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Author's Intent


Sophisticated readers consider a range of information when they evaluate and make meaning of a text, including the likely intent of the author. By considering author intent, readers are able to gain insight into why and how an author writes, and they are better able to evaluate both the validity and the meaning of the text.


Author intent is often central to understanding the main idea of a text, and can help students to understand and appreciate the writer’s craft. Students who do not understand, for example, if an author intends to inform, to persuade, to share, or to entertain, may entirely miss the most central points of a text. Author intent also affects the way in which a reader should interpret and evaluate a text. For example, an opinion piece may not be taken as absolute fact, and a parody should not be interpreted as earnest. Considering author intent is a powerful exercise in empathy, and it can help students to consider alternate points of view, to engage more deeply and emotionally with the text, and to relate and connect to individuals from very different geographical and historical backgrounds. Finally, by focusing on the author’s choice in the manner of communicating information, students develop their knowledge and appreciation of the craft of writing, which they can then apply to their own work.

Content Area Adaptations 

Many content-area texts are textbooks for which the author’s intent is clearly, and usually simply, to inform. Advanced students may benefit from a lesson in how textbook content is standardized, and how it has changed over time, and how larger states, such as California and Texas, have disproportionate influence in textbook content. Such a lesson could lead to interesting analysis of author intent. A discussion of author intent should always be included in text selections that diverge from the standard textbook fare: narratives, poetry, persuasive pieces, or primary historical documents. Texts of these kinds should be included in all content areas, and should be a particular area of focus in history or social studies classes. Students should also discuss author intent when they do any research, since they need to become skilled at evaluating sources.

Learning Strategies 

  • Connecting
  • Determining Importance
  • Inferring
  • Predicting
  • Questioning
  • Visualizing

Common Core Standards 

  • CCRA.R.1
  • CCRA.R.10
  • CCRA.R.2
  • CCRA.R.3
  • CCRA.R.4
  • CCRA.R.5
  • CCRA.R.6
  • CCRA.R.7
  • CCRA.R.8
  • CCRA.R.9

Content Areas 

  • ELA
  • Science
  • Social Studies

Learning Strands 

  • Listening
  • Reading

Beyond-the-Lines Questions

In this activity, adapted from Harvey & Goudvis’s Strategies that Work (2007), students will create and use beyond-the-line questions that provoke deeper thinking and prompt lively student discussions. These are questions that can’t be answered with one or two words or by referencing a single line of text, but arise in complex moments of...

Lesson Plan Stages 

  • Building Background

Highlighting Strategy to Determine Importance

This activity helps students to closely analyze each line of a text, and to distinguish between those points that are central to the main idea and those that are more peripheral.  A consideration of author intent can provide students with criteria with which to make judgments of importance.  In one version, students highlight important points...

Lesson Plan Stages 

  • Investigation
  • Launching Into New Content


This activity helps students to structure the asking of different types of questions about a text. “QAR” stands for “Question-Answer Relationship,” and it is a way of conceptualizing the different types of questions students may ask about a text. First, questions are divided into “In the Book” QARs and “In Your Head” QARs. “In the Book” QARs...

Lesson Plan Stages 

  • Investigation
  • Reflection