Until just this week, doing an author study in our homeschool/preschool never even occurred to me. Once it did, I have not been able to stop thinking about it, brainstorming ideas, plotting our next one and what we will do differently. Often the authors behind all the fabulous books we read get left out or forgotten. Very often in fact! It’s always fun to learn about the people hidden behind the brilliant storylines we all love. Author studies provide an opportunity to learn more about them, but also to dive deeper into more of their writing, too.
When I taught Middle School, I made a point to discuss the author before each story we read, and if time allowed have kids do a little background research of their own. Learning about the authors helps kids make connections and if they can connect with an author they may enjoy the story more or who knows maybe even learn to enjoy reading. Those connections are key!
How to use Author Studies
The great thing about an Author Study is that there really is no right or wrong way. What you do with your author study and how deep you go is entirely up to you! You can choose to do a short author study or spend a month or more.
Create your goals for the unit.
Do you want to focus on themes, characters and the author’s writing? Is your focuse to make connections between the author’s life and their books? Do you want to have your kiddos respond, reflect, and connect to the books?
Personally, I think a bit of all three is perfect! But again, you can make these studies fit your needs.
Choose an author.
This can be critical. Based on your goals, you’ll want to choose an author that can meet the needs of your unit and hopefully create excitement and joy for your kiddos.
To get a list of authors for your next Author Study, scroll to the end of the post.
Making Connections with the Author
If your students/kiddos are like mine (under 6), you may have to do the heavy lifting for this part.
- Research the author and provide snippets of information.
- Discuss the author’s childhood, education, and interests/hobbies
- Share what inspired them to write or what inspired specific books
- Encourage students to make connections.
If the author has a biography or autobiography, you can share a small part of that.
You may even be able to find a short interview on YouTube. (Oh YouTube, how did we ever survive without you?)
Depending on the age level, you may be able to have your kiddos draw a picture, write a summary, or share an interesting fact that they learned about the author.
I envision (when my kids are older) having them do the research themselves and writing mini-biographies about the author, complete with portrait!
You may be thinking, there is no way my preschooler or kindergartener can analyze a book.
Analyzing a book for younger kiddos is a lot like finding patterns, and they can do it. Take Laura Numeroff for example, after reading only one or two of her books kids can easily predict how the third and fourth will go. If you give an animal something they are going to want something else. 🙂
Before trying to analyze characters, themes, and the author’s writing you will want to make sure that you discuss those topics first!
The great thing about Author Studies is that most authors use a similar style in all of their books. So you can pinpoint their “style” and show those examples over and over again. They become great examples for children of all ages.
Here is a list of literary techniques:
Again, when working with preschoolers some of these may be too advanced but it doesn’t hurt to point them out as you are reading through.
Connecting with the Reading
With little ones this can be as simple as discussing their favorite part or what they enjoyed most and why. You can have them draw a picture, or create the scene with play dough.
For older students, you may have them keep a journal as they read. They could choose a book that they connected with the most or that is most similar to an event in their own life and write about or discuss it.
- Author Party: Dress up as your favorite characters or make your favorite dishes from the books.
- Author Timeline: Create a timeline (visual, digital, any kind of timeline) of the Author’s life.
- Drama: Turn your favorite book into a play or musical. Be sure to add props and costumes!
- Music: Create music to go with the book or turn a certain part of the book into a song.
Well, there you have it! I hope this helps you create a phenomenal author study.
If you already do author studies regularly, what are your favorite activities or authors to study?
Until next time,
Don’t forget to grab a copy of the Complete Author Study List.