As an impassioned literature loving, habitual reader, I always spent time with my students having them read several works by the same author. This was a strategy I infused into every K-12 school class I have taught over my 3 decades of ELA instruction, even before the term author study was formally introduced. I even used it in Social Studies classes highlighting such authors as Benjamin Franklin, Martin Luther King. EdithWharton, and Malala Yousafzi.
When technology was introduced in the NYC New York City public schools in the mid 1980’s I and other middle school colleagues who already were authoring curricula for the department for NYC DOE were asked to author word processing, critical thinking and Internet use curricula to support our ELA colleagues to use new literacies to enhance instruction. Of course, in doing so, I spent hours on the Internet myself. To my surprise, I discovered familiar and beloved personalities there, many of the authors, my students and I used for author study. Just as when I was a child gazing wistfully at the library shelf with numerous Laura Ingles Wilder titles I was determined to read, so too did I start to fixate and investigate on the web what I later learned were author sites. Specifically, many of these sites were put up by publishers or the authors themselves.
21st Century Author Study Chrome- “booked” any classroom, any period no holds on the books or data
How to access author sites immediately through your Chromebook, not a move necessary from your student’s class-
Just type in a favorite or school studied author or a person on the news whose latest books you have heard about
Once you do so all kinds of sites will pop up
Most authors also have twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts.
The beauty of using Chromebook for this digitally accessed study is that the teacher can preview the materials and curate only those that are appropriate for student study.
Teacher 21st Century Author Study PD as you curate your author sites-
Through my own ongoing investigation of these sites, I began to boil down their design to an Internet genre format, similar to the printed mystery, historical fiction, and memoir genres, I taught my students. The author site genre components/dimensions accessible by the tabs on top of the site were: home page, site map, internal links to pages on site, external links to other sites with author mention, author bio, author publications, upcoming author appearances, press (author audio files and video files), galleries of photos, and FAQs-frequently asked questions about the author. Some author sites also included writing tips for students, a guest book trivia quizzes /games about the author’s works and more. Much like genre formats, as the new literacies evolved through and up to 2013, some also included authors: blogs, twitter, tumbir, facebook, instagram and contact info for class visits/opportunities to Skype with an author or announcements of a scheduled online discussion with the author.
Activity 1: Classroom Author Site Critiques- Have Chromebook will write an author site Review
Chromebook classroom critics can critique for positive point perspectives and for potential negatives comparative sites to see which author has a more captivating and reader inviting site than other authors. The chromebook author site class reviews can have their own podcast review show of discussion which they can record for other Chromebook connected communities reading the same author. This really adds dimension to an author studied by an entire grade or content class such as say Jacqueline Woodson author of Brown Girl Dreaming or Walter Dean Myers author of Darius and Twig. Students can also write persuasive reviews of these sites or even write reflective and evidence based argument writings to use the web sites as digital documents to justify student anticipations of an author’s latest book from a site trailer. (Mandated digital range of text research which is fun to do and can be shared by audio recordings or video.)
- Activity –ANTICIPATION confirmed or refuted by author site information
Remixing author studies and/or “author” site ing every book studied.
I suddenly found myself automatically checking out author sites on line before I began teaching and finding a way to integrate that site and student work with that electronic text (adding to CCSS text reading for facts and details central ideas and integration of knowledge and ideas using visual information with other information in print and digital texts). Thanks to my preview visits to author sites, I was able to have students anticipate the author’s looks, reasons/purpose in writing a specific book, response to questions about that book and with some sites what the author’s voice quality would be reading and discussing the book. Students were able to check and confirm their anticipatory hypotheses based on reading of the print book by visiting the site. Once there they were given time to “browse” the site and identify a detail, game, comment, or picture that piqued their interest. They were encouraged to navigate within the site plus visit external author links. Just as they did the author’s works, they subjectively evaluated and compared author sites for: interactive opportunities, content, quick loading of pages, graphics, video/audio files, links, student interest pages, trivia, opportunities to actually contact the author, new insights on books read and other factors. (Functional document reading and using that is real world PARCC plus many classes got actual author or author webmaster response or found answers to their questions in the videos or interviews posted on the site.)
Activity 3: Student Author Studies Experts and New Textual 21st Century Critics
Soon the students became more expert and “hooked” navigators of this new literacy text that offered information (a great way to balance literature with information which is one of the Common Core Shifts) about the author and background context for the work they had read. Some sites inspired platform further research about the topic/theme of that work. In visiting the author sites in line and “navigating” them, the students were immediately doing the same short research papers the CCSS suggest. The research was immediately accessible to them through site links. Our roles were joyously remixed as sometimes students through their daily research as part of our reading or working with a text discovered new facts or resources about the author, I the educator did not know.
Student Experts discover author trivia.
When we read the Jodi Picoult book Between the Lines, students alerted me immediately to the interview she and her collaborator, teen daughter Samantha Van Leer had on the site about writing the book. Students who had read Nikki Grimes’ Jazmin’s Notebook and Bronx Masquerade on their own, presented an authentic writing prompt from her website to me and suggested I use it in class. They also printed out her list of where to get published. While I was aware of Gail Carson Levine’s Writing Magic: Creating Stories that Fly, it was fabulous having students work with her latest book Forgive me, I meant to do it with its craft tips on writing an apology poem, “alert” me to their finding out that she had written s story writing craft book as well. Students who were searching author sites for writing tips, when we were writing story treatments using Walter Dean Myers’ Just Write-Here’s how, one of the students introduced the class to Ralph Fletcher’s site with its Tips for Young Readers. Another student very into horror story genre gained new respect for me as a teacher when I agreed with her that RL Stine’s Nightmare Room on line resource kit was great for teaching that genre. One student was very impressed that her favorite author Sandra Cisneros had devoted a whole page on her web site to answering the questions, an eighth-grade class in Reading, Pa. had sent in. Several students wrote directly to Cisneros, Carson-Levine, and Fletcher who had places on their sites to contact them.
One student called his cousin who lived near the site of an upcoming Picoult personal appearance to check her out and get a book signed. Within 24 hours Gail Carson Levine actually posted one student’s comment and responded to it on her blog!!
Activity 4: Inculcation as Author Studies Ongoing Readers- Checking out Chromebook for Author Sites and Digital Data as part of the print and online reading experience.
Not only were the students going above and beyond the traditional author bio research and book historical context I requested, but they began automatically as part of their independent reading habits to check out sites for authors ranging from Stephenie Meyers to JK Rowling to Tolkien to Peter Lerangis.
One dedicated Lerangis fan informed me I was mispronouncing his last name. I was directed to his site-www.peterlerangis.com where I did indeed find a tutorial on the correct pronunciation.
Activity 5: Building Fan Websites by jigsawing parts as chromebook teams-
My students discovered unauthorized author sites- done by fans without explicit permission of the author or publisher or estate. With the help of the technology teacher who was teaching web design, they used the free web building software weebly (www.weebly.com) to create their own web sites- using the author web sites as the anchor electronic texts for their own fan sites .This collaboration allowed the technology teacher to address his technology teaching objective or web design training by concretizing it with a web site that would enhance the CCS reading and writing plus allow students to develop informational works about authors they studied. This nicely fused technology as a tool for reading, writing, speaking, and language CCS skills. Certainly, in literally authoring informational electronic texts, collecting domain images, getting links and attribution to other web and print material on their selected authors, the middle school 6-8 graders who created the fan sites worked together as teams literally building an electronic knowledge and research base for their author study. In addition to doing research, they presented their sites through cyber tours using the Smart Board to their grade technology peers. They were launched as web designers-career readiness in middle school.
Following completion, students shared their sites by presenting them to the entire class. (Cyber62.com-click 650/660 to see student sites). Pairs/teams of persons who have designed their own fan author sites discuss site design goals, use of specific web design software and problems encountered. The oral presentation was preparation for an Author Site podcast April 2012 being done as a part of an ISTE Literacy Special Interest book study on author sites. The author fan site designers auditioned for spots in the fifteen-minute fan site author podcast to be recorded within the week. Actual student podcast can be heard: http://siglitbookstudy.blogspot.com.
Chromebooks tool a new form of student owned author study
New Literacy learning from my students led to my coauthoring a book on teaching with author websites with Mark Gura in 2010. Each school year, students “teach” me more about the author sites easily access new literacy student centered reading, writing, research and range of texts. Even more wonderful the author sites electronic texts –even the ones of the authors whose works I teach regularly, change and are responsive to their online audiences. For me, the remix has delightfully shifted the basic author studies components into a dynamic content, text, graphics mosaic ready to be newly navigated and revisited. How much more faithful to Rosenblatt’s reader receivership theory developed in the 1970’s could new 21st century digital literacy be?
Jago, Carol. (2011). Meeting Common Core Standards for Reading Literature. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton /Cook.
Reissman, Rose and Mark Gura. (2010). Teaching with Author Websites-1-8. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
Rosenblatt, L. (1978). The reader, the text, the poem: The transactional theory of the literary work. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University.
Wilhelm, J. Smith, M.W., & Fredrickson, J. (2012). Getting it done: Teaching the reading and writing of informational texts. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann
Dr. Rose Reissman,
Academic and Grant Funding Director for Sector 5
About Sector 5,
Sector 5, Inc. (OTCQB: SFIV), is a Proud American Corporation, that sells, manufactures and develops new innovative consumer electronics under Sector 5 and other brands. The Company markets its partnership with Google approved Chromebooks to educational organizations, other B2B and B2C sales channels, with retail sales on Amazon. It is in development of several new products to serve the educational, business and retail markets. Follow the company on http://www.twitter.com/sectorfiveinc and http://www.facebook.com/sect5 and find further information at http://www.sector-five.com. For Sector 5’s Forward Looking Statements, click here.