Close Reading to Determine the Author's Purpose

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SWBAT use text evidence to analyze the author's purpose for writing a literary text.

Big Idea

In this lesson your students will be introduced to looking beyond the written words to discover what the author may have been thinking.


Common Core Connection:

When I originally heard the term ‘close reading,’ I immediately thought of the strategies I use for teaching my students how to ‘monitor and clarify.’  As I read and learned more about close reading I realized I could appreciate that many of the strategies used to monitor and clarify a reading are still in play; however, close reading adds a deeper twist: reading with a specific purpose. This seems like a broad term, but, depending on what you want your students to learn, many of the specific skills embedded in different standards can be in effect.   

That being said, close reading is still new to me, and I am experimenting with this lesson.  Besides reading for fluency, I wanted my students to understand the author’s purpose. Thus we spend time today close reading to discover what the author might have intended using text evidence to back up our ideas.

Lesson Overview:

In this lesson I was introducing my students of how to go beyond what was written on the page to think about the author’s purpose for writing this story.  To do this I asked questions that would help my students use prior knowledge and text clues to determine the setting and problem of this story as  well as to determine why the author wrote the piece.


  • Bud’s Day Out, by G. Brian Karas
  • Caribbean Dream, by Rachel Isadora
  • Overhead Transparency Sheets (1 per student)
    • If your are unfamiliar with these, clear sheet/page protectors work
  • Wet Erase Overhead Markers (1 per student)
  • One tissue per student- to wipe overhead transparency sheets


5 minutes

To begin this lesson I had my students think about yesterday’s reading, Caribbean Dream.  I reminded them that there were some words that were new to them and asked how they figured those new words out.  I then instructed my students to partner share one or two strategies they used yesterday to figure out the new word.  Then using the magic cup (Demonstration: Magic Cup), I selected three students to share with the class a strategy they used to determine the meaning of a new word. These three students reported back that they could read the story or page again, look at the picture for a clue, or use prior knowledge.  As these students shared the rest of the class showed me they agreed by showing a thumb up (Demonstration: Thumb Up, Thumb Down).  A few other students chimed in they could also ask a friend or look in the dictionary.  After complementing my students on doing a good job remembering, I told them today we would learn some more strategies to figure out what message the author is giving us or the purpose he or she has in writing this story.

With that, I held up a copy of Bud’s Day Out and asked my students what they thought this story was going to be about.  They all shouted out, "A dog!"  At that point I had my students stand up, and as we sang “B-I-N-G-O” they quietly marched to their chairs.

Guided Practice

15 minutes

Today, I told my students, I would read the story to them, however before I began I instructed my students to take a picture walk of this story.  In my class, a picture walk involves looking at the pictures from the beginning of the literary text to the end, without reading.  This helps to familiarize the students to the reading and gives them a chance to make predictions from the picture clues about what they think the story will be about.  When my students were finished looking at the pictures, I gave them a moment of think and table partner share what they thought the story was going to be about.  I then used the magic cup to select two partner pairs to share what they thought was happening in story Bud’s Day Out.  For the most part these students relayed back that the story was about a dog and a boy.  I could see that nearly all of the students agreed with this by showing me a thumb up.  Acknowledging that nearly all of my students agreed, I continued by stating we would know for sure after we read the story.

I then instructed my students to listen with their ears, look at the words with their eyes, and point to the words with their fingers.  I then read the entire story because I wanted my students to hear it through before continuing the lesson and experience the simple joy of listening to the story.  Teacher reading the literary text first is one strategy I have used to familiarize students to the text and help them make predictions and inferences.  It also gives them the opportunity to hear the story before they start to analyze it.

When I finished reading I gave my students a little moment to think about the story.  After a moment of think time, I posed the question: ‘After hearing the story and reading along with me, who can share with the class, what is this story about?’  This time I called on two students to answer the question, and they stated that the story is about a dog that ran a way and a boy who lost is dog.

I wanted to combine these two explanations to just the dog ran away.  I asked, ‘If the dog is lost, how did he get lost?’  After a brief discussion, and a little nudging from me, my students agreed the dog was lost because he ran away.  Once it was established the dog ran away, I stated: ‘This is an interesting story, with a lot of adventure, but why did the author write this story about a dog running away?’  My students had several answers to this question that included: “he wanted to,” “because that is what the story is about,” “his teacher told him to,” and, “he likes dogs.”  All good answers, I had to agree.  However, I continued by reminding my students just as they re-read yesterday’s reading, used picture clues, and prior knowledge to figure out a new word, they could also use some of those same strategies to figure out why the author wrote a story about a dog running away.

I then posed the question: ‘Why do you think the author would write a story about a dog running away?’  This time, after partner sharing, when I called on partner pairs, they concluded that it was because Bud had made a mess in the pet store.  Trying to get my students to think beyond the printed words, I continued by telling my students to think about what was so important about a dog running away and making a mess that the author would write about it.  After a moment to think about this question a few students raised their hands and ventured answers that included: “so he won’t run away again,” “to help him be good,” “so the boy will know how to take care of his dog.”  All good reasons I agreed, and then I asked, ‘Where does it say those things in the story?

Whole Group Activity

15 minutes

To help my students develop their re-reading comprehension skills to read deeper than what was printed on the page, I wrote their answers on the Promethean board:

  1. so he won’t run away again
  2. to help him be good
  3. so the boy will know how to take care of his dog

I then pointed to the first statement and had my students read it out loud with me, when they finished reading I pointed to the words “run away again,” and said: ‘These words tell me that Bud has run away before, but how do I know that?’  Several students called out from the story, which I agreed with; however, they had to show me where in the story it said Bud had ran away before.  I then passed out the overhead transparency sheets and markers.  Using the doc-u-cam, I showed my students how to cover the book page with the overhead transparency sheets and read the page again, then circle or underline the words that implied Bud had run away before, as seen in Modeling How to Find Words.  As we did this for statement one, my students decided that the word run should be circled because that is what the dog did, and the words not today because, as one student stated, ‘not today means not now, but it did before.’

When we finished statement one I asked my students what they had to do to find out Bud had run away before, they all responded re-read and think about the story.  "That’s correct," I said, as I pointed to statement two and had my students read it with me.  I clarified that this statement meant to help Bud be good and asked my students what they should do to show me Bud was not good.  My students called out, "read it again and look for words."  "What kind of words?" I asked. "Bad words," they replied back.  At this point I was curious what ‘bad words’ were, but I instructed my students to partner read the story and use the overhead transparency sheets to circle words that implied Bud was not a good dog.  The picture, Student Work, is a sample from one student pair, who explained Mom and Ben knew Bud had run away because it says, 'Let's look for him.'  After about 5 minutes I asked my students what words they found, besides the words run and not today, my students found yelp, splat, big mess, stop, and grab the dog.  I asked them why they chose those words and was told, "because all those words tell how the dog was acting."

After reading statement three with my students, I asked them what it meant.  For the most part, nearly all of my students agreed they could tell Ben did not know how to take care of, or train Bud, because on the last page it stated: Bud must learn the ten rules for dogs. Ben could read and Bud could look at the pictures.

That was pretty much true I told my students, but does that answer why the author wrote this story?  After giving my students a moment to discuss this with their table partners I used the magic cup to select a partner pair to give their answer to the class.  As this pair of students reported that it was important that all dogs know the rules and that is why the author wrote the story, the rest of my class showed me they agreed by showing a thumb up.

I agreed too, further stating that Bud would not have made a mess had he not run away.

ELA Center Activities

15 minutes

With that we transitioned into our guided reading groups where my students rotate every 15 to 20 minutes through ELA activity centers.  Besides working with me in leveled differentiated reading groups, one center is journal writing.  Journal writing helps students to remember, understand, and apply what they just learned or did during the guided and group activities.  Today I used their journals to help them be creative.  As my students noticed, the story never said what the ten rules for dogs were.  Today in their journals my students wrote their own rules for dogs and why the rules were important.

The prompt I put on the board: What would your ten rules for dogs be and why are they important?

I checked each journal as my students rotated to my reading group.  The two students in the featured videos are from the high reading group, however in Using Rules I Know, the student stuck to basic rules she was familiar with.  Whereas the student in Creating New Rules took the assignment to heart and created his own set of rules.

Ticket Out the Door

5 minutes

Students shared their journal responses with a partner.