Thursday, March 24, 2016

Tackle the Test, and the Text, with Authors' Craft: Looking Beyond the PIE

Ok, so let’s face it, pie is good. Sweet, delicious, cover-me-in-ice-cream pie, is really good. Unfortunately, over the past couple of years, I have found one pie that isn’t so good: the ‘pie’ representing author’s purpose. Beyond persuading, informing, and entertaining, an author writes with deeper meaning and we need our students to understand this.




Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great place to start. When I taught elementary I used P.I.E. to teach author’s purpose all the time. I wanted my students to identify if an author was writing to persuade, inform, or entertain. We need to acknowledge, however, as students grow as readers, they need to start looking beyond the surface of the text. There is a reason an author writes a certain way and there are clues in the text to help us understand why. We have to help our students unwrap the author’s purpose by examining the author’s craft.

At the beginning of every year, I review specific skills such as theme, point of view, and characterization. My students are able to pinpoint these skills within a text. As the year progresses, I push them to dive deeper into the text. Why is the author using a specific point of view? How does this point of view affect the plot? How did the author use characterization to build the main character? How do you know? In order to truly understand a text, a good reader needs read for deeper meaning by examining the author’s craft. We can no longer ask our students to simply ‘identify’ story elements. We can no longer have our students ‘identify’ the theme of a passage. We can no longer settle with being able to identify P.I.E. We need our readers to dig deeper. What is the text saying? What is the author doing? How do you know? What do you take away from this?




To help me do this regularly, I created generic task cards focused on author’s craft. I can pull from these whenever we read any type of text in order to encourage my students to read for deeper meaning. This doesn’t have to be difficult.

I tell my kiddos, authors are sneaky. They have the ability to make you love or hate a character. They have the ability to create a setting that makes you relate to a story. The author can take you worlds away or make you examine where you are standing. While I encourage and support reading for pleasure in my class (a lot actually), I want my students to have the ability to dissect difficult texts.  Authors speak a secret language within a text and as middle school readers it remains our job to crack the code. Authors truly write beyond the ‘P.I.E.’ 



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