Understanding the Needs of the Audience: Impact of Higher Order Cognition and Social Cognition

When a student begins to revise their writing, they need to take the perspective of the reader: Who is reading their writing? What does the reader need to know? What vocabulary will the reader understand? For some students, it can be difficult to "see" the pieces of information that are missing. To them, all of the information is there. For example, a student may write, "Jim loved to pick apples in the fall, but she never let him climb the ladder to reach the really red ones." The student might not understand why he needs to explain who "she" is, and it can be a challenge for the student to understand why what they're saying could confuse the reader.

Here are some strategies to develop and strengthen students' understanding of the audience.

Helpful Hints

  • A peer buddy can act as an assistant to ask questions that may help students find ways to strengthen his or her writing. For example, the buddy could ask, "I don't quite get what you mean right here. Could you add some more details so that I could get a better picture in my mind‘" or "'Big' is a really general word. Could you change it to a more specific one (e.g., hefty, gigantic, enormous, etc.)?" Peer editors may need a list of questions to ask as they are learning the skill of giving and receiving feedback.  
  • A dialog or response journal where students write to their parents or another adult could be valuable. Students would write a short note about anything they want (e.g., something that happened during the day, an explanation of some event, an apology for a prior behavior, a comment on his feelings about an event or person, etc.). Parents or caregivers would then write a comment back, referring to the students' statements, and adding a question or comment. The student could then clarify or add more information based on the question or comment.  
  • Provide the student with a list of prompts while they are revising. For example, the student could have a card on her desk with the questions such as: Who is the main character? When does story take place? Where does story take place? What does main character want to do? What happens? How does story end? How does the main character feel?