The goal of this unit is to encourage lifelong love of reading through familiarity with the artistry of authors and illustrators. It moves from whole class activity to small group activity to individual activity over the course of many lessons. I am presenting this material here because this unit was one of the most successful of my career. It helped children at many different ability and age levels to come to understand that there are real people behind the books we read, and all books at all levels have artistic voices and styles that can be recognized and enjoyed. It ended the "that's a baby book!" syndrome in my library; suddenly intermediate and upper grade children were checking out picture books and perceiving them on a new level of appreciation. Over three hundred children participated! The culminating projects were so wonderful that many were put on display at a local public library. One patron called me for information on recreating the unit in her high school classroom; the work was so outstanding, she mistook the work of 4th-8th graders for high school students!

To recreate this unit, please use, modify and adapt the prototypes that I have linked throughout this page. There are many sheets of instruction that go home with students, we made folders out of large sheets of construction paper so they could keep their materials organized. I tried to include all I could to make lesson planning, home communications and instructions as breezy as possible. Have fun!

Objectives to be met:
1. Students will be able to select materials appropriate to their ability level and purpose.
2. Students will demonstrate courteous attention in listening situations.
3. Students will identify differentiating characteristics of oustatnding authors and illustrators.
4. Student will view and make informed choices about visual media.
5. Students will apply evaluative criteria to literature.
6. Students will be exposed to literature from a wide variety of cultures and eras.
7. Students will use the library to do research using various reference materials, and relate this research via correct bibliographic form.
8. Students will be exposed to classic and contemporary literature.
9. Students will take notes while researching and relate information in an organized and original manner.
10. Students will synthesize background knowledge to create a visual display.
11. Student will present research orally.

Note: In lessons, when I refer to a "day," I mean a 40-minute period in the day. So, "Two days" means two 40-minute periods. I did this so both classroom teachers and librarians with block scheduling can adapt this unit.

Lesson 1. Whole Class Author Study: Bernard Waber. Read aloud: Ira Sleeps Over, Bernard, Gina, Rich Cat, Poor Cat, You Look Ridiculous , Said the Rhinoceros to the Hippopotamus and Loveable Lyle. Two to three days. Model appropriate read aloud technique! After the second day, pass out author study assignment sheet and letter home to parents. It may take a full session, or "day," to explain the project. I do not pass out display instructions on this day, or kids run out and make the displays before they do the background research.

Lesson 2. Dramatizations from Bernard Waber's Nobody is Perfick in small groups. Multiple copies desirable! Contact Houghton Mifflin, 1-800-255-3362, for generous discounts on school orders for Bernard Waber titles, or visit their website. Dramatizations may take up to two days. Pass out list of sample questions that all students should be prepared to answer about their creative artist. Remind them that this is not a list of questions that should be turned in to you, but one they should create and study because you may ask any of these questions on the day of their presentation. Tell them to think of this information like statistics on the back of a sport's star trading card!

Lesson 3. Chart all information to analyze the attributes of the books read, such as characters, setting, problem, events, solution, illustration (see model on p.116 of The Author Studies Handbook, by Laura Kotch and Leslie Zackman. This book is extremely important and helpful; do get your hands on a copy!) This may be done not as a separate lesson but along the way of lesson 1; in which case, expect the readings to take an extra day. When finished with the chart, discuss: what do all of these books share? What does that tell you about the author? Make a list, as a class, of questions that we would like to ask the author. Copy and pass out chart prototype based on model on p.116 of The Author Studies Handbook, by Laura Kotch and Leslie Zackman, and encourage students to use this prototype on their displays. Children should also sign up for their author or illustrator on this day. I did not allow any two kids in the same class have the same artist, there are plenty to go around! Also, no working in "pairs." Check in xerox copies of information from "Something About the Author" that was assigned on the author study assignment sheet, lesson one.

Lesson 4. Fan mail! Students will write a letter to their author/illustrator, using an overhead or xeroxed model. Discuss: what are appropriate and inappropriate questions? See my fan letter prototype; I had this prototype displayed on an overhead transparecncy and had copies on the tables as well. You can address artist fan mail in care of the publisher, whose address is usually facing the title page or the page after the title page, in fine print. Also, pass out "How to Call a Publisher for Author/Illustrator Information" to students for optional homework.

Lesson 5. Using technology to research authors. Rodney Greenblatt Author Study. Read aloud: Uncle Wizzmo's New Used Car, Aunt Ippy's Museum of Junk and Slombo the Gross. On the overhead, create as a class a venn diagram comparing Aunt Ippy and Uncle Wizzmo. Day 2, as a class, look up Rodney Greenblatt's web site on the internet. Day 3, Read aloud: The Mitten, Town Mouse and Country Mouse, The Trouble with Trolls or any other books illustrated by Jan Brett. Day 4, as a class, look up Jan Brett's website on the internet. What do we find out about the author? Discuss, how can we use the computer as a resource to finding out about our author/illustrator?

Lesson 6. Go over display instructions. Look at sample display prototype; create as a transparency and view as a class, and make copies for students to take home and use. Remind students that it is a sample; they can create displays in any arrangements, as long as they meet guidelines and contain necessary information.

Lesson 7. Small Group Author Studies. Separate class into small groups of three or four students. Have boxes containing at least four titles from author/illustrators set up on tables. These were the authors on our tables:
Ed Young
William Steig
Elisa Kleven
Trina Schart Hyman
Bill Peet
James Marshall
Jan Brett
Vera Williams
Eric Carle
On day one, students will read to themselves all books on the table, a quiet time. On day two, as a small group, they will discuss and list, giving specific examples, the attributes of their particular author/illustrator. What do all the books have in common? Discuss the meaning of style, and have students come up with "style statements" about their artist. If they were that artist's agent, how could they describe that artist so s/he would be set apart from the thousands of other artists? Do words like "pretty" or "nice" set an artist apart, or is it more effective to talk about artist materials or recurrent themes? The next day, students will share their "style statements" they came up with as a group, and then come up with "style statements" for the artists they are working on individually. Explain that a statement of what makes the artist unique should be included on the display and in the oral report. Also discuss, how can you incorporate the artist's style into the visual display? Example: if you were doing Eric Carle, couldn't you decorate it with bugs ( a recurrent theme in his books) or perhaps a hungry caterpillar across the top eating holes in your display? If you were doing Jan Brett, wouldn't a border be attractive, or hedgehogs be sensible, since she uses them so frequently? Would bubble-shaped lettering be apropos if you were doing James Marshall? Encourage creativity to the max!

Lesson 8. Letter to a character in the book. If you could write to a character in one of your author/illustrator's books, what would you write? Makes for a fun bulletin board, especially when combined with book covers!

Cumulative Projects: Presentations of personal author studies. Four days. Students set up displays and present. Presentations will include a five to ten minute read aloud, authors of longer fiction or non-fiction may be excerpted. and is to be prefaced or concluded by biographical information about the author. Don't forget the video camera! Alternative: you can do an "Artist Fair" the way some schools do a "Science Fair!"

Use the autographed pictures you have collected from fan mail and create an AUTHOR/ILLUSTRATOR WALL OF FAME for your school! HOORAY!

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