Audience and Point of View in Student Writing

Preparing Students for College and Career

One of the key skills that graduating students need for success in college and career is the ability to understand how to determine an appropriate point of view that should be used when communicating with different audiences. 

Despite the importance of literacy for job success, 4 out of 5 employers say that recent high school graduates have gaps in their career preparation. 

College professors and employers alike complain that students are not prepared to meet the reading and writing demands of either college or the workplace. 

Employers and colleges say that not only do students need to master challenging academic content, they also need to develop strong communication skills. These include speaking, writing, and making presentations to diverse audiences.

Not only are students not fully prepared in reading and writing,  but they also lack critical thinking skills.  Pisa results find that 1 in 6 students are not able to solve problems that require thinking ahead or applying content knowledge to an unfamiliar setting.

In addition to critical thinking and problem-solving, understanding how to write to a specific audience is essential.   Knowing how to engage that audience with a targeted point of view is also a necessary skill that students must have.

Reading Skills Students Need for College and Career

To ensure that students are ready to move on, it is important for classroom teachers to have a clear vision of what is important for them to know and be able to do when they leave school. 

College professors want students who can think and see issues from multiple perspectives.

On the job, employees must create presentations and written materials appropriate for a range of audiences from customers to colleagues to Board members. 

Employers find that new high school graduates are not prepared to make those shifts. New employees have difficulty taking the same information and crafting it to fit the needs of different audiences.

Employers want new hires who can analyze their intended audiences, organize information, and create information specifically tailored to each audience.

Girl sitting on the floor between two book-filled shelves reading a book.

Teaching Audience Point of View

Students must understand that everything we read, write, or hear has a point of view and an audience who will receive the message.   Ask students to craft and re-craft various messages to meet different audiences.

A good way to do this is by using familiar fairy tales. Students choose a character who is not the main character and then write writing it from various perspectives. This is always a fun and easy way to teach point of view.

For example: in Little Red Riding Hood, students might tell the story from the point of view of the wolf or from the Grandmother. They could re-write the Three Little Pigs from the perspective of the wolf or from the perspective of one particular pig.

A great book to use as a model for point of view is: The Stinky Cheeseman and Other Fairly Stupid Tales by Jon Scieszka. 

Students young and old will love Scieszka’s funny interpretations of these classic tales. They will have a lot of fun creating their own “fractured fairy tale” versions of stories they know and love.

To help students understand the concept of audience in their writing, give students a  simple prewritten paragraph. Ask them to identify how this message might change if it is a text to a friend. Then a message to someone they just met.

Learning about how to write for various audiences is also important. You can ask students to create a position paper on a topic of importance.

Then ask students to identify how the message would change if it were a letter to one of their parents. How would it change if it were a petition to the principal?

How might a message on the benefits of attending your school change if it were sent to a friend?  What about a potential parent? What about a teacher candidate who might be interested in working at the school?  

When students need to think about how a message should change to meet the needs of various audience groups. This improves their communication by targeting their message appropriately.

Helping Struggling Students Meet Reading Standards

Using Scaffolding to Help Struggling Students

Teachers ask how to help struggling students meet rigorous reading standards when they lack the foundational skills in reading.

Trying to learn when you have gaps that prevent you from doing what other students can do is frustrating for many students.

You can reduce frustration and help your students learn the skills you need them to have by using scaffolds and learning supports during your instruction.

What are scaffolds?

Scaffolds are supportive practices that you use to help students close the gap between where they currently perform and where you need them to perform.

Smiling teen girl reading a book while sitting outside.
Scaffolds Help Students be more Successful Readers

You might provide a tool or strategy to help students organize their learning. For example, one tool that could be used is a graphic organizer to outline the steps or process to be used during learning.

A strategy that might be helpful is to break learning into more manageable chunks for the student.

By organizing learning into smaller bites, the student is able to see success and stair-step his or her way to accomplish the task. This helps reduce the overwhelm that some students feel when faced with a complex or multi-part assignment.

Using Scaffolding Ideas to Bridge Learning Gaps

When the going gets tough for your students, here are a examples of scaffolds that you might use to help your students meet the standard that you are working on:

  1. Create and provide a flow chart to help the student identify next steps in a process such as multiplying fractions or editing something they have written. Use models or exemplars and show students what the finished product should look like.
  2. Provide a concrete manipulative that students can use to see relationships or connections. For example, have them create a strong paragraph by putting each sentence on a strip of paper and then moving them around and using transition words to build meaning.
  3. Graphic organizers of all types help struggling students plan and think through a problem. Graphic organizers can identify foundational thought processes  such as making connections or seeing cause and effect relationships. This helps students understand the concept you want them to learn more easily. 
  4. Proving pictures and charts can also help scaffold learning for students.
  5. Providing time for students to talk and share their thoughts and ideas is also a powerful scaffold. Blend some structured talking time into your lessons. Use techniques like: turn and talk, think-pair-share to discuss topics or concepts being presented. Use partner sharing time to help focus student thoughts and understandings.

Scaffolds are a good way to help struggling students improve their likelihood of reaching the grade level target. 

Think about what your students struggle with in the classroom. Then put into place scaffolds to might support your students in reaching the goals you want them to accomplish.

Helping Struggling Students With Alternative Assignments

Another way to help students improve their mastery of state standards is by providing learning choices or alternative assignment choices to students.

Often there are several ways that students might be able to demonstrate mastery of a concept. This might include creating an info-graphic, making a detailed drawing, created a narrated PowerPoint or writing a report.

Giving students some choice in how they demonstrate their learning is motivational and fun.

Choice Adds Interest and Increases Motivation

Bored struggling reader female with book in front of a chalkboard with math symbols.
Choice Strengthens Motivation

 For example, you have an ELA standard requiring students to demonstrate narrative technique such as using dialogue and a solid plot line.

You find that some students have trouble meeting this standard.

Instead of developing a written story as some students might do, allow students to have a choice of the product they will work on to show their mastery.

For example, some choices might be to develop a cartoon or a short, written radio script to show their mastery of these standards.

Another option might be to create a short, graphic novel using internet tools that are free and easily available showing characters using dialog in an appropriate manner. 

As the student develops proficiency with the required skills, their ability to demonstrate the required standard will continue to improve.

When children are more motivated to do the work and strive to learn, their levels of competency also increases and moves them toward being able to demonstrate the skills they need to be successful with your grade level standards.

Learn more about helping struggling students learn to read in my ASCD book, Literacy Strategies for Grades 4-12: Reinforcing the Threads of Reading.

You May Also Like:

How to Enhance Student Reading with Audio Books

Why Students Struggle and What to Do About It

How to Help Struggling Readers Understand Difficult Text

The Threads of Reading – Karen Tankersley

On my blog, you will find many new reading strategies, ideas and suggestions for becoming a masterful “weaver” of the threads of reading in your own classroom.

Nothing is more important for a teacher than to know how to use good reading strategies and practices. Making a difference with our students is why we all became educators. Becoming strong and proficient readers and writers is critical for our students.

The goal of my website is to help you create strong and effective readers in your classroom. I have gathered hundreds of tips, tricks, and reading strategies that will help you meet the literacy needs of your students.

Many of these ideas featured here come from my own work as a reading specialist, literacy coach and professional developer.

Other tips and reading strategies are from the successful instructional strategies of great reading teachers I have known over the years.  Other ideas are from important research being done in the field that translates into effective instruction.

I will also pass along good ideas from other literacy experts in the field that you might find helpful for your own classroom instruction.

Share Your Own Effective Reading Strategies and Tips

Feel free to leave suggestions on great reading tips you use with your own students as you read. Also, feel free to ask questions or comment on the ideas and suggestions found here.

Please be an active participant when you visit here.  Return again and again for ideas, teaching strategies, and inspiration. 

Teaching students to read well is not an easy job. The more we share great ideas and identify what works to improve student proficiency, the better readers our students become.

Thank you for the work that you do every day!  You are valued and appreciated!

Karen’s Books on Teaching Reading

In addition to the information presented here, you may enjoy reading some of my books on teaching reading and working with struggling readers:

The Threads of Reading: Strategies for Literacy Development

Literacy Strategies for Grades 4-12:  Reinforcing the Threads of Reading

Tests that Teach: Using Standardized Tests to Improve Instruction

How to Help Your Child Become a Great Reader: Easy Literacy Games and Activities to Do at Home

Instructional Coaching Impacts Teacher Performance

My Book on Literacy Coaching for Reading Effectiveness

If you are a relatively new Instructional Coach or Reading coach in your school, then you may also enjoy reading my book on literacy coaching:

Coaching the Threads of Reading: Helping Teachers Build Reading Success

You may also enjoy these posts on Literacy coaching on my blog:

Coaching the Threads of Reading for Literacy Coaches

Instructional Coaching That Gets Results

New Class for Literacy Coaches

Check out my new Literacy Coaching course, Coaching Heroes and Champions.

In this course, you will be able to improve your ability to inspire and coach the teachers in your school. You will be able to:

1: cultivate success as a literacy coach who facilitates adult learning that changes practice.

2: understand how to build trusting and caring coaching relationships that enable teacher success.

3: use coaching strategies to increase student academic performance and facilitate student-centered practices that instill joy in the classroom.

4: use data to hone instructional performance and improve student engagement and mastery of state standards.

Here is a list of what you will learn in Bringing Out the Heroes and Champions in Teachers: Instructional Coaching that Gets Results

Module 1: Clarifying the Coaching Role, Purpose and Vision for Success

Module 2: How to Differentiate Support to Meet Individual Teacher Needs

Module 3: Adult Learning, Mental Models and Teacher Career Stages

Module 4: Using Formative and Summative Assessment to Maximize Student Achievement

Module 5: Planning and Teaching for Maximizing Achievement

Module 6: Powerful Communications

I would love to hear your feedback on what you like and how the course might be improved for future students!