Author's Purpose, Interactive Notebooks

Author’s Purpose Is NOT “As Easy As PIE”

Author's Purpose is NOT As Easy As PIE

Please stop telling your students that author’s purpose is as easy as PIE. I know these anchor charts are all over Pinterest and are probably even the first images that a google search pulls up, but please, please resist the urge to put them up in your classroom. You’re better than that.

I get it. We all want easy ways for our students to remember things, and PIE or (PIES) is a simple acronym for some common reasons that authors write a text. The problem is, author’s purpose is not “as easy as pie.” Those anchor charts are cute, but we need to go further with our instruction, exclude the word “easy,” and forgo the urge to list genres underneath these purposes. We can’t teach our students that you can determine an author’s purpose based on genre alone. It’s just not that simple.

All fiction texts were not written simply to entertain. Stories with strong themes such as fables and folktales are often written to teach, or express a life lesson. Some fiction stories are designed to persuade us to think or care about something. The Great Kapok Tree by Lynne Cherry and The Lorax by Dr. Seuss are great examples.

In addition, we want our students to deepen their analysis of nonfiction texts. Rather than labeling all nonfiction as “to inform,” encourage them to ask, is the author describing? Comparing? Explaining? Showing the causes and effects of events?

Leading students to believe that we can easily categorize texts into three or four purposes causes a lack of depth in their analysis. In order to encourage your students to go beyond the surface, you need to move beyond PIE.

So, how do we go about teaching author’s purpose?

We want our readers to determine the author’s main idea (or theme), examine the way he/she went about expressing and supporting that main idea, and analyze why he/she chose to write about it. So, we should compare authors to architects.

An architect makes choices about the design of a building based on its intended purpose. A school is built for the purpose of educating students, a hospital for the purpose of healing the sick and wounded, and a house for the purpose of providing shelter and comfort for a family. These buildings are designed in very different ways because they all have different purposes. Likewise, authors make design choices about their writing. They are architects designing their stories and texts. They start with the purpose of the text and make choices about the genre, structure, text, word choice, and features to help him/her achieve that purpose. You can find the anchor chart below in the Reading Interactive Notebook.

Author's Purpose Anchor Chart

Then, use this model to analyze and discuss the author’s purpose of a text, and how he/she “built it”. Use a graphic organizer like the one below to help students understand this concept. This is an example from our interactive notebook for an article I found on

Author's Purpose Graphic Organizer

Discussion is key.

Hold class discussions over texts read together. Have small group discussions about the texts read in guided reading or book clubs. Use task cards or other short texts to have groups or partners discuss the author’s purpose.

Extend this practice through reader’s response for independent reading or book clubs.

Connect author’s purpose to their own writing.

Finally, solidify their understanding of author’s purpose by connecting it to their writing. Have students complete a graphic organizer as a part of their prewriting to help them identify their purpose and make choices about their writing based on that purpose.

By using complex examples and teaching your readers to think critically about the choices the author makes in order to achieve his/her purpose, you are teaching them to be analytical readers and empowering them to draw their own conclusions.

Find the interactive notebook pages shown above here. Click here for the entire reading interactive notebook. Read tips about how to get the most out of your interactive notebooks here.

Author's Purpose is NOT As Easy as PIE

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10 thoughts on “Author’s Purpose Is NOT “As Easy As PIE””

  1. Thank you sooooooo much for writing this. I often get so sad to see this happen when being taught. Then students face state assessments and there is not easy as P.I.E. it is so much more. YAY

  2. I love your take on teaching author’s purpose to a deeper level. I am working on upgrading the way this is taught throughout my district as part of a curriculum team and was very frustrated when all I kept hearing was “persuade, inform, entertain!” over and over again. Your post gave me a lot of inspiration to guide the lesson plans I am creating to share with others and helped me come up with ways to push kids to think at that higher DOK level that they are actually supposed to be working with!

    1. Hi Maritza! Great question! I would go about this in a very similar way for second grade, but would ease into it a bit more. I’d recommend starting with a concrete activity. A great one is a structure building activity using a few decks of cards, some tape, and some water bottles. Tell the students to build a structure within a specific amount of time. Then say, “Now we’re going to see which structures can hold a water bottle on top of it.” Place the water bottles on the structures and watch most of them crumble. Ask the students if they might have built their structures a bit differently had they known it had the purpose of holding a water bottle on top of it. This begins the discussion comparing architects to authors. I’d treat the anchor chart and introduction the same. Then begin modeling with a fiction text that has a very strong message, such as The Great Kapok Tree by Lynne Cherry. You can then talk about how the author uses this story to teach us a lesson. You can begin to dig deeper (and with varied genres) throughout the week depending on the rate of your students’ understanding. It will involve A LOT of modeling and thinking aloud during whole group lessons. Thanks to your question, I have decided to add a more basic graphic organizer to my reading interactive notebook. It will be updated tomorrow. I hope this helps. Let me know how it goes!

  3. Hello…this is exactly what I have been searching for!! Thank you. Do you have any practice for Author’s purpose for 3rd grade? I am buying the bundle, but thought there might be more practice.

  4. Thank you so much for this!!! It is very difficult to create lessons that encourage deeper thinking with the resources that are out there today. So many activities I find are watered down and require only surface level thinking. I love the way you connected an author to an architect. I will definitely be sharing this with my class. Keep up the good work!!

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