Lesson 1 Close Reading

Purpose, Theme, Public Policy


  • Remarks by the First Lady on a Visit to thank USDA Employees (“Full Text”, “Excerpt”)



  • Determine the author’s purpose

  • Identify and interpret themes

  • Identify examples of public policy


Tier 2 Public policy
Tier 3 Initiative
Test Words Author's Purpose

Before the Lesson

Like books, multimedia works such as movies and TV programs have themes. The writer has a message about life that viewers should understand. Viewers use visual and aural elements - that is, sights and sounds - to identify theme. For example, the movie adaptations of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings books have a theme of “good overcomes evil.” Create a list, using student’s favorite movie or TV program and have them discuss the plot and characters to help them uncover the theme. Have them write one sentence stating its theme answering the question, What message about life does the writer want you to understand?


Ask students if they know what public policy is. (government actions that affect everyone) Tell students that public policy affects many areas of life for Americans, from health care to driving laws. Explain that students will learn more about public policy in this lesson.

Guided Practice

Partner Reading: Have students form pairs and take turns reading aloud to one another two paragraphs from this page. Tell them that the partner who is listening should not read along in the book as they listen to the text. After listening, that partner should read the text in such a way as to clarify any sections of the text he or she found difficult to understand. Each student should read the text at least twice.

Determine Author’s Purpose: Explain to students that an author’s purpose for writing changes based on the information that is being conveyed. Tell students that to figure out the author’s purpose in writing workplace documents, they should ask themselves questions such as these:

  1. Who wrote this?
  2. What information does it contain?
  3. What does the writer want me to do after I read this?

Have pairs of students answer these questions.


Flexibility and Adaptability: After reading the text, direct students’ attention to the https://www.MyPlate.gov diagram. Explain that an online image search will lead you to earlier nutritional models promoted by the USDA. Choose one or more of these models to share with students, and ask them to explain why such models change. Help students understand that such changes reflect flexibility and adaptability in scientific thinking. As technologies change and scientists have access to more information, they revise existing models.


  1. What is the likely overall purpose or intent of the passage?
  2. How does the inclusion of Paragraph 3 affect the overall theme of the passage?
  3. Replace the word initiative with a synonym of the word in the sentence: “It’s a nationwide initiative to end childhood obesity in this country in a generation, so that all our kids can grow up healthy.”

Sample Answers

  1. The writer’s purpose in writing this was to emphasize the important role of the USDA in creating good nutrition in the United States.
  2. It demonstrates the necessity of garden programs by highlighting the fact that some children don’t know how food is grown or where their food comes from.
  3. If you replace the word “initiative” with the word “program,” the sentence would retain its meaning.

Write to Learn

Tell students that although the government makes public policy, citizens can have a significant impact on these policies. Ask students if they have ever written to a representative about a local, state, or national issue of public policy. With the class, make a list of public policies for which they would like to advocate. Encourage students to contact the government or join an activist group to achieve these goals.