Author Unit Activities

These activities may be used with any of the author units.  Of course, the major goal of the author units will be to enjoy fine literature; however, teachers, librarians, and parents might choose to extend the literary experience by selecting some of these activities or some of the specific activities listed with each book.  Many adults will encourage individual youngsters or groups of youngsters to choose among the activities and to create some of their own.

1.  Setting the stage:   Set up an author center or author corner.  Include a photograph of the author, a display of her/his books, posters, realia, maps, a bulletin board, etc.  Add student work as it is completed.  Youngsters enjoy being involved in the planning of these author units.  They might write to the publisher requesting materials such as posters featuring the author's books.  Encourage them to take leadership roles in setting up the centers, creating the bulleting boards, and planning the activities.

2.  Complete works:   Provide an overview of the complete works of the author.  As you read a book, discuss it within the context of the complete collection.  

3.  Authors as individual people and as writers:   Study the author's life.  Personalize the author units by focusing on the author's motivation for writing as a career and for writing each book.  Why did the author write this particular book?  Why did s/he choose this writing style?  These illustrations?  These words?  How has the author's writing style or choice of genres changed?  Youngsters enjoy exploring the experiences that shaped the authors' lives and thinking and inspired them to share their joys, struggles, defeats, and triumphs with their readers.  Seemingly minor connections often hold great significance for people of all ages.  Even adults get excited when they have the same birthday or grew up in the same area as an author.  These personal connections establish stronger and longer lasting ties with the author.

4.  Literature logs/response journals:   Youngsters may respond in writing to the selection read each day or week.  These journals may be ongoing all year or semester.  Long or shorter journals may be kept for each author or book.  Encourage a wide variety of responses such as poems, letters, thoughts, feelings, illustrations, etc.  Students may share these journals with partners, groups, or the class.  These may also be used for self-evaluation and/or teacher assessment.

5.  Perspective:   Compare and contrast the perspectives in books with similar themes.  Discuss or rewrite the story from the perspectives of selected characters.  Perhaps each student or group of students could choose characters and present the book from a variety of perspectives.

6.  Quotes:   Select or encourage youngsters to select quotes form the books for discussion and/or written response.  Use a quote from a book for the caption of a bulletin board.

7.  Predictions:   Predict what will happen in the book, on the next page, in the next chapter, and/or in a sequel.  These predictions may be written in the literature logs and/or discussed.

8.  Dedication Page:   Discuss and/or respond in writing to the dedication page.  What additional information does it give us about the author/  Encourage youngsters to create a dedication page for the next book they write. 

9.  Character letters:   Youngsters or leaders might write a letter from one of the characters in the book to the class introducing, motivating, summarizing, embellishing, etc.  Or one character could write to another character (within books or from book to book).

10.  Letters:   Youngsters enjoy writing letters to the authors.  Addresses for most authors are included with their chapter.  Many authors are too busy to respond to each letter individually but they might write a note to a class, school, or library.  

11.  Author visits:   Invite an author to visit your school or library.  Contact the publisher to arrange the visit.  Because of budget and scheduling constraints, many school team up with another school, library, bookstore, or conference.

12.  Conference calls:   Arrange to make a conference call from your class to the author.  Youngsters will enjoy reading the author's books and preparing questions in advance.  The call might be taped and listened to again later.

13.  Interviews:   Role play a possible interview with the author or a character from the book.  Or pretend that one character is interviewing another character.

14.  Recipes:   Write individual or class recipes based on the book's message such as "A Recipe for Friendship" or "A Recipe for Combating Prejudice."  Display on the bulletin board featuring the author.

15.  Travel:   Plan an imaginary or real trip to the places featured in the book.  Write for travel brochures, study maps to plot your route, develop and budget, and plan an itinerary, etc.

16.  Newsletters:   Include items from author units in your class, school, or library newsletter.  Youngsters enjoy interviewing authors and writing about these intriguing discussions.

17.  Drama:   Youngsters love to create and perform in plays, puppet shows, pantomime, skits, dance, etc. based on the book or a collection of books.

18.  Book talks:   Invite youngsters to prepare short Book Talks to introduce and inspire others to read the books they recommend.  These may be done a few at a time whenever you have a few minutes or during an assigned time.  Students may also do extra Book Talks for extra credit.  

19.  Book reports:   Find creative ways to make book reports more fun!  Book Report Forms by Evan-Moor offers a number of innovative ideas.

20.  Book boxes:   Combine art and book reports.  Students cover a box with paper and then decorate it with words, drawings, cut-outs, etc. that represent the book.  The book boxes may hold items or tasks related to the book.  These items may be used to dramatize the book or other students might write questions or comments about the book and put them in the boxes.  Arrange for a Book Box Exhibit with boxes created by several groups displayed.  

21.  Author boxes:   Do the same as Activity 20 but with the focus on the author.

22.  Book buttons:   Youngsters love to design buttons to wear!  Directions:  If you don't have a button maker, students may cut out a circle on construction paper and another on tagboard.  Decorate with book title, author, illustrator, and pictures.  Glue the construction paper to the cardboard.  tape a safety pin on the back.  Wear these during Book Talks, Book Reports, Book Fairs, etc.

23.  Book ribbons:   Invite youngsters to design ribbons to advertise their favorite books.  Display on bulleting boards, around the room, halls, or library to encourage others to read the books.

24.  Bookmarks:   Design bookmarks to go with selected books.

25.  Character board:   For each character in a book or series of books, make a five-to-seven-inch-high paper figure.  Place these figures on a chart depicting the roles played in the book.  Print their names above each.  Below each, write some of their personality traits.

26.  Character cutouts:   Enlarge pictures of characters onto a large piece of paper.  Cut out and use to start a bulletin board.  Students then add words describing the characters printed on colorful strips of paper and other illustrations to the bulletin board.

27.  Character growth:   To demonstrate the growth and changes in a character within a book or within a series, a student roleplays the character at each stage of her/his development.  (Example:  The Rinko trilogy by Yoshiko Uchida: Jar of Dreams, Best Bad Thing, and The Happiest Ending.)

28.  Art:   Study the art techniques used in the book.  Research.  Then experiment with those techniques.  Add the results to the Author Center.

29.  Collage:   Create individual or group collages portraying aspects from a book, a collection of books, and/or the author's life.

30.  Book hunt:   Hide a book and create a coded message to help others find the book.  Perhaps one student or group o students could be in charge of this activity each day or week.

31.  Time line:   Make a time line for the events in a book, a series of books, or the author's life.

32.  Sequence cards:   (created by youngsters and/or adults) On each of four or five cards, write a word or sentence, or draw a picture showing something that happened in the book.  Youngsters may work individually or in groups to put the cards in order.  Add these to the Author center. 

33.  Class booklet:   Collect all the work done by the youngsters related to a book or author into a class booklet.  Display.   

34.  Board games:   Youngsters create board games based on the events in a book.  These may be used in a variety of ways, including during free time and indoor recesses.

35.  Birthdays:   On an author's birthday, declare that day "                  Day."  (Example:  October 18 is Joyce Hansen Day.)  Have a read-a-thon featuring the author's books.  Also, students might design cards and/or write letters to the authors.  Students will be interested in which authors have birthdays on the same day as theirs.

36.  Dioramas:   Students create dioramas based on the author, book, or a series of books. 

37.  Pop-up books:   An optional activity for talented youngsters.  Create a pop-up book based on the book being read. 

38.  Mapping and webbing:   At first, make the character maps or semantic maps together as a large group.  Gradually, youngsters will be ready to create their own or to work together in small groups.

39.  Cartooning:   Create cartoons based on the events in a book or as a sequel to a book.

40.  Advice box:   Invite youngsters to write letters from or to the characters in the books, asking for advice.  Periodically, the teacher or students read these letters to the class and they respond in writing, with discussion, or by role-playing.

41.  Mobiles:   Design a mobile to introduce, promote, or represent a book or author.  

42.  Recommendations:   Write a letter to the school media director recommending a book or series of books for purchase.

43.  Book jackets:   Youngsters might design new book jackets for the books.

44.  Diary:   Youngsters might pretend that they are one of the characters in a book.  They prepare a diary that the character might have kept during the beginning, middle, end, and/or the most significant parts of the story.  This activity enables young people to identify more closely with the character.

45.  Survey:   Invite youngsters to check your public and/or school library to see which of the books by selected authors are included.  Make a checklist or graph.  students might want to check how many books about an ethnic group are included.  Evaluate the results and discuss ways to respond.

46.  Place mats:   Pretend that an author or several authors are coming for lunch.  Design place mats to honor your guests.  Use fabric, yarn, etc.  (This would make a great culminating activity at the end of the year or semester to review all the authors studied.)  This activity was inspired by The Dinner Party by Judy Chicago which features a place setting for each of thirty-nine women form history. 

47.  Author quilt or mural:   Quilts and murals make good culminating activities.  A quilt might feature one square per author.

48.  Author or character party:   At the end of the semester or year, each student dresses as their favorite character or author.  They each give a short talk from the perspective of the author or character, using the voice, gestures, and props they think appropriate.  Videotape these talks.  The next day watch the video and serve refreshments provided by the students, inspired by the books represented.  this video might also be used to introduce the author units to another group or shown at community events such as Parents' Night.

49.  Riddles:  Youngsters enjoy creating riddles based on the books or authors studied.  This activity is excellent for review.  For example: "I'm thinking of a book about a cakewalk."  Answer:  Mirandy and Brother Wind.

50.  Review bulletin board:   Invite youngsters to create and display cut-outs of all the characters from all the books read during the semester or year.

51.  Book jamboree:   Invite youngsters to sit in a circle.  Put all the books from a unit in the middle of the circle.  Students select books for a final short browse and then they each share one or two comments about the book.  This is an excellent review activity.

52.  Book fair:   This school-wide or library event is similar to the familiar Science Fair.  Once a year, all the projects created by the youngsters are displayed.  Parents, community members, and other youngster will enjoy the wide variety of projects 

53.  Assessment:   Youngsters might write tasks or questions that could be included in the evaluation of the author unit.  encourage high level questions that stimulate thinking rather than recall of details.

54.  Assessment:  (Pre- and Post-)  Invite individuals (any age) to make a list of all the authors that they can think of.  Evaluate together as a group or individually.  Did they include authors from diverse groups?  Which groups were included?  Excluded?  What recommendations do the members of the group have for improving this situation?  What recommendations do youngsters have for books to be purchased? 

55.  Assessment:   Library Checkout:  Are books available that represent diverse groups?  Are youngsters requesting and checking out books representing diverse groups?

56.  Assessment plan:   For additional information on assessment, please see the Assessment Plan in Appendix 1 on page 257.  


           Reprinted from Multicultural Voices in Contemporary Literature: A Resource for Teachers, Updated and Revised Edition by Frances Ann Day.  Copyright 1999 by Frances Ann Day.  Published by Heinemann, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc., Portsmouth, NH.