Monday, August 1, 2016

Last Literacy of the Year

Again...better late than never! This summer has been CRAZY busy for Kate and I! We've been attending and presenting at different conferences and supporting teachers all over the state! All other time has been spent being moms to our littles! August?! When did you get here? Geez...time flies.

At the end of our school year (May-June), we tackled our final literacy units of the year. Our focus?--Author Study & Literary Essay! I love this unit. I love exposing kids to authors that they might not have known before. I love the excitement when I wheel a cart full of books into our classrooms. I love the buzz of "Oh. My. Goodness! Have you read this one yet?? You HAVE to!"

This was our last unit of the year, and we chose to organize it as a book club unit...more "Author Club." We co-planned as a 4th grade team, and brainstormed various authors that we felt would be meaningful to our kids. We wanted authors that had a wide range of levels, which wasn't always possible, but we tried our best. We ended up with mix of chapter book and picture book authors. Our goal, was for kids of all levels to be in each author club, to really add to the rich discussions. This was not going to be a traditional "book club" where all kids read the same book--the kids in these clubs would all be reading different books by the same author. With this kind of format, our lowest readers wouldn't be "bound" to be together, as often happens.

Our other major focus for this unit was theme and theme development. Due to this, we really wanted strong authors and texts. Why theme?--so we could tie their reading work to writing. Our last writing unit of the year was Literary Essay. They could use all of the texts they read and discussed with each other to develop an "author theory" to write about within their literary essay.

We launched our unit by introducing the kiddos to the various authors we had selected. We did take their suggestions in developing this list, but we also had kids after the launch that came and wanted to study different authors. We were pretty flexible and open to all ideas presented by the kids.

Following this introduction, we provided them with a Google Form to vote on their top choices.
Click to see the full form.
We also developed an "Author Hub" website (Using Weebly for Education) for the kids to use throughout the unit. It included author home pages, interview videos, book trailers, and more! Kids found others along the way that we later added to this collaborative site.
Click to see the full website we created!
Once we had their votes in, we looked at their top choices and got them into "author-alike" groups. We found that some authors had NO votes, and others had SO MANY, we didn't have enough texts. When this happened, we moved to their 2nd and 3rd choices. All of our kids ended up getting one of their top 3 choices. We also had pretty mixed-ability groups, which was awesome!

Then came my favorite day...BOOK DAY! Kids got into their Author Clubs for the first time, selected their first books, wrote the "norms" they wanted to follow as a club, and set their reading calendar! The "buzz" that is in the room on these days is so contagious!
We provide each kiddo with a packet of "templates" that they can use to track their thinking throughout the unit. At this point in the year, some choose to use it, and some choose to make their own. We love seeing what they come up with! They now know themselves so well as learners, that they know how they learn best and what they need in order to be the most successful in literacy! <proud teacher sigh>
This is the packet of templates that kids could choose to use. Click  to grab this from our TpT store!
Here are a few pics of different templates our kids created! Many chose various digital tools like: Slides, Sheets, or even Google Keep!
As the unit progressed and kids had made their way through multiple books, we started to tie in writing. We brainstormed theories we were generating about our author:

  • Did you author write about similar themes?
  • Did your characters face similar struggles?
  • Did your author have a particular style? How do you know?
  • And more!
The kids discussed these different theories & trends in their author groups and collected evidence from each other. Each of these graphic organizers are linked to the Google Docs we used! Feel free to snag them and make them your own!
It was our last big writing project of the year...they were a little burned out...but we were SO impressed with the deep thinking they did and the end results!

It was another amazing unit and a great way to end our school year! How do you teach Author Study? Literary Essay? We'd love to learn from you!


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