Reflections and Resources from Tarheelstate Teacher: It's {almost} a Wrap! 2014-2015 Top 10 Highlights #6 Author Study
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It's {almost} a Wrap! 2014-2015 Top 10 Highlights #6 Author Study

Coming in at #6 on our 2014-2015 school year highlights is an author study project where we focused on picture books written by Bill Peet.

Your upper elementary students are going to love participating in this picture book author study featuring Bill Peet. Click through for a FREE Google Drive download, picture book ideas, ideas, and tips from a teacher who taught numerous reading strategies while asking her students to complete the author study. The best part? You can differentiate it to meet the needs of your 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, or 6th grade classroom or homeschool students. And it covers a lot of standards too!

As I tried a number of new things this year (often, flying by the seat of my pants waiting to see how things would play out, but sometimes as well-planned ideas and activities), I had some major surprises with student engagement. I think I do a pretty good job of keeping my students engaged. My attitude is that if I’m bored, they are bored AND if they are bored, “Houston, we got 99 problems” ;)

I teach really sweet students who usually follow my lead and get excited about what I present to them in class. But, often, I'm still really surprised by their enthusiasm for certain things. What’s the evidence for my students’ enthusiasm?
  • Can I take this home and work on it tonight? 
  • When do we get to work on….
  • When I said, “You can work on this for morning work,” I heard cheers. 
Our Bill Peet author study project was one of those assignments that surprised me with how engaged and motivated my students were. I had students begging me for "Bill Peet" time and I had parents telling me that their child shared their project with them at home and even chose to work on their project over playing on their iPad. {Win!}

Why was I so surprised by my students' enthusiasm? Well when you see how simple this project was, maybe you will be surprised too!


Note: Links to the books I mention are affiliate links. This means that I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. Read my full disclosure here.



As we left for spring break, we were in the midst of learning how to write literary essays. We used our Civil Rights book club books for content and developed theses focused on a strong theme in the story. I called these essays "practice" because I helped a lot, the essays were really messy with editing and revising, and it was students' introduction to the parts of an essay and the parts of a supporting paragraph.  

So, I knew I wanted to move them through the process again when we returned for 4th quarter, but I didn't have the time to wait for them to read another chapter book before starting another essay project.

I wanted to start right away so I decided to focus our work on Bill Peet's picturebooks. If you are not familiar with Bill Peet, he was an illustrator for Walt Disney who eventually left because of creative differences. Later, he began writing the stories that filled his childhood. He illustrated and authored a number of very creative books with super imaginative characters.

Prior to this study, my favorite Bill Peet book was Wump World, mainly because I'm a tree-hugger. Think Just a Dream by Chris Van Allsburg--Wump World has the same message, a warning about taking care of our Earth. Another huge goal I had for this project was to spend some time focusing on author's purpose/author's message. This is perhaps the reason I thought of Bill Peet immediately because I had used Wump World in the past to focus on author's message.

Through this picture book study with my students, I also fell in love with The Spooky Tail of Prewitt Peacock, Kermit the Hermit, How Drufus the Dragon Lost His Head, and Eli. I also highly recommend grabbing a copy of Bill Peet's Autobiography if you do this study in your classroom.

Your upper elementary students are going to love participating in this picture book author study featuring Bill Peet. Click through for a FREE Google Drive download, picture book ideas, ideas, and tips from a teacher who taught numerous reading strategies while asking her students to complete the author study. The best part? You can differentiate it to meet the needs of your 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, or 6th grade classroom or homeschool students. And it covers a lot of standards too!I went to the local library and gathered all the Bill Peet books off of the shelf. We didn't have enough copies for each child to have one independently, so we had to do a lot of sharing during this study.  

To launch the study, I gave students a simple handout and had them read as many books as they could get to in the span of a week.

{Next year, I think I will allow them to JUST read the books without a recording sheet for a week and then add the recording sheet later. This is an opportunity to build a LOT of reading stamina with engaging literature and children on all reading levels can feel safe reading these books, although we can expect them to think deeply about the themes and messages in the stories}.

I taught lessons on how to figure out the author's message. {Since this was a 4th quarter project, students were already well-versed in summaries, themes, and "It's About's"}.

I taught students to attempt to put cliche lessons into their own words, and I tried to train them to read their lessons back to themselves to see if they were 1) accurate to the story, and 2) made sense and/or were truthful.

An example of a lesson I often get from students is "If you are nice to someone, they will be nice back." I really challenge my students hard on stating a lesson like that. Is that really true? Does that happen in real life? Is the author trying to tell me that if I am nice to someone, they will be nice back? No? Then we need to try harder to find the right words to describe what the author wanted us to learn.

The assignment: 


After getting to know many of the stories, I had students choose one book to focus on in depth. I created the assignment in google slideshow and shared it with all of my students as an un-editable file that you can download here.

Your upper elementary students are going to love participating in this picture book author study featuring Bill Peet. Click through for a FREE Google Drive download, picture book ideas, ideas, and tips from a teacher who taught numerous reading strategies while asking her students to complete the author study. The best part? You can differentiate it to meet the needs of your 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, or 6th grade classroom or homeschool students. And it covers a lot of standards too!

Here's where the surprise comes in. Do you see what I assigned them?!?! 


To me, this project was a reader response that I had students complete with an online word processor rather than pencil and paper. That's it. It was that simple...to me. But, somehow, this was super engaging to students.

I didn't even let them play with the "fluffy" stuff until the required pieces were completed and I had pushed them and pushed them to add more and revise their sentences. {You'll see this in the two examples below. One project is very simple while the second student had time to make it a little fancier.}

Student Example #1

Your upper elementary students are going to love participating in this picture book author study featuring Bill Peet. Click through for a FREE Google Drive download, picture book ideas, ideas, and tips from a teacher who taught numerous reading strategies while asking her students to complete the author study. The best part? You can differentiate it to meet the needs of your 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, or 6th grade classroom or homeschool students. And it covers a lot of standards too!

 Student Example # 2

Your upper elementary students are going to love participating in this picture book author study featuring Bill Peet. Click through for a FREE Google Drive download, picture book ideas, ideas, and tips from a teacher who taught numerous reading strategies while asking her students to complete the author study. The best part? You can differentiate it to meet the needs of your 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, or 6th grade classroom or homeschool students. And it covers a lot of standards too!

By the way, this project never turned into a full-blown essay, but I will be aiming for that next year.

We loved this project so much that I made a donorschoose project to get the resources we need for next year. I ordered two copies of each Bill Peet title that was available from amazon and also ordered Helen Lester books (another great author to study, especially perfect for the beginning of the year). I hope to be able to implement 2-3 author study projects like this one next year. I'm excited to attempt to scaffold the project with Helen Lester books 1st quarter and Bill Peet books later in the year.

With a project like this, there are many opportunities to assess students' abilities in reading and writing. During 1st quarter next year, I'll start with having students write summaries, identify and support themes, and describe and analyze characters.

My lessons will aim to help students learn to write summaries that are not too long and not too short and to better verbalize the themes in the story and support them with evidence. I can do a read aloud to take a "benchmark" assessment of where students are with these objectives and then use their projects as a way to improve their abilities.

Then, I will even take a final assessment at the end of the unit with another read aloud and an independent reading passage. I'll just have to remember to choose two of the picturebooks to keep to myself for my pre and post read aloud assessments :)

I hope some of my end of year reflections have your brain spinning. I said it in the last post, but I am truly enjoying using my blog space to reflect on some top experiences from this school year - including this author study. The best part is that it also helps me think about how to improve upon what happened this year. If you have not taken the time to reflect on 2014-15, I highly recommend it! I'm half way through my countdown so keep stopping by to see what else is in store!
Why go digital alone? Learn about Boom Learning, Google Classroom, and how to go more paperless in your classroom with digital interactive resources!

2 comments:

  1. I love this! How did you present all the slides onto one Slide as a final project? thank you

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Mrs. Cozens,

      The images shown above are just ones that I put together to show the slides that students created. For a culminating celebration, we did not print out the work, but you could easily do that and have students create posters. Another way to celebrate and share their work is to have all student projects pulled up on laptops and have students rotate from one project to another. They can leave feedback for one another or even have a reflection sheet (how does the lesson/theme compare to the them in their book, if they read the same book, what new thoughts do they have based on what they read in a classmates presentation, etc). Hope you get to implement a project like this! It was one of my favorites!

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