I have written often about author studies and many teachers use author studies in their writing program. I use author studies as a springboard to create a "balanced" (or what I call a harmonized) literacy program.
(Credits: Hello Fonts, Educlips)
Whether you teach primary or older students, author studies are a great way to introduce students to authors, writing, and the write traits. There are 4 things I would like to suggest that work for me when considering doing author studies in the classroom:
1. Find books and authors that you like: I love animals, compassion and stories of good deeds and funny books. I choose authors that do too. When I am enthusiastic about the next author I introduce, students often are too.
2. I try to choose books that will appeal to boys and girls. Humor seems to work quite nicely. I try to choose books that have just the right amount of humor without being so silly that kids lose their focus. Robert Munsch is always a hit but I don't choose him in September!
3. Choose authors that have websites or better yet, go meet one! I have had the opportunity to see authors at events and some of them were so approachable and wonderful! I've seen Lynne Cherry, Nina Laden and Julie Lawson. Each one taught me things about themselves and about how they go about finding ideas, creating their books etc. This information is invaluable when teaching students about authors. Nowadays, many authors have websites where you can learn all about them and then share that with your students.
From Lynne Cherry (an environmental author) I learned that she likes to go to the places she writes books about. For her book The Great Kapok Tree, she visited the rain forest. She took pictures and then came home and painted pictures for her book from the photos she took. Take home lesson: teach students that not everyone is a born artist or author. Kids love that.
From Julie Lawson (A Morning to Polish and Keep, White Jade Tiger) I learned that a writer's notebook is a very valuable thing to have. Julie carries hers around with her in her pocket or purse and she writes down ideas as she experiences life. Take home lesson: we get ideas from our own memories and experiences.
From Nina Laden I learned that giving animals human characteristics really engages the kids. I love how she uses words (her word choice is amazing) and how her books can be read at 2 different levels. I've read some of her books to 6th graders. I liken her to a Disney movie where kids and adults laugh at different parts for different reasons. Take home lesson: the same book can be interpreted at different levels.
4. One of the best ways to increase learning and interest is to choose an author that has books on another area of your curriculum. For example, one year I was teaching students about animal life cycles. It was towards the end of the year so I chose to read a chapter book. I chose The Tale of Despereaux by Kate Dicamillo. (It's one of my all time favorite books).
As we read that book we also looked at her other books Louise, the Adventures of a Chicken and the Mercy Watson series and talked about the traits that made her a good author.
As we read Despereaux, we also did some work on the lifecycle of a mouse. We researched types of mice and plotted where mice are found in the world. In that unit, students read, listened, did Science and Social Studies. It was a way of increasing learning for the students and made teaching much more manageable.
I hope I have helped to inspire you to continue with or start using Author Studies as part of your writing program. If you would like more ideas on how to incorporate some activities, check out my Kevin Henkes and Nina Laden sets in my TPT store.
Next week, we will look at using Interactive Notebooks to teach writing. I hope to see you then!