In order to communicate effectively, writers and speakers need to understand their audience’s interests, assumptions, and background knowledge. Skilled communicators must be able both to identify their audience and analyze its characteristics. This activity helps to develop the skill of audience analysis in students by guiding them to identify their core audience and determine its key features. The activity is used most often when students are planning a persuasive text.
Find a model of a persuasive text, its intended audience, and a list of key characteristics of this audience.
Prepare a graphic organizer for audience analysis with the following sections (or others that you think are more relevant for this activity):
- Background knowledge
- Assumptions or beliefs
- Important values
- Style of communication
- Other characteristics
- Teacher shares a short, persuasive document that was intended for a particular audience. Teacher describes the audience, and models completing an Audience Analysis graphic organizer.
These are the sections of the graphic organizer:
- Background knowledge: Describe what the audience already knows about the topic, and how much they know about it.
- Assumptions or beliefs: Describe what the audience likely believes about the topic, and what assumptions or preconceptions they might have.
- Important values: Describe what is most important to this audience. What do they really care about? What do they base their decisions on?
- Style of communication: How does this group usually communicate? Through what media? Using what style of language?
- Other characteristics: What else is true about this group? What else defines them as a group?
Depending on the goals for the assignment, you may wish to model conducting research to learn more about the group, or you can ask students to complete the graphic organizers from memory and their existing background knowledge.
- Students get into pairs and discuss their topics for their persuasive projects. They decide on the most likely audience for each student’s project.
If all the students are doing the same project, this step can be completed as a group.
- Teacher distributes graphic organizer to each student. Students complete graphic organizers, identifying the key features of their audience.
Circulate as students are working, asking them about what they are noticing and thinking. Ask “How do you know this?”
If you want students to conduct research, have them gather demographic data (census data is often helpful) and other information from media connected to this demographic group.
- Working alone or in pairs, students examine their graphic organizers and brainstorm a list of ideas about how to adapt their persuasive text to the needs of this audience.
You may first want to model this sort of thinking based on the example presented in the first step.
- Teacher leads whole class discussion about how to adapt a piece of writing to a specific audience.
- In writing, students answer questions such as:
What is audience analysis?
Why do people conduct audience analysis?
What features of an audience are most important?
What is difficult about conducting audience analysis?
- What strategies can you use to make sure you are communicating effectively?