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 can 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 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.

Stepping into Other People’s Shoes – Teaching Point of View

Ask students to create a story map to show the perspectives of each of the characters in a story they are reading. Place the Story title in the center of the map and then draw connected circles around the title with one circle representing each of the major characters. Ask students to list the character’s name at the top of the circle and to then write an entry about the story from the character’s viewpoint. Each entry should start with “I think” or “I feel” and should help clarify the perspectives or major concerns of the character. Once students have completed character perspective bubbles for all of the major characters, have students share their maps and their perspective bubbles to see how they compare. Students will enjoy the activity and will have greater insights into the characters in the story or novel they are reading.