Explain The Author's Purpose To Me...Literature or Informational Text

5 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


SWBAT compare and contrast the important points and authors' purpose in two stories about a similar topic

Big Idea

Science vs Legend - What is the author trying to share?


  • 'Explain The Author's Purpose' powerpoint
  • 'Explain it to Me' Worksheet
  • Lesson vocabulary words from the Reading/Writing word wall: informational text, literature, tone, figurative language, version, point of view
  • Put the organizer (from the worksheet) on the whiteboard


All of the sources in the lesson are from the internet. I chose to use these, instead of a book, because I wanted the students to get a true feel for Native American lore (literature) vs informational text. I felt that it would be interesting to get the unique point of view of a Native American storyteller and a scientist. The kids really enjoyed seeing these two unique perspectives.

In this lesson, some of the websites and my discussion use an older term for Native Americans - 'Indians'. I apologize for using this term and continue to reinforce to the students that we need to be sensitive to the new terminology and strive to use 'Native American' instead.

Get Excited!

5 minutes

Underlined words below are lesson vocabulary words that are emphasized and written on sentence strips for my Reading & Writing word wall. I pull off the words off the wall for each lesson, helping students understand this key 'reading and writing' vocabulary can be generalized across texts and topics.  The focus on acquiring and using these words is part of a shift in the Common Core Standards towards building students’ academic vocabulary.  My words are color coded ‘pink’ for literature/’blue’ for reading strategies/’orange’ for informational text/'yellow' for writing/’green’ for all other words)


Bring students to a common learning point

  • Activate thinking with known/unknown science information – use the powerpoint to talk with students about answering questions (powerpoint slides 1-3)
  •  “Why are there rainbows? Why do clouds form? ………Why do rabbits have short tails? Why do trees have wrinkled bark?”
  •  “How can we find the answers to these questions?”  (Take ideas – internet, books, people) "We would use informational text to get answers, but sometimes literature also gives us answers to our questions.


I chose the clouds and rainbows questions because the students had just finished a weather unit. They were able to connect prior knowledge and were able to answer those questions based on what they just learned. This gave them the idea that scientific questions can be answered. They had ideas about the rabbit and bark, but were not sure. It was a great ‘segway’ into reading informational text to find answers to scientific questions.

Teachers' Turn

20 minutes

Model and Discuss

  • "How are the answers to questions in stories different with different storytellers? What is the difference between these versions? They show different points of view."
  • "You see 2 kinds of text. We call them literature and informational text.  Look at the tone of the story.  How does the story make you feel?" (slide 4)  Take ideas - the Native American story has lots of feeling words and it's like a story and the scientific story is full of facts
  • "Look at the characteristics of literature (we used to call this ‘fiction’) and informational text." (called ‘nonfiction’)  (slides 5-8)  My students were familiar with the fiction/non-fiction vocabulary, so this was my bridge to the new Common Core vocabulary.


Use the sample story

  • (Slide 9)  “Why do some trees have wrinkled bark?” Take ideas - my kids didn't really have a guess....
  • (Slide 10) "Here is an author who wrote an answer to this question. Do you think this story teller will give us a story that is informational or literature?  Why? The storyteller looks like he is older, he looks like a Native American."
    • Read the Native American story aloud starting with ‘This all happened…”     I chose this story because the language was fairly straightforward. Some of the Native American tales are very difficult to understand and the references are very ethereal. I also thought the tone of the story was very indicative of a legend.
    • “Did you hear any figurative language in this story?  How did he describe the tree? Who was controlling the wind?  What was the tone – what feelings did you hear?"  Sadness, anger, stubbornness?
  • (Slide 11) Pull up the scientific version -
    • “What about this storyteller. What kind of text will he share?  Informational or literature? Why do you think that? Does he look like someone with lots of information?" Take ideas - he looks like a scientist, he'll have facts...
    • Read the explanation  (just read the part about the bark)
  • “Let’s compare the ideas, tone, and author’s purpose.  I'll write what's similar between their ideas on the middle of the chart and what's different at the top and bottom. Here's what the whiteboard looked like when we compared/contrasted the version.  What do you notice that is similar and different?"
  • Use ‘open-ended’ questions to the students – ‘What did you think about the stories?’ to open up discussion. 'Why do the author's give give different explanations?'  'When might you hear or tell a literature version of a story?' (telling a friend a story)  'When might you hear a scientific version?'  (learning how to mix chemicals)  Here is some of the open ended questions that I used.


Students are comparing and contrasting the most important points presented by two texts on the same topic. (RI.2.9) They are analyzing how two texts address a similar topic in order to build knowledge and, most importantly, compare the authors' purpose. This comparison of types of text (literature vs informational) on a single topic, allows students to truly examine evidence and author's intent, part of the shift in Common Core standards toward 'close reading' and examination of the tone of the story.

Students Take a Turn

20 minutes

Explain the task

  • “Now I have another question that has 2 explanations from different authors: 'Why do rabbits have a short tail?'” (Slide 12)
  • “These 2 versions of a story are given from Native American story teller and scientist. There are different points of view and 2 kinds of text."
  • "We'll be comparing those versions like I did before on a chart."


Students compare and contrast

  • Show the Native American version about the rabbit's short tail** and author's picture (slide 13)
    • "In this video the man tells the story. He does use figurative language and you can hear the tone of the story. What is the author's point of view?"  My kids said he was trying to explain what happened 
  • "Here's the scientific version of the rabbit's short tail. (slide 14) Do you hear and see figurative language?  What about the author's tone? What is his point of view?"
  • Pass out the worksheet. Remember how I compared the 2 versions before. Now it's your turn. Think about what was similar between the 2 stories about the rabbit's tail. Put that in the middle of the chart. Think about what was different. Put those ideas on the top and bottom of the chart."
  • I did put some prompts for vocabulary on the whiteboard to help with spelling.
  • Here's an example of a student's worksheet when she was finished.


**I picked this story specifically because you can feel the tone and author’s message through the retelling. My students REALLY loved this video of the Native American storyteller. They wanted to hear more stories, which led to a great discussion in Social Studies class about Native American storytellers.

Apply What You've Learned

15 minutes

Discuss and share

  • Review the stories with the students
    • "What was your favorite story?
    • "Which explanation (informational text or literature) was easier to understand? What was helpful about the literature? What did you like about the informational text?"
    • "Why would you want one version of an explanation over the other kind?"
    • "Are you ever a scientist or a storyteller?"  
  • "Share you ideas with a friend about your favorite version."  Here's an student discussing the stories.
  • "Why did we compare the versions of the stories today? How did figurative language and tone affect the story?"


Scaffolding and Special Education: This lesson could be easily scaffolded up or down, depending on student ability.

For students with academic challenges, it was great to have the stories read to them and the video. They did need help with the comparison of stories. I used a whiteboard to give them prompts for the organizer.

For students of greater ability, it would be great to have some detailed comparisons written. I would challenge them to write more than one word and use higher-level vocabulary, such as 'tradition' or 'legend'.  I used them when reading the story, but did not write them on the board, but they should be familiar words to some students.