Friday, October 26, 2012

Nonfiction Author Studies

Why not do an author study of a nonfiction author?  This combines an activity with which many teachers and students are familiar with a twist, since typically fiction authors get the spotlight.  One approach is to choose an author to study as a class or to highlight in the school library.  A strong, prolific writer makes a great choice.  No matter the grade level, many nonfiction writers fit the bill: Jim Arnosky, Jean Fritz, Candace Fleming, Seymour Simon, Steve Jenkins, Jim Murphy, Tonya Bolden, Susan Bartoletti, Russell Freedman, Sally Walker, to name just a few. 

With your students, gather the books in the library.  You could read a book aloud to the whole group—or part of a book.  Kathleen Krull’s series including Lives of the Musicians and Lives of Extraordinary Women have short biographical sketches great for reading aloud and analyzing with a group.  You could also have individual students or small groups choose different books to read and respond to.  More ambitiously, students could read two books by the same author and compare them.  Common Core reading standards point to possible approaches to analysis: determining central ideas and themes; tracing how individuals or events are developed; analyzing structure; looking at point of view; and so on. 
Another possible approach is that each student or a small team chooses an author. No matter the configuration, researching the author’s life and work will takes students to a variety of resources including print reference books, biographies and autobiographies, the author’s web page, and online interviews at blogs and other websites.  If you have access to, lots of resources are readily available there in one place.
Responses to the books can be traditional such as print posters, booktalks, and book reports, or they can be geared more to the Common Core interest in technology.  Students can create a book trailer using Animoto (  ), Imovie, or a similar tool to respond to  the book they read or share information about the author.  Students who craft a booktalk to share with the group can present it themselves or create a Voki, a talking avatar ( ) that can turn a short written booktalk into a spoken one.  Glogster ( offers a way to create online posters, adding images, text, links, and even videos.  Similarly, Prezi ( is an online tool similar to power point but less linear that works well for author study presentations.
The possibilities are myriad.  A great tool with lots of ideas and resources for fiction or nonfiction projects is the Author Study Toolkits at Reading Rockets ( 

1 comment:

  1. I agree with everything you said about the nonfiction author studies, but I am most grateful for the helpful websites. The challenge for us to incorporate this technology in a meaningful way.