Launching Nonfiction Author Studies: A Focus for Teaching the Common Core State Standards

Click the image above for a free guide to nonfiction author studies from Professor Myra Zarnowski and Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing. The guide will appear in PDF form in a new browser window. It introduces a dozen authors, myself included, their nonfiction books, and suggests relevant activities and questions.


From the guide:


Why Author Studies?


"Beyond seeing the author as a person — a writer with information and a point of view to share — author study (studying several books by one author) provides us with a rich yet manageable way of looking at the decisions an author makes when creating a work of nonfiction. These decisions are about content, word choice, illustration, and original thoughts and interpretations.


Thinking about how an author creates nonfiction raises many questions for young readers and writers to think about: After researching a topic, what information goes into the book? What doesn’t? Why? How should the book begin in order to grab the reader’s attention? How should it end in order to keep the reader thinking about the topic? What information is best introduced through pictures, photographs, graphs, or tables? What features like sidebars and primary sources would add interest to the page? In what ways are the author’s books similar? How are they different? As students engage in author study they think about how an author answered these questions.


Not surprisingly, these same questions are highlighted in the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The Standards emphasize reading informational text to determine key ideas and details, an author’s point of view, how the author structures and crafts information, how new vocabulary is introduced, and how visual material works together with written text. It’s a match! That is, by engaging in author studies students are also meeting many Common Core Standards for reading and understanding informational text.


This guide features books and suggested activities that can be used to jumpstart a nonfiction author study. This will open the door to critical inquiry and focused discussion of informational text. By aligning activities to Common Core State Standards, students learn content while becoming critical consumers of that content. That’s powerful instruction."


– Myra Zarnowski, Queens College, CUNY