Audience Awareness: An Interactive Group Activity

This is yet another interactive activity that may help learners better understand the concept of audience (readers), the importance of the writer’s background knowledge about their audience, as well as the importance of writer-reader relationships.

For this activity, you will need to prepare in advance a character description (see an example below).


1) Tell the students that they will compose a short piece of writing to a particular person.

2) Read the description of the character that you prepared in advance. When preparing the descriptions, remember to include such characteristics as gender, age, race, social and economic status, educational background, cultural values and beliefs, preferences, and hobbies and interests (not necessarily all of them for each character).

See the following example below:

My name is Samantha. I am 34 years old. I received my MBA from Harvard University in 2006. I am an owner of a real estate company in Chicago. I recently got married. My husband is from Japan. We are expecting our first baby in three months. Among some of my hobbies are: economics, reading The New York Times, and cooking.

3) Divide the class into three groups. The first group is the family members of Samantha. The second group is her close friends. The third group is her colleagues.

4) Ask each group to discuss the following questions:

  • What do you have to be careful about when writing to her?
  • Is there a certain type of stance that you can’t take when you write to her?
  • What language do you think you should use when you write to Samantha?
  • What topics can you NOT address when you write to her?
  • What media do you think would be most appropriate to use when you write to her?
  • What tone may be considered inappropriate to use as you write to her?

5) After the groups are done with the discussion, ask them to share their findings with the entire class.

6) Based on these findings, ask all groups the following questions:

  • What genres would you use when writing to Samantha?
  • What genres would you not use when writing to Samantha?

Note: If your students are not familiar with various genres, you may skip this stage of the activity.

7) Ask each group to compose a short writing piece to Samantha in one of the appropriate genres. If the students struggle with the genre choice, you may want to give them a specific genre to work with. For example, for the first group (family members) it may be a wedding invitation, for the second group (close friends) an informal email, for the third group (colleagues) an invitation to a business party.

8) After the groups are done with the writing, ask them to read their pieces to the entire class.

9) Discuss these pieces of writing with the students and reiterate the importance of the relationship between the writer and the audience.

About Elena Shvidko

Elena Shvidko
Elena Shvidko is an assistant professor at Utah State University. She received her doctorate in second language studies from Purdue University and her master’s degree in TESOL from Brigham Young University. Her work appears in TESOL Journal, System, Journal on Response to Writing, TESOL interest section newsletters, and TESOL's New Ways series. Her research interests include second language writing, multimodal interaction, interpersonal aspects of language teaching, and teacher professional development.
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