Lesson Plan 18: Do They Know What You Know? Describing Technical Information to an Audience
Write all four possible audiences on the board. Discuss as a class how the tone and the amount of background knowledge a writer provides would vary depending on the audience’s experience with the topic. For example, elementary-school kids would need a basic definition of earthquakes with examples and visuals. Other earthquake experts would not need such a definition of earthquake; that could seem condescending. The writing could include sophisticated language and terms used without definitions. You may wish to discuss the differences among Tier One (everyday speech), Two (general academic words), and Three (domain-specific words) with students. Residents in an earthquake-prone area would be familiar with earthquake safety, but they are not scientists, so writing would need to be very clear and include explanations of terms used. A writer would have to be even clearer when writing for residents in areas that never experience earthquakes; they have even less familiarity with the topic. Tell students that level of experience is not the only factor to consider. They also have to consider context. Is the audience hearing this info on Good Morning America or reading about it in the New York Times, in a scientific journal, or on a student’s blog? Are audience members young or old?