic?

Ways to Practice Author’s Purpose

There are many ways you can have students work to discover the author’s purpose. Here are a few lesson ideas:

  1. A great way you can do this is by having your students write a story that satisfies a certain purpose. You can do this by either assigning each student a different purpose and have them write a short story, or you can write a story as a class. This last one would be great with younger students who can’t quite write yet. You can choose a purpose, and then, you can use shared writing to have the students create the story with you helping guide them.
  2. Another idea is to have your students choose a book that they haven’t read before. Have them determine what the purpose is after they have read it and explain why. You might have each group member read a book on a specific purpose and compile a list of reasons they’re all Informative or explanatory. You can do this with older students by having them write a paragraph or so explaining what the purpose is, why that is the purpose, and how they know. With younger students who can write, you can do the same but have them write a smaller amount. With younger students who cannot yet read or write, you can read the story with them and have a group discussion about what the purpose is. Below, you’ll find a simple graphic organizer you can use to have students analyze the text they’ve read.
  3. Finally, sorting text examples helps to see who understands. I’ve included a foldable with an activity you can try with your students.

links to helpful resources you might like:

Need additional Teaching options?

This project for author’s purpose includes 5 pages explaining in detail each purpose and the look fors, a sorting activity with 20 plus examples, analyzing texts flipbook pages, and analyzing the author’s purpose in friendly letters. This project is just $4.00 in my shop. You can purchase it HERE or in my TPT shop HERE.

If you need additional ideas for author’s purpose or any other skill, leave a comment below. I’m happy to help you out!


Carla is a licensed reading specialist with 27 years of experience in the regular classroom (grades 1, 4, and 5), in Title 1 reading, as a tech specialists, and a literacy coach. She has a passion for literacy instruction and meeting the needs of the individual learner.