How do children understand an author's purpose and target audience?
We know that there are no strictly "right answers" when it comes to the intentions of authors. Sometimes authors create media without fully knowing themselves why they've made all of the choices they've made, and soemtimes audiences can find ideas in media that authors may not have "meant" to include. However, the process of making inferences about media -- such as why it may have been made and who it might have been made for based on context clues -- is a crucial dimension of literacy.
Inference making: A part of the reading process that includes the ability to “go beyond the information given” in order to make informed judgments, evaluations, or predictions from evidence or clues in a media text. People also make inferences by using information about the context in which the message is presented.
We make inferences when we make predictions, understand mood or tone, or translate symbols into their meanings. Often we do not ask younger children to make inferences about the ways in which many media authors target an audience for a specific purpose. We have found that in some ways, understanding purposes -- to entertain, to inform, and to persuade -- and target audiences can be modeled even for very young students. Teachers can help students make stronger inferences about a variety of media as they are learning how to read and write in print forms. Along with formal characteristics in pictures, teachers can use imagery from popular culture and digital media to access students' prior knowledge and help them make inferences about why media might have been created and who it might be trying to attract.
1. Start with Experience. Watch iCarly Excerpt 2 and discuss: What is the purpose of this message (to inform, to entertain or to persuade?) Who is the target audience? What clues in the text help you decide?
2. Explore Examples to Consider Adaptation to Learners and Contexts. Watch Teaching Target Audience. What do you notice about children's behavior? What do you notice about the teacher's behavior?
GUIDING QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION:
- How do young readers understand specific characteristics of infrormational, entertaining and persuasive media messages?
- How can we teach about the practice of targeting girls and boys (or children and adults) without reinforcing stereotypes we might want to challenge?
- How can teachers structure a learning environment with high expectations for student responses without sending the message that there are "wrong answers" when it comes to interpretation?
- How might a teacher balance direct instruction of new concepts students may not know yet with open-ended classroom discussion about their experiences with media?