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Common Core Standards: ELA - Literacy

Grade 9-10

Writing WHST.9-10.4

Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

Set the Stage

In this standard, students are asked to demonstrate their ability to collect information and structure their main points in a manner that suits their task, purpose, and audience.

  • Task – The writing assignment or genre. Students need to choose an organization and style that’s appropriate for the task, whether it’s a letter, blog, newspaper article, or formal paper. Task also includes a knowledge of the discipline in which students are writing and any discipline-specific conventions they need to be aware of.
  • Purpose – The reason for writing. Students need to know their goal as writers. Is it to inform? To entertain? To persuade or call to action? The purpose will also influence structure and style.
  • Audience – The readers. Students need to know who their likely or intended readers are, and they need to know something about those readers’ concerns and prior knowledge on the subject. When students know their audience, they can make choices to tailor their writing for audience needs and expectations, which increases the chance that they will accomplish their purpose.

Assign students a wide range of tasks, purposes, and audiences for which to write, and you’ll ensure that they leave your class prepared to take on any writing assignment life hands them.

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Teaching Guides Using this Standard


Dress Rehearsal

In biology class, you’ve studied all types of biomes, or land areas, from the coastal regions of California to the tundra areas of the North Pole. Yep, you’ve traveled the world from your third-row seat in Mrs. Hess’s class. Now you’ve moved on to savannahs.

At first, you believe the path you run on the trails near your house might adjoin a savannah. There are tall grasses and in the distance, you make out rows of trees beyond what you’d call a pasture.

While savannahs are definitely grasslands, further reading in the textbook indicates that what you see on your daily run isn’t really a savannah. Your teacher gives you an assignment that will help explain the difference. Your task is to write a short essay on savannahs. Your purpose is to give a thorough description of savannahs, including where they might be found, what conditions are needed to create one, and how they are managed, if at all. These points, you think, will become your sub-topics. Your audience will be the teacher and your classmates.

As you gather information from your textbook and other sources, you create a cluster of circles to keep organized, cuz you’re a circle kind of gal. You put the term savannah in the center circle. Surrounding those circles are your sub-topics, which include “Description,” “Soil,” “Growth Cycle,” and “Concerns.” Note how there are four sub-topics here, not three. Contrary to popular belief, three isn’t always the magic number.

You learn from the reading that savannahs are grasslands and the trees that grow on them grow as scattered individuals rather than as a collective forest. Your private grassland? Score 1:1. You also note that savannahs are found in Africa, India, Australia, and South America. Hmm, not looking good for your mid-western farmland. That’s because savannahs need hot climates and lots of rain. The rainfall must be heavy for about eight months followed by periods of drought.

You put all of this information in your cluster under the sub-topic “description.” You add to this later when you learn there are three types of savannahs: climatic, edaphic, and derived. These occur because of differing climates, soil conditions, and human or animal interaction.

Under the circle labeled “Soil,” you explain that the top soil does not support much vegetation except grasses, the location of the savannah determines the type of grasses that can survive, the amount of rainfall impacts the grasses, and tree growth is sparse. You’re making progress! Easier than you thought, right?

Full speed ahead; it’s time to explain the growth cycle. Heavy storms and strong winds during the dry season can create natural fires. When the grassland burns, everything above ground is destroyed. You know about these since you have seen planned burns near where you live.

The trees survive since they store water, and the roots of the grasses also endure. Later, as the dry season comes to an end, the grasses, enjoying the warm rains, grow faster than your little baby brother.

Last, you include information about the types of animals that live in the different kinds of savannahs: kangaroos, buffalo, giraffes, zebras, termites, snakes, worms…a veritable buffet of the animal/insect kingdom. You add these to your last sub-topic circle. The environmental concerns, such as clearing, overgrazing, and hunting, are also included.

With this information, you begin to draft your paragraphs. Your introduction might include the description of a savannah, where they can be found, and what the three types are. For your second paragraph, you decide to discuss the climate and soil conditions that affect the development and growth of the savannah. Your final paragraph will inform your readers about what animals live in savannahs and how animal and human interaction can affect their evolution.

As you compose, keep in mind your audience, using vocabulary appropriate to their level of understanding. Since this is an academic writing assignment, your word choice will be more formal than if you were chatting in the hall with your pals. No slang for you! Nope! Nada! Zip! Zero!

That’s a Wrap

There you have it. Your students have collected information on an assigned topic, organized it in a cluster, and have completed a first draft of a short descriptive essay. They made choices according to their task, and audience to successfully accomplish their goal of giving information on savannahs. Applause from the audience, please.


Fill-in-the blank.
Fill in the blank with the best word from the given word bank. Words may be used more than once.

tasks rough draft purpose tone audience organization

1. In beginning a writing project, the two most important elements to consider are _____________ and ______________.

2. Another factor to consider, which determines the reason for the writing, is called the intent or ________________________________.

3. ________________________ refers to the way the writer arranges the information within the essay.

4. Designing a brochure, creating a chart, writing a paragraph, and sending an e-mail are all different types of writing ________________________.

5. The level of vocabulary is mainly influenced by the target ____________________.

6. A _____________________ is your first attempt at putting your information together in a particular arrangement, or an early version of the final product.

7. Word choice and syntax in a paper determines its __________________.


1. The correct answer is task, audience. These two elements will guide most of your decisions as you begin any writing project. You have to know the conventions you are expected to follow for the task, and you have to know who your readers are.

2. The correct answer is purpose. Your purpose is what you are trying to accomplish as a writer. Keep this in mind the whole time you write. Everything you include should be helping you accomplish your purpose; if it doesn’t, toss it out!

3. The correct answer is organization. Organization is another term for structure, or how your essay is built. Organization refers to the order of your ideas and the relationships between them.

4. The correct answer is tasks. The task is the genre or assignment; it’s how you would describe the type of writing you are doing.

5. The correct answer is audience. The audience is your readers, and the vocabulary you use will depend on the level of knowledge your readers already have. If they are well-versed in your subject, you can use appropriate jargon, but if the subject is likely unfamiliar to your readers, you will need to define important terms.

6. The correct answer is rough draft. It’s called rough for a reason, folks; first attempts are usually not pretty.

7. The correct answer is tone. Whether you are writing in a formal or more casual tone will generally come across in your word choice and sentence structure. If you choose highly academic language and write in complex sentences, your writing tends to feel more formal, while everyday language and conversational syntax creates a casual tone.

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