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Teaching an Author Study

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Why Teach an Author Study?

Considering the Author

At all ages, Mass. ELA students are asked to consider the author.

Two of the K-12 standards take up this question directly: #6 states that a student should be able to "assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text," while #9 asks that students be able to "analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the authors take."

Studying an Oeuvre

As you can see, when students read, they should be thinking about the authorial intention behind a single text, and the development of a theme across multiple texts.

Why not, then, teach an author study? Working through an author's oeuvre (fr.)-- their many works regarded collectively--can help a reader get to know the author more closely.

Analyzing the Texts

By looking at the oeuvre, the reader can begin to get a better idea of the author's purpose, and better understand the purposeful choices the author has made in regards to form and content.

Likewise, the reader can see how, in two different books, the author has made different choices, and so created two very different works of literature--but in many cases, two works which nonetheless develop a similar theme; two works which therefore, when taken together, can reveal so much more about what was really on the author's mind!

Bringing in Research

As part of your author study, you may want to look at materials related to the author's biography, or the historical world and perspective from which the author wrote.

Facts about the author's life or the context in which the author worked can help a student to imagine their own self in the author's shoes, and to think about what might have led the author to choose to write about certain subjects in the first place.

Complicating the Picture

It is plainly irresponsible to teach an author like Dr. Seuss, who has come under scrutiny for problematic aspects of his work, without first acknowledging the more troublesome aspects of his worldview. But is it not a disservice to children to remove such a ubiquitous and influential artist from teaching altogether?
Please make sure to understand this famous author's biases and their potential impact by looking at the latest research:

Beatrix Potter

Dr. Seuss

Mark Twain

Teaching Lessons and Projects on Authorship

Mass. K-12 ELA standards even suggest that first graders compare and contrast several picture books by either Beatrix Potter or Dr. Seuss; that seventh graders contextualize Tom Sawyer using Mark Twain's own autobiography; and that high school juniors always be historicizing the literature they are reading, as well as thinking about the the author's choices.

Consider teaching an author study!