Don't you love when a student makes the connections you want them to before you think they will? This happened in my classroom today.
During the last 50 minutes of the day, we have added an extra reading block. We have our five classes split by reading ability and focus on skills and strategies needed within that group. During this time of the day, I have the highest group of fifth graders readers. My goal during this time of the day is to work on word study, test taking strategies, and we are also doing novel studies. I will post on the test taking strategies in a later post, but I want to focus on the novel study for now.
To introduce the expectations of the novel study, I started with a whole group book. I decided to have them read Knots in My YoYo String by Jerry Spinelli. This book is an autobiography of his life. The premise is that Jerry Spinelli was having all of these life experiences and unknowingly becoming a writer. I knew that my students would enjoy this book because they would be able to make some connections about his early life. I also selected that book because I want to follow it up by having my students read some of his books to see if they could make some connetions between his life and his writing.
We finished that book last week and I selected four of his books for us to read: Maniac Magee, Wringer, The Library Card, and Who Ran My Underwear up the Flagpole. I did a quick book talk about each of the books and then they wrote down their first 3 choices. I sorted through their requests that night. Luckily, most of the 23 students were able to get their first choice. I had 9 people choose Maniac Magee, so three students got their second choice.
They started reading the book today. Whole talking to the Maniac Magee group, one of the students shocked me. Without any prompting, she said, "There's a lot of things in this book that were on Knots in My YoYo String.". She and the rest of the group proceeded to list multiple things in Maniac Magee that were also in his autobiography. This was the entire point of reading the second novel: to show my students that authors use their life experiences in their writing. I didn't have to any prompting to lead them to this point, but they got it anyone. Now I just hope that some of the other students pick up on this concept as well.
My ultimate goal is to have them read at least one more of his books and start comparing the themes within his books. This is what I'm doing with my homeroom students. Two of my reading groups are currently in the midst of author studies. One group is currently reading Pam Munoz Ryan novels: Esperanza Rising, Becoming Naomi Leon, Paint the Wind, and Riding Freedom. They are in the middle of the third book right now and have been able to connect many themes between the books. My other group is reading Andrew Clements books. They have read The Report Card and The Jacket and are currently readingone of the Jake Drake books. There are so many similarities between these books. This group will be reading Frindle next.
I have never really done any author studies like this before, but I'm seeing the value in it and look forward to doing many more in the future. My goal this summer is to prepare some author study units to use next year.
What author studies have you done?