Author Studies

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Author studies activities for Eric Carle, Patricia Polacco and Kevin Henkes books.  Perfect for grades 2-4 and correlate to the Common Core.

One of the goals in this type of study is for students to make connections between the book, the author's life, and their own experiences.

A really great unit will provide students with authentic ways for children to show their understanding of the text and meaningful activities to extend their comprehension.

Studying an author with elementary students provides opportunities for:
  • teacher modeling of reading the texts
  • think alouds that allow the students to make text-to-text, text-to-self, and text-to-world connections
  • opportunities to use reciprocal teaching both whole and small group
Patricia Polacco author study

Fabulous book studies for two best-loved children's authors -
just click on the books!

How to Teach Author Studies for Elementary Students

1. Dedicate a corner or section of the classroom to the author you are studying.

When children are reading books by a particular author, help them connect to a picture and other objects that represent the author as a real person.

Patricia Polacco likes to rock while she writes, so a small rocking chair could be placed as a concrete reminder.

Eric Carle uses multi-media to create his illustrations. A box with colored tissue paper and glue for the students to use would be a great kinesthetic approach to making connections.

2. Identify the particular genre and themes that author uses.

Use this to make text-to-text connections between the books. For example, Patricia Polacco generally writes in the memoir genre and most of her stories all have a family theme or connection to it. These books are easy for children to relate to in an author studies context.

Another author, Kevin Henkes, writes many of his books with mice as the main characters. His books are mainly fictional picture books, but his themes are all realistic and deal with childhood worries and issues.

3. Give a special focus to the illustrations in picture books.

Eric Carle's books are told as much by his artwork as by the words. If you look carefully at the layering of the colors and textures in his illustrations, you will see unexpected surprises that lend to comprehension of the story.

Kevin Henkes' picture book stories tell as much of the actual story as the words do. Often an author will illustrate a story before writing it, so the text develops from the pictures.

4. Encourage students to express what they like and do not like about an author's style. Also, include a short lesson on the actual authors.

Children love to know where they get their ideas, how they make their books, what they were like as a child...all of this helps them make those text-to-self connections as they begin to understand what they have in common with the author.

An author study is perfect for guided reading lessons too. It could also be used as a book club during reading workshop.

Suggested Sequence for Teaching

A suggested sequence for elementary students:
  • Gather and Bless the Books: This is simply a time when you introduce the books to the children and say so many great things about each one that they cannot wait to read them!
  • Use interviews with authors as part of your lessons to build background knowledge.
  • Use an interactive read aloud every day with the books. Keep some books out just from students to browse through independently.
  • Work whole class, in small groups and independently on author studies pages.
  • Wrap up the unit within a few weeks. Children will likely lose momentum if one study goes on too long. It is better to leave them wanting more rather than never wanting to read a book by that author ever again!
  • If your students are still excited, you may want to consider a culminating project. Turning one of the favorite books into a Reader's Theater is a wonderful project that integrates many aspects of the curriculum. Culminating projects usually include some form of presentation to another class or parents.

To get you started, here is a free Eric Carle author study. Don't be fooled: Eric Carle's books are not only meant for very young children - my second graders love this!

You and your students will be surprised at the opportunities for literary analysis, academic vocabulary development and science/social studies integration that are in his books.

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