written by: Kena Sosa
• edited by: Donna Cosmato
• updated: 9/11/2012
Author studies can highlight many concepts in literature such as point of view and the purpose of the author. Studying the lives and backgrounds of the authors can also help students see how life influences literature and art.
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Choosing an author, with so many incredible and fascinating choices available can be a difficult task. The first thing you will want to know is who you have the most resources on. Most school libraries will feature your typical authors such as Patricia Polacco, R.L. Stine, and Barbara Park. Most schools also have an online catalog in which you can browse lists of available titles by author name (also by title and genre). If not, you can always consult your school librarian. Once you have seen who you have the most titles on, browse through their websites and biographies. Who seems fascinating to you? Who do you think your students would connect to the most?
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Find a student appropriate biography on your author. Typically children's authors have child-friendly websites that feature short biographical pieces. If not, you might need to compile information for your own research that will enlighten students on the author's life. LSDKJFLSKFJLDKJF-look up name of series. One great series that talks about several authors is Meet the Author through Richard C. Owen Publishers, Inc. out of New York. The series features authors as famous as Cynthia Rylant, Jerry Pallotta and Janet S. Wong. To really involve the students, bring artifacts about that person with you or dress up the way that author would dress. Dressing up as one of the characters from one of their books might work as well.
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Get To Know Their Work
Read at least one title from the author's list every day. Keep a chart or record of the similarities that the students point out between the stories written by the same author. Allow the students to respond to each story in a journal.
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If you choose contemporary authors, you might just find that you are lucky enough to be able to contact them. Part of an author and illustrator's job is to market themselves and their work, so many of them are quite responsive to curious questions, as long as they know where the information is going to and for what purpose. Studying the author's work in class is a respectable enough purpose which could lead to either you passing on your questions to the author to then present to the students, or allowing the students to present their questions to the author. The first step here would be to find the author's website and contact information. The worst that can happen is that they do not respond. Make sure not to tell the students about it until the author has contacted you and is willing to discuss their work with you so as not to disappoint the students if nothing comes of it.
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The possibilities for assessment of such an author study are very open and numerous. One can have the students present a play of the author's life, create and post a timeline of important events of the life of the author, or introduce the author to other classes by reading some of their work and describing them in a short bio, much as the teacher did to introduce them to the author in the beginning of the unit. Upon planning this unit, you should have already had your goals in mind. Using the goals you had set out for the students will help you determine the most appropriate product or activity for assessment.