Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Purpose of Our Writing

My last post was about the importance of audience for all writers and when I thought about this post, I struggled to separate my thoughts about audience and my thoughts about purpose. Melanie's recent post shared some of the work that students have been doing to present their non-fiction research and she taught them about the reasons for writing. It's so important that students understand that we can write to entertain, to persuade, and to inform.

One of the reasons that I like the Common Core State Standards for writing is because the Standards so clearly address three types of writing. Within the writing component of the CCSS, here are the first three anchor standards:

Text Types and Purposes1

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.1 Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.2 Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.3 Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details and well-structured event sequences.

These standards are consistent throughout grades K-12, clearly establishing writing purpose for American classrooms.

When we help students understand the big questions of why are we learning this and why is what we are learning important, these purposes provide answers for them. When we are teaching a narrative unit, we are teaching students to entertain with their writing. Regardless of who the audience is, the responsibility of the writer is to entertain. Perhaps, our young writers will choose to include a moral or lesson in to their narrative and perhaps they will filter in some information. However, the main reason for narrative writing is entertainment. We can certainly remind students of all of the books that we read because we enjoy a good story. Another purpose for writing is to inform. Sometimes we read to learn about something and sometimes we write in order to teach about something. Finally, the Standards emphasize the importance of writing to persuade. When we think about what we read, some of the most powerful writing we read falls into this category. How important for students to realize that they can change how others think with their writing! I think that the more that we can empower them with the understanding of this purpose, the more effective our instruction can be.

Happy writing.


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