A powerful tool in connecting science and literacy is through the use of author studies where you focus on the bodies of work of highly recommended science authors. Reading and analyzing several books by one author affords opportunities to identify and analyze text features used by the author - students become familiar with elements of the authorís craft. Students learn to think critically about how the structure and technique in writing combine to communicate meaning. As a result, this fosters students' comprehension as they read and improves their own writing craft.
Well-Respected Science Authors
Studying well-respected science authors can provide excellent examples of non-fiction writing. Some authors include:
- Jean Craighead George writes in lyrical prose and uses descriptive detail and metaphor.
- Seymour Simon creates photographic essays and uses comparisons in his narrative style.
- Jim Arnosky effectively integrates text with field sketches and detailed illustrations.
For more authors, visit the annotated list of authors and illustrators.
Some of the explorations into the authorís craft include decisions on the presentation of content and the literary devices the author chooses to employ. For example:
- Voice: is the text expository? Lyrical? Humorous?
- Structure of information: is it arranged in a cause and effect format? Or a sequence of stages (events) format?
- Use of comparative techniques: analogy, metaphor, simile. (For example, Seymour Simon (Bones, Scholastic, 1999) uses metaphors and similes to make the incomprehensible interior structure of bones as easy to visualize as a sponge.)
- Use of descriptive language and detail
- Sentence variation and use of strong verbs
- Development of powerful leads
- Use of authentic examples or true stories
- Ways to involve the reader
- Use of questions to set a purpose or guide the readerís thinking
A few ideas for the classroom
- Use several author studies to feature the different authors and their work.
- Create an Authorís Corner to display books by a featured science author.
- ďBook TalkĒ several of the books by the featured author to generate interest in his or her books.
- Feature books by the author in read alouds.
- Display a collection of the authorís books with the brightly illustrated front covers fully visible. Set up the display on a table for students to browse, read, or check out.
- Create a visual backdrop by displaying biographical information about the author, complete with photographs and jacket covers of the authorís books.
- Post the authorís address, website and email contact. Invite students to write to the author.
- Provide an area for students to post recommendations for books they have read and enjoyed by the author.
- Introduce and explore the authorís choice of text features and writing techniques.
- Compare and contrast different authorsí crafts to show students that there are many different approaches to science-related writing.
- Generate an ongoing list of text features and writing techniques for each featured author. Invite students to compare and reflect on the different choices authors make to convey information and tell stories.
- Invite students to partner read books by the author. Notice the authorís choices of text features and writing techniques to communicate science.
- Teach writing workshop mini-lessons on authorís craft using examples from the authorís books.
- Begin to help students find their own writing voice as they imitate some of the authorsí styles and develop their own personal style.
To support students as they begin to explore science authorsí writing, teach mini-lessons that focus on various aspects of non-fiction writing. Some possible topics include:
- Writing effective leads
- Integrating field research with secondary source information
- Using quotations
- Using examples
- Using comparisons
- Developing effective transitions
- Using descriptive language in expository writing
- Integrating diagrams, charts, and tables with text
For more specific ideas on how to use trade books to teach
writing mini-lessons on authorís craft, select one of the following. For ideas
and examples using Seymour Simon's books, click here. For ideas and examples
using Jean Craighead George's books, click here.
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This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 9912078. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.