Getting started
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Getting Started. Think of some of your students’ favorite authors and write them down on your index card. As you write, ask yourself these questions. What makes your students drawn to these authors? What makes your students want to keep reading their books?

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Getting Started

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Getting started

Getting Started

Think of some of your students’ favorite authors and write them down on your index card. As you write, ask yourself these questions.

  • What makes your students drawn to these authors?

  • What makes your students want to keep reading their books?

    Save this list and we will revisit it later.


Discovering author s craft through author studies

Discovering Author’s Craft Through Author Studies

Cindy Hall

Spartanburg Writing Project

Summer 2011


Essential question

Essential Question

How can I use author studies to teach an author’s craft?


Readers writers

Readers = Writers

  • Everything we know as writers, we know as readers first.

  • Classrooms that are rich in literature and that provide opportunity for real experiences lead to the best writing behaviors.

  • If we want our students to become good writers, then we must immerse them in literature.

  • Reading and writing are interrelated.

    Source: Katie Wood Ray About the Authors


What is an author study

What is an author study?

  • It is an in-depth look at a set of books written by the same author.

  • It is a literature-based strategy that makes a connection between reading and writing.

  • It requires students to be exposed to lots and lots of books.

  • It may take a few days or a few weeks.


Getting started

  • Children need to know that authors often:

    *write about things they know a lot about *write about the same topics again and again, in different ways, in different books

    *notice, listen, observe, and think like writers all the time.

  • Studying an author and sharing their books helps students connect with the author. They are no longer faceless and distant people but a personal and available expert. The authors become real in their hearts and minds.

    Source (1): Katie Wood Ray About the Authors 2004

    Source (2): Laura Kotch and Leslie Zackman The Author Studies Handbook


Looking for mentors

Looking for Mentors

  • When you are learning how to do something new or need help, you look to the experts or master crafters.

  • In order to become good writers, we must look to authors for guidance and help.

  • We want our students to learn to stand on an author’s shoulders to write.

    Source: Katie Wood Ray Wondrous Words


Choosing an author

Choosing an Author

  • Now that you have decided to do an author study, how do you choose an author?

  • Ask the following:

    What are my students’ interest?

    What are my students’ reading & writing needs?

    What are my students’ backgrounds?

Source: Laura Kotch and Leslie ZackmanThe Author Studies Handbook


Authors as mentors

Authors as Mentors

  • Eric Carle

  • Kevin Henkes

  • Ezra Jack Keats

  • Patricia Polacco

  • Jane Yolen

  • Eve Bunting

  • Lois Ehlert

  • Mem Fox

  • Audrey & Don Wood


What is author s craft

What is author’s craft?

  • Author’s craft is the art of writing. It is how a writer chooses to compose his/her words and the technique that they use to construct a piece of writing.

  • It is their voice print.

  • It’s what keeps us as readers coming back for more!

    Source: Lester L. LaminackCracking Open the Author’s Craft


Looking at the how of writing

Looking at the “How” of Writing

Finding an author’s craft requires students to use their writers’ eyes and not their readers’ eyes. When we do this, we must read differently.

Reader eyes focus on the words and message of the book.

Writer eyes focus on “how” the book was written. We notice: word choice and placement, the sound of the language, and the attention to details.

Once students begin to notice the craft of some of their favorite authors, you will see it appearing in their own writing.

Source: Marybeth Alley & Barbara OrehovecRevisiting The Writing Workshop


Meet cynthia rylant

Meet Cynthia Rylant

An Author Study


Her life

Her Life

  • She grew up in the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia.

  • Her parents divorced when she was young and she spent lots of time with her grandparents.

  • She loves animals especially her pets.

  • She writes about her life.

  • She wrote her first book when she was 23.

  • She writes across many genres.

    “Writing has given me a sense of self-worth that I didn’t have my whole childhood. It has carried me through some troubled times and has made me feel that I am worthy of having a place on this earth.”

    Cynthia Rylant


Reading like a writer

Reading Like A Writer

  • Take a few minutes to read a Cynthia Rylant book with your partner. As you read, think about the following:

  • Notice something about her craft.

  • Talk about it and make a theory about why she might use this craft.

  • Give the craft a name.

  • Think of other authors you know that have used this craft before.

  • Try to envision using this crafting in your own writing.

  • Source: Katie Wood Ray Wondrous Words


What we noticed

What we noticed:

Let’s share what we discovered about Cynthia Rylant’s craft as a writer.

*artful repetition - lends itself to a theme

*five senses / sensory imagery

*use of specific detail

*predictable text structure

*whimsical language

*strong characters – “The Old Lady Who Named Things”

*sentence structure – perfect balance between long and flowy figurative language with short and powerful.


Authors like her

Authors Like Her

Can you think of any other authors who have a craft like Cynthia Rylant?

*Eric Carle

*Jane Yolen

*E.B. White

*Patricia Polacco

*Lester Laminack

*Gary Paulsen


When i was young in the mountains

When I Was Young in the Mountains


When i was young on tool road

When I Was Young on Tool Road

When I was young on Tool Road, I would sit on the dented tailgate of my Papa’s old blue Chevrolet truck and shuck Silver Queen corn with my Grandma. I would pull the bright green husk down to expose the ripe pale creamy white ear. Later we would slice it off the cob to freeze for our winter bounty.


Final thoughts

Final Thoughts:

An author study allows us to look closely at one particular author and discover their craft as a writer. It helps students make a connection between reading and writing.

Through author studies we help our students appreciate the techniques writers use and the decisions that authors make.

Our goal is for our students to use the author’s craft in their own writing. We know our author study has been successful when we hear a student say, “I want this part of my writing to sound like Cynthia Rylant.”


Getting started

Rather than garnering ideas for what to write about from reading, students are learning to take their own important topics and then look to text to learn how to write well about those topics.

-Katie Wood Ray


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