NMSSA English 2019: Writing for an audience Publications
This report is designed to support the teaching of English in primary and intermediate classrooms. It draws on insights generated from the assessment of the English learning area by the National Monitoring Study of Student Achievement (NMSSA) in 2019. The report focuses on writing for different purposes within the creating meaning strand of the English learning area.
This is the final report in a series of four, based on the English assessment findings and is organised into two parts.
- Part 1 briefly introduces NMSSA and the NMSSA assessment of English.
- Part 2 describes NMSSA assessment of writing, and insights about why students need support to consider the needs of their audience.
Author(s): Educational Assessment Research Unit and New Zealand Council for Educational Research.
Date Published: June 2021
Why is audience important?
All writing, with the possible exception of some forms of personal writing such as journalling, is designed to be read by someone. We write in order to communicate ideas or information to our readers. To communicate these ideas or information effectively, we need to have our readers in mind as we plan, draft, revise and refine our writing.
Audience works alongside topic (what you are writing about) and purpose (why you are writing) to guide your choice of content, text structure and organisation, and language features. For example, for the NMSSA writing prompt Me (see Figure 2.1) the topic is yourself, as the writer; the purpose is to describe yourself in detail so that a visitor would be able to pick you out from your classmates; and the audience is a
visitor to the class who does not know you. Keeping these three elements in mind as you plan, draft, edit and refine your writing will help ensure that it is effective in conveying your intended message.
Identifying your audience is important because it affects the choices you make as you create your text. It is possible to write a text that covers the topic and matches the intended purpose but does not meet the needs of the reader. For example, if I was writing to explain (purpose) why I had not completed an important assignment (topic), I would probably write differently to my best friend than if I was writing to my principal. Besides my choice of register (degree of formality), I would also make different choices about which ideas I included and in what order, the level of detail, the vocabulary I used, the kinds of language and sentence structures I included, and so on. In another example, if I was writing to explain why I like computer gaming, I would write differently for someone who shared my interest and knew a lot about gaming than if I was writing for someone without this knowledge.
What does the curriculum say about audience?
The curriculum documents tend to group purpose and audience together. For example, the English achievement objectives of The New Zealand Curriculum (Ministry of Education, 2007)1 specify that students should develop their knowledge of how to shape texts for different purposes and audiences through choice of content,
language, and text form, and the use of personal voice where appropriate. In addition, at curriculum levels 1 and 2, students should be developing the expectation that the texts they create will be ‘understood, responded to, and appreciated by others’.
The Literacy Learning Progressions expectations for writing provide greater definition between audience and purpose (Ministry of Education, 2010)2. The statements for ‘after 3 years at school’ and ‘by the end of Year 4’ specify that, where appropriate, students should demonstrate ‘an awareness of their audience through appropriate choice of content, language, and text form’. By the end of Year 8, however, purpose and audience are considered together, with language features being the main way of 'engaging the audience'.
In the Learning Progressions Framework for Writing, audience is covered in the aspects Creating texts for literary purposes and Creating texts to influence others (Ministry of Education, 2019).3 The focus is on the use of language features to engage the reader and convey the writer’s intended message accurately and coherently when writing literary and persuasive texts. There is less emphasis on and direction about how to demonstrate awareness of audience when writing informational or subject-specific texts.
Students need support to consider the needs of their audience.
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