To Whom It May Concern: Considering Audience and Purpose in Writing

bySimon Edgett


Learning to use language to communicate ideas is complex; rules govern all aspects of verbal and written communication. Spelling and pronunciation govern the way letters are arranged into the individual words that we use. Mechanics and grammar govern the way those words are arranged into sentences. Logic and syntax govern the way those sentences are arranged into paragraphs. What’s more, alongside each of these rules, audience and purpose influence nuanced qualities of the writing that are harder to explain: diction, tone, and authentic voice.

Today, with technology making publication of our writing so much more accessible, having an understanding of audience and purpose is even more important. While the internet allows for much larger distribution of our words, writing with a specific audience and purpose in mind is still essential to focused writing. Knowing that our writing might be viewed be anyone who has access to the internet should inspire us to consider who we are writing for and what they will take away from our words. Crafting our writing with intention is the key to being successful in our communication with the world.

Audience and Purpose

For students in high school, writing is quite often associated simply with a grade or an assignment. When composing for an assignment, the audience is not considered much beyond the teacher, if it is even considered that far. Kelly Gallagher addresses this conflict in purpose as follows:

Writing well does not begin with teaching students how to write; it begins with teaching students why they should write. Students who are taught how to write without being taught the real-world purposes behind authentic writing are much more likely to end up seeing writing as nothing more than a school activity—nothing more than a series of obstacles to overcome in order to pass a state test or to get to graduation.1

In the world outside of the classroom, people write when a situation demands writing—a letter to a state representative, a report for a job, a review for a product purchased online. Each of these authentic types of writing has its own specific audience and purpose inherent to the task at hand. But many of the writing tasks that students are asked to complete in school don’t ask them to consider authenticity in their audience or purpose. This doesn’t translate when students move from the classroom to the real world.

As Peter Elbow explains it, “Good students often write not to communicate but to impress.”2 This is an important distinction that really does boil down to an understanding of authentic audience and purpose. If a student aims only to write for the teacher and for a grade, they are missing the point of writing and writing instruction. Elbow goes on to make the distinction clearer, “Teachers are not the real audience. You don’t write to teachers, you write for them.” Teachers are coaches who are there to help you improve your craft, but they are not the end goal of learning to write. That is where writing authentically comes in.

Students often don’t see the value in approaching each classroom writing assignment as an authentic piece of writing, a piece of writing in which they should consider a specific audience and purpose. But, in my own experience, students’ writing improves drastically when their work asks them to write for a specific reader, whether it is a fellow classmate, a politician, or some other imagined target. The same is true for purpose. If a student merely writes to fulfill the assignment, the work is likely to lack true depth or insight; if the student is really writing to achieve something larger, she is likely to put more thought behind the impact of her words.

The main focus of this unit is for students to grapple with the idea that audience and purpose, when considered together during the writing process, have an impact on the writing we produce. “There is no such thing as good-writing-in-general,” says Peter Elbow. “You must make it good for this purpose with this audience.”3 To try to get students to see this concept in a relevant way, I ask them to consider how they might tell the same story to a parent and to a friend. What do you leave out in one version that you might find essential in the other? What are you hoping to achieve when telling a story to a friend and what is your purpose in telling it to your parent? These distinctions in how we communicate given different situations is equally important in our writing.

On the other hand, William Zinsser emphasizes paying little attention to audience. “But on the larger issue of whether the reader likes you, or likes what you are saying or how you are saying it, or agrees with it, or feels an affinity for your sense of humor or your vision of life, don’t give him a moment’s worry. You are who you are, he is who he is, and either you’ll get along or you won’t.”4 Surely there is some truth to this rationale—we shouldn’t change who we are to impress others. But, for students who are learning to write, the idea that you should only be one way on paper and not give consideration to audience is unreasonable.

While there may be some argument about what makes writing good in general, there is obviously truth to the larger point of Elbow’s statement: in order for a piece of writing to be impactful, it must be written with a clear target. What is the intended outcome of your writing? It is not enough to just put your rambling thoughts down on the page, at least not if you plan on sharing it. What do you want the reader to do upon reading your words? You might want her to feel guilty for past actions or for tears to well up in his eyes. You might want your audience to change a habit or to reach out to their state representative. You might simply want to make someone laugh. Each of these purposes will affect the words you choose and how you will arrange those words on the page.

Purpose and audience are inexorably linked together in the writing process and in the writing it produces. Imagine you are stuck in traffic on the way to an important meeting. You might write a text to the person in charge to let them know you will be there five minutes late. The person you send the note to and the reason for sending it are connected by the situation. At the same time, the purpose of the note and the intended audience help determine how you should phrase your words. Your diction will be simple and to the point. Your tone will be respectful and apologetic. This is a simple example, but the same holds true when we think about composing longer pieces of writing as well. What we say and how we say it are often equally important.

The Craft of Writing

The word craft has two different meanings. As a noun, it refers to a specific skill possessed by a person. In the context of composition, this is quite often what we refer to as the craft of writing, a person’s specific skill with words. As a verb however, the word refers to an active process of forming something, typically with the hands. This meaning is also very important to consider when we think composing with language: crafting our writing.

The craft of writing is complex. Too often students think the best way to approach this complexity is to ignore it, to write down their thoughts in a single draft, and to hand that in. This unit aims at changing that approach, not just for a single assignment, but as a habit for students to carry with them in their academic, professional, civic, and personal lives.

The idea that writing requires crafting is important for students to understand so that they can improve their skills with words. Words don’t just happen. Writing is hard work and revising is even harder work. In his essay on the drafting process, “The Maker’s Eye: Revising Your Own Manuscripts,” Donald Murray explains that “Writers reading their own drafts are aware of audience. [...] Writers try to be sure that they anticipate and answer questions a critical reader will ask when reading a piece of writing.”5 When we have a conversation with somebody, there is an interplay. We can judge, either from their expression or the questions they pose, whether they have received our message. Unlike face-to-face communication however, in writing we are not there to explain our ideas deeper than they have been elaborated on the page. We must be able to reasonably ensure that what we want to say is expressed clearly for the reader. This is the essence of writing for an audience--anticipating the reaction your reader will have so that you can address it in your writing.

Students often (and mistakenly) assume that the craft of writing is something for which people are born predisposed. They misunderstand the word craft to mean an inherent skill. Learning to write is something that extends far beyond the confines of the early elementary school classroom where letters are formed into words and words into sentences. Learning to write is a lifelong undertaking. Yes, developing the basic skills of writing for communication at an early age is essential, but learning to write well, to communicate the ideas in one’s head so that they are clearly understood by another, is something that continues for as long as we write. For my students who are athletes, I often use the analogy of a sport: you keep practicing with the aim of getting better; even if you are the best team in the league, you want to keep improving. Writing is the same. The more you write, the better you get.

The act of writing is a process. “When students complete a first draft, they consider the job of writing done—and their teachers too often agree,” says Donald Murray. “When professional writers complete a first draft, they usually feel that they are at the start of the writing process. When a draft is completed, the job of writing can begin.”6 The craft of writing is thus not simply putting words on the page in the order they occur while writing, but learning to craft sentences with a critical eye—the ability to rethink what has been written and revise it so it best captures what the writer wants to convey.

It is also important to consider the role of audience and purpose in the drafting process. Often times it is best to get your own thoughts down in a first draft without paying too much attention to the audience and purpose. Quite often, authentic audience and purpose will develop in the process of getting thoughts down on paper. We write ourselves to our purpose by exploring our ideas more deeply. That purpose will help us determine to whom we should address our words. As we revise our work, it is important to keep the specific audience and purpose in mind as we go about the task of making our thoughts on the topic clear. In this way, revision takes on two specific goals: first, to make our writing clear through effective word choice, transitions, and progression, and second, to make our writing aim at a specific audience and purpose.

Mentor Texts

The idea of using mentor texts is nothing new. In classic education, students would copy sections of canonical writing with the expectation that doing so would help students to better understand the grammatical and rhetorical structures great authors used in composing great pieces of writing. While this is not quite the type of rote use of mentor texts I am suggesting in this unit, it isn’t without some similarities.

Mentor texts in the context of this unit refers to reading texts that can serve as models for students’ own writing. Rather than directly copying a text wholesale, students use the text as a basis for imitating grammar, structure, style, or theme. This can be a valuable tool for students learning how to develop their writing. Whether the student is one who has a grasp of the fundamentals of writing and is learning some of the more complex moves of sophisticated writing, or who is still trying to master the basics of paragraph construction, most students can benefit from looking at good writing and trying to bring elements of it into their own work.

In Write Like This, Kelly Gallagher presents two central premises that drive his argument about authentic writing. The first is to “introduce young writers to real-world discourses.” As discussed earlier these discourses are the reason writing exists outside of the classroom. The second premise presents a method of helping students to see these “real-world discourses” in action: “Provide students with extensive teacher and real-world models.”7 Both of these premises are addressed in this unit through the use of the essays listed as readings for students in the resource section below.

Logically, this idea makes sense: if students don’t know what good writing looks like, they won’t be able to achieve it. In essence, much like we learn how to speak by listening, we learn how to write by reading. The more we read, the more developed our writing will become. By providing students with examples of good writing on topics related to what we are asking them to write about, students will be better equipped to grow as writers.

Teaching Strategies

In developing this unit, my intention is to use it as an opening unit for all levels of my English classes each fall. I teach grades ten through twelve, and I feel that the same basic unit will work with each of the classes with changes to the readings. This unit will help frame writing expectations for the rest of the school year, and it will also provide a baseline of student writing ability that will help me determine my lessons moving forward.

In this unit, students will study the ways that published authors write intentionally for a purpose and an audience. To do this, students will read essays in which authors reflect on their own growth as readers and writers. They will consider whom the authors are addressing in their writing and how they build purpose throughout their essays. Then, students will write an essay of their own, reflecting on their own thoughts on reading and writing. In doing so, they will each consider the questions: What do I read and why do I read? What do I write and why do I write? In constructing this essay, students will think carefully about the audience for their writing.

Week one of the unit will begin with a look at what students already know about audience and purpose. The class will look at scenarios in which students adjust their own language use for various authentic audiences and purposes in their day-to-day lives—how they use language differently when addressing peers, parents, teachers, or employers; or how their language in a job interview might differ from the language they use with the same boss after they have had the job for a month or two. We will also begin looking at some definitions of audience as it pertains to writing and how various experts propose beginning writers and students should think about audience in their own work. Excerpts will be taken from Peter Elbow’s Writing with Power and Zinsser’s On Writing Well. Student writing during the first week will focus on exploring initial ideas for their essay through a variety of short writing exercises such as journaling, listing ideas, responding to prompts, writing a discovery-draft, and outlining. Students will also spend class time sharing their ideas and progress with peers.

During week two of the unit students will study two essays in which authors explore their own experiences with language, reading, or writing. Students will focus much of their attention on identifying the specific audiences and purposes these writers target. Students will also carefully analyze the choices these authors make and the devices they use to achieve their purpose for the chosen audience. Student writing during the second week will consist of composing a first draft of their own essay. It is here that students will consider more deeply the essential questions: What do I read and why do I read? What do I write and why do I write? In moving from planning to composing they will propose a specific audience and purpose and address these through the specific choices they make in their structure, diction, and tone. Along with their first draft, students will write a brief (one page typed) artist statement describing specific decisions they made in addressing their audience or purpose.

In the third and final week, students will work to revise their essays. The week will begin by peer workshopping with guiding questions to help students consider the ways in which their own and each other’s essays address a specific audience and purpose. Students will also think more specifically about the structure of their own essays by creating a structural outline similar to the one described by John McPhee in his collection of essays, Draft No. 4. McPhee’s teacher created an unusual assignment:

We could write about anything we wanted to, but each composition had to be accompanied by a structural outline, which she told us to do first. It could be anything from Roman numerals I, II, III to a looping doodle with guiding arrows and stick figures. The idea was to build some form of blueprint before working it out in sentences and paragraphs.8

Students will consider feedback from their peers, the teacher, and their own reflections in producing a second draft of their essay.

Selecting Student Readings

In designing a unit that is flexible enough to be used across grade levels, I have paid attention to the readings I have selected for each level. At each level, the essays I have listed in the resources section deal with the broad topic of becoming or growing as a writer or as a reader, but there are a few distinct differences between the readings I have listed for each of the grade levels.

One of the considerations when selecting texts was obviously student reading ability. I have tried to select, in the texts I have listed in the resources section below, essays that will meet the specific needs at each of the grades I teach. In my tenth-grade classroom students range from a sixth-grade reading level to a post-college level. This range of abilities makes it difficult to select a single text that will meet each student’s needs. What works well in these instances is providing a text that is at grade level, but with additional support for some of the students who find it too challenging. The support can come in the form of graphic organizers, frontloading information before reading, strategies for active reading and annotation, reading guides, shortening texts, and audiobooks. Enrichment can also be helpful for students who are find the text too simple, such as having those students to develop the questions that will be used in class discussion, providing an additional text for comparison, or using those students to work with the more challenged ones so that they might both benefit from the partnership.

Perhaps more importantly, I have also thought about the specific content and subject of the essays I have selected as student readings. In doing so, I have tried to connect the topics for this unit with what will come in the following units for each grade. In tenth grade, the second unit I teach deals with the topic of social justice. For this unit on audience and purpose I have selected essays that deal with language, communication, and writing with a social justice slant.

Jaswinder Bolina was born in Chicago to parents who immigrated from Punjab. In his essay, “Writing Like a White Guy: On Language, Race, and Poetry,” he moves from describing the difficulties he has faced in publishing poetry as an Other who has assimilated fully into the white-American culture with which he is surrounded. His father advises him to submit his work under a pseudonym while others advise him to write about the minority experience in America; neither of these options appeals to Bolina. The essay develops into an analysis of race’s impact on perception of the individual and the role language plays in one’s own understanding of his place in the confusing interplay of culture, race, and perception.

Bolina’s essay will pose an interesting question for students considering the role of language in their own identity. Students for whom a different language might be their native tongue or might be the language of their parents, this essay will have a direct point of connection, but for students who don’t know the impact of another language or darker skin on public perception, this piece will be more eye-opening. Either way, Bolina’s essay presents avenues toward introspection for any reader. In using this essay as a mentor text, my focus will be on the way Bolina structures his essay, alternating between his own personal experiences and the larger topic of race in the United States. Everything in his essay hinges on his experiences as a minority writer in America, but he uses that experience to talk about the much deeper implication of race in America. For students to successfully develop their essays to draw a larger public point out of a personal experience with language is one of the main goals of using this piece. Students will pay special attention to the role of audience and purpose in developing a public point in an essay.

Frederick Douglass’s “Learning to Read” describes not only the difficulties of a slave trying to acquire the skills of reading, and eventually writing, in a society that denies him that right, but it shows from Douglass’s perspective, the power that comes with the ability to work with the written word. His essay presents characters, mostly white, who have varying degrees of power, but from whom he gains even more power through the acquisition of language.

Students may be familiar with Douglass’s text but looking at it in terms of the power of language is specific to this unit. Whether revisiting the text or experiencing it for the first time, students will be asked to think about their own experiences with learning to read and write and whether or not the notion of it being empowering holds true for their own experience. Douglass develops much of his essay through brief character sketches—his mistress, poor white neighborhood children, Irish laborers—and through short narrative descriptions of the learning he undertook independently. In using this text as a model, my hope is for students to understand the power of weaving a narrative together from multiple shorter examples. Students will consider who Douglass was writing for and the purpose of structuring his essay through multiple shorter narratives.

Richard Rodriguez’s “Aria” presents his controversial argument against bilingual education. He describes growing up in a world of two languages: Spanish, a private language, and English, a public language. The essay describes his eventual estrangement from the Spanish language, the associated culture, and even his family as he further assimilated into American culture and the English language, but these are positive to Rodriguez’s understanding of the immigrant experience in America. He views this detachment as necessary for his own identification as an American.

For students, Rodriguez’s essay provides a strong example of an essay in which personal experiences are pieced together with argumentative writing to develop a strong public point. Often, students are taught modes of writing—argumentative, descriptive, narrative—as distinct forms. In reality, authors regularly combine these modes depending on the desired effect in a certain part of the piece. An essay that is predominantly narrative in nature might rely on argumentative sections just as a descriptive piece might contain some elements of narrative. For students to be able to successfully blend the basic modes of writing to achieve a specific effect or purpose in writing is an important skill in growing as writers. Students will also consider the audience Rodriguez is addressing in his essay and whether the meaning is the same for different audiences.

Malcolm X’s “Learning to Read” recounts the realization X came to while serving a sentence in Norfolk Prison Colony— “trying to write simple English, I not only wasn’t articulate, I wasn’t even functional.”9 He took on the challenge of educating himself with the initial purpose of reading to improve his writing. This grew into an insatiable appetite for knowledge from books. This passage moves from the personal narrative of his experiences with books, becoming a more adept reader, and then a more articulate writer and speaker to the historical and political learning that came with his new found love of the written word.

X’s narrative is a fantastic example of a structure that moves between a personal narrative that can be inspirational at face value—in this case, learning to read—and explanatory writing that aims to teach the audience about something specific—here X presents historical information about the history of slavery and the oppression of African-Americans in this country. For students, this is an opportunity to blend their own knowledge on a subject with their personal experience that led them to that knowledge. I can see for instance, a student’s love of graphic novels leading to an essay that teaches the audience about the evolution of characters or the intricacies of the art work. In analyzing this passage from X’s work, students will consider his intended audience and the desired purpose of his writing.

Depending on the specifics of my class (student interest, reading ability, and prior experience), I will be selecting two texts from the four above—Bolina, Douglass, Rodriguez, and X—to use as the core readings of the unit. Students will study these two essays during the second week of the unit. Lessons will be targeted at not only understanding the content of the writing—the public point or philosophical underpinnings of the essay—but the structural component of the writing that I want students to imitate in their own writing.

Just as each of these essays deals with the main topics of both units—reading, writing, and language for this unit, and race and social justice which connects to the upcoming unit. Using these dual-purpose readings, ones that can be drawn upon by students as points of reference in future areas of the coursework, will provide a richer experience and will help students to realize the interconnectedness of what they are learning throughout the year. Similarly, the essays selected for my eleventh-graders connect to the topic of private versus public writing and the texts for my senior-class have a political theme; both of these topics connect to the respective classes’ second units.

In selecting readings for their own adaptation of this unit, I recommend that other teachers use my lists as starting point, but also consider what they will be teaching in their own classrooms in the units that follow this one and try to select texts that will serve the purpose of connecting the experience for their students as well. There are many good texts on becoming a writer or a reader.

Classroom Activities

Brainstorming – Week 1

Since this unit will be taught at the beginning of the school year, it will serve multiple purposes: a first sample of student writing and reading ability, community building, setting the tone for class expectations, and a gateway into the topic of the following unit on social justice.

In my experience, most students in high school have not given much thought to their relationship with language. This opening lesson provides students with an opportunity to think specifically about their relationship with reading and/or writing and to write an essay exploring that relationship. This lesson serves to open the topic to students in an unintimidating way by having them begin brainstorming by responding to these specific prompts: What do I read and why do I read? What do I write and why do I write?  For each of the prompts, students will write continuously for five minutes. If they get stuck, students should be encouraged to rewrite their last thought over again. The point of this exercise is for students to get as much of their thoughts on the topic down in writing.

Following the brainstorming, students will go through their responses and look for the five most valuable ideas they came up with. They will write these down at the bottom of their journal page. Each student will share one of their thoughts, choosing from either a reading idea or a writing idea. The teacher will keep track on the board or on chart paper keeping one column for reading and one for writing. After all students have shared, the teacher will ask the class which of the shared ideas resonate with them and engage students in a brief discussion of the various ideas that have been shared on the topic of language, reading, and writing.

Finally, students will pick one of the ideas (either their own or one shared by another) and expand on that idea in a discovery draft—an exploration of a topic focused on fluency of writing and recording their unedited thoughts. The teacher will collect these drafts at the end of this class period and provide students with feedback on the initial direction of their ideas. Feedback will not be given on mechanics or grammar at this stage.

Working with a Text – Week 2

Prior to class, students will have read Frederick Douglass’s essay, “Learning to Read.” This lesson will focus on students considering to whom Douglass is writing in this essay and how that audience connects to Douglass’s purpose.

Students will begin by writing a journal response as a class warm-up activity: Choose and copy a short passage (one or two sentences) from Douglass’s essay that stands out to you. Explain why you chose this passage. Teacher should allow five minutes for students to write their responses, then ask for a volunteer to share their selected passage and their thoughts on it. Teacher should encourage others to share their thoughts on the shared passage or to connect to another passage. After five to ten minutes of discussion, teacher will ask students how the passages they selected or discussed might provide insight into Douglass’s purpose or intended audience for the essay. Teacher should take note of student’s thoughts on the board; students might suggest specific word choices, the characters from the essay, Douglass’s position in the society, or other characters’ reactions to Douglass in the essay.

Teacher will ask students how Douglass learned to read. Direct students to look at the first section of the essay. What was Douglass’s first introduction to reading? What happened next? Teacher should chart the outline of Douglass’s narrative on the board while students are prompted to track the progression of his experience with reading and then writing. Once the class has completed an outline of the essay, teacher should prompt students to connect the way Douglass structured his essay (connecting a sequence of short narrative scenes) to his purpose for writing it (to describe the power reading provides to a person). Students should not be explicitly told the purpose but should discover it through discussion and prompting.

Once students have connected the structure and the purpose, they should be asked to consider possible audiences for the piece. Teacher will ask students to suggest possible audiences whom Douglass may have intended. Teacher should note on the board possible audiences that students suggest. Once students have compiled a list of possible audiences, the teacher will ask how the purpose changes for each audience. For example, how would this essay have a different purpose for ex-slaves than it would for people who had owned slaves? Once students have thought about each of the audiences they listed, they should write a final reflection in their journals: How are audience and purpose connected in a piece of writing?

Peer Workshopping – Week 3

Once students have produced a complete draft of their essay, they will work in small groups (three or four students) to workshop and provide constructive feedback to their peers. These groups will be assigned by the teacher.

Before getting into their groups, students will respond to the following reflection questions independently:

  • What is the best part of your work? Why?
  • On what part of your work do you need to spend more time? Why?
  • What one word/phrase or idea deserves an award for exceptional choice?
  • What comment would you put on this work if you were the audience?

Students will take turns focusing on a single essay. One student will read her responses to the four reflection questions then will read her entire essay aloud. The other students will listen as she reads, paying close attention for areas that they feel are strong as well as those places where they might recommend changes or rewriting. Reading aloud serves two main purposes: first, it is a way to ensure that the students are all engaged with the same essay at the same time; second, it provides an opportunity for the writer to listen to her own words to notice any confusing or awkward sections.

After the writer has had a chance to read the essay aloud, the other students in the small group hold a five-minute discussion of the essay that was just read. During this time, the writer does not speak, but takes notes on what is being discussed.

Following this discussion, the writer is given an opportunity to ask clarifying questions on the feedback she has received.

The process repeats for each student in the group. Once all students have completed the process, students independently reflect on the process by describing the feedback they received from their peers, how they can apply it to their essay, and what they noticed about the other essays shared in their group that they might apply to their own essay.

Appendix on Implementing District Standards

In 2010, the Connecticut State Board of Education adopted the Common Core Standards in English Language Arts and literacy in history/social studies, science, and technical subjects as the Connecticut Core Standards (CCS). In 2017, a representative group of New Haven Public Schools teachers, working with the CCS as a starting point, developed a list of performance indicators and scoring criteria for high school English under four specific competencies: 1 - Reading, 2 - Writing, 3 - Speaking & Listening, and 4 - Inquiry. Following are the performance indicators directly addressed by the teaching and assessed through the student work of this unit. Each contains a reference to the College and Career Readiness Standard(s) in the CCS from which it was drawn.

1c. Analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics (CCR.R9)

1d. Analyze the text to determine how author’s choices relate to each other to shape the meaning of the work as a whole (CCR.R4-6)

The above reading indicators are addressed primarily through the reading, analysis (both formal and informal), and discussion of the two essays used as the core texts of the unit. For the purposes of this unit, analysis of writer’s craft will serve as a model for the students’ own essays.

2b. Develop informative or explanatory writing to examine and convey complex ideas and information (CCR.W2)

2c. Develop narrative writing to convey real or imagined experiences or events (CCR.W3)

2d. Organize writing in a way that is appropriate to task, purpose, and audience (CCR.W4)

2f. Use language appropriate for audience and purpose (CCR.L3)

2g. Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach (CCR.W5)

This unit is particularly focused on the writing process; indicator 2g will be assessed throughout the three weeks of the unit as students draft, revise, and redraft their essays. Students’ final essays will take into account indicators 2b-c as they blend narrative and expository writing modes. Finally, indicators 2d and 2f both focus on crafting writing intentionally for audience and purpose; one of the main areas of focus for this unit.

3a. Prepare for a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners (CCR.SL1)

3b. Participate in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners (CCR.SL1)

Student discussion is a key component to students exploring the essays they will read and craft in this unit. Being prepared for these discussions is essential to their growth as writers.


Bibliography for Teachers

Elbow, Peter. Writing with Power: Techniques for Mastering the Writing Process. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.

Gallagher, Kelly. Write Like This: Teaching Real-World Writing Through Modeling & Mentor Texts. Portland: Stenhouse, 2011.

McPhee, John. Draft No. 4. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2017.

Murray, Donald M. "The Maker’s Eye: Revising Your Own Manuscripts.” In Language Awareness: Readings for College Writers, Edited by Paul Eschholz, Alfred Rosa, and Virginia Clark. 8th ed., 161-165. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2000.

Pinker, Steven. The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century. New York: Viking, 2014.

Zissner, William. On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing. New York: HarperCollins, 2006.

Student Reading List


Bolina, Jaswinder. “Writing like a White Guy: On Language, Race, and Poetry.” In The Norton Reader: An Anthology of Nonfiction, edited by Melissa A. Goldthwaite, 14th ed., 496-505. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2016.

Douglass, Frederick. “Learning to Read.” In The Norton Reader: An Anthology of Nonfiction, edited by Melissa A. Goldthwaite, 14th ed., 404-409. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2016.

Rodriguez, Richard. “Aria.” In The Norton Reader: An Anthology of Nonfiction, edited by Melissa A. Goldthwaite, 14th ed., 465-471. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2016.

X, Malcolm, and Alex Haley. “Learning to Read.” In The Autobiography of Malcolm X, 174-183. New York: Ballantine Books, 2015.


Didion, Joan. “Keeping a Notebook.” In The Norton Reader: An Anthology of Nonfiction, edited by Melissa A. Goldthwaite, 14th ed., 487-493. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2016.

Keillor, Garrison. “How to Write a Letter.” In The Norton Reader: An Anthology of Nonfiction, edited by Melissa A. Goldthwaite, 14th ed., 505-507. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2016.

King, Stephen. “On Writing.” In The Norton Reader: An Anthology of Nonfiction, edited by Melissa A. Goldthwaite, 14th ed., 493-496. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2016.

Nabokov, Vladimir. “Good Readers and Good Writers.” In The Norton Reader: An Anthology of Nonfiction, edited by Melissa A. Goldthwaite, 14th ed., 883-888. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2016.


Franklin, Benjamin. “Learning to Write.” In The Norton Reader: An Anthology of Nonfiction, edited by Melissa A. Goldthwaite, 14th ed., 484-487. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2016.

Orwell, George. “Politics and the English Language.” In The Norton Reader: An Anthology of Nonfiction, edited by Melissa A. Goldthwaite, 14th ed., 14th ed., 510-520. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2016.

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  9. X, Malcolm, and Alex Haley. “Learning to Read.” In The Autobiography of Malcolm X. New York: Ballantine Books, 2015. 174.

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