By: Inés Cazenave, María Elisa Pinto and Karen Roberts
|“Few things leave a deeper mark on the reader, than the first book that finds its way to his heart.”||~ Carlos Ruiz Zafon|
|“He that loves reading has everything within his reach.”||~ William Godwin|
As teachers who love reading, one of our major objectives is to transmit this feeling to our students and, ultimately, hope they learn to enjoy it as well. We strongly believe that reading will bring about learning in all the skills of the language and a wider general knowledge. In a time where Playstations, Ipads and electronics in general occupy all their free time, we understand that asking them to choose a book instead is near impossible. However, we enjoy challenges.
In order to lead the children on this path, we decided to have an author study. First, we introduced a wonderful writer, Michael Morpurgo, through a video in which he tells young readers about his book, “The Butterfly Lion”, which we assigned for Winter reading.
After the holidays we shared activities on The Butterfly Lion, and started reading “Kensuke’s Kingdom” in class. We gave the students the option of either reading on their own or with the teacher according to their preferences and reading abilities. In order to cater for all our students, those who read on their own, and usually read faster than those who remained in the class, were challenged by being responsible for research. This included topics such as places and animals which appeared in the book, sailing, the bomb in Nagasaki and dangerous jellyfish amongst others. They would then expose their findings to the rest of the class in order to expand their background knowledge.
On the other hand, the chapters were recorded and made available so that students who found the reading too challenging could go over the chapters at home.
In the meantime, we presented a selection of over forty titles, which were previously chosen, for the children to pick from. We started off by recommending books to them according to their level of English and interests. However, we made it clear right from the start that the idea was for them to enjoy the books. Therefore, if after reading a few chapters they did not like the book, they were free to change them. This proved to be very positive, as the children never felt obliged to read anything they did not find interesting.
Reading took place during our weekly library period and another period in class, or outdoors when the weather was nice.
Students learned to cherish these moments and looked forward to them. Little by little, they spontaneously started to recommend books to each other which showed just how much they were enjoying it. We decided to take advantage of this great opportunity and gave them the space to recommend books to each other during class time. This whole class activity fostered teamwork, as all the students who had read the book would add their own remarks and exchange different opinions.
For a final outcome, we decided to make a site so that students next year can use them as reference to help them decide on their books. The idea was that there would be a general site with the titles of the books each class read and a hyperlink to each of the student’s sites. Students would work in pairs and compile all the work other children in the class had done on their book.
Regarding the content of the site, every time they finished a book, they had a series of 16 activities to choose from. These included activities such as creating a book trailer, writing a letter to Michael Morpurgo and reflecting upon themes, amongst others.
The cards where the activities were explained were left in a plastic bag. Therefore, once they finished a book, they had to go to the plastic bag, choose a card, cut out the card so that no one else could repeat the activity and carry out the work. Then they had to give the activity to the ones who were in charge of the site. In addition, we had a “Morpurgo Day”, where each student had to come dressed as their favourite character, impersonate that character and record themselves speaking in first person and telling a bit about themselves. These videos were also posted in their sites. Students executed each one of these activities with great motivation making great use of all their skills and, most of all, their creativity.
Bearing in mind that the objective of an author study is to be able to come up with generalities and conclusions on the author’s writing, we recorded facts on characters, settings, themes, style, etc. in a google chart which was shared with the whole class in order to find these common facts about Morpurgo. In this way, students were able to reflect upon the typical characters, the repeated topics and the favourite settings his books usually present.
Considering the great response we were having to the author study in general, we decided to give the children the chance to write in the manner of Morpurgo. In order to do so, they would have to bear in mind all the conclusions we had reached. Before writing, they had to make a plan and research on any topic they deemed necessary to be able to write their story. It was truly inspiring to see them so engaged in their creative productions. While writing, there was an incredible atmosphere which showed the students were concentrated and greatly enjoying the task. Furthermore, several comments and questions arose which truly surprised us.
“How can I avoid repetition of….? ” – Isa
“What better word can I use instead of…” -Delfi
“Is this a good metaphor?”-Manu
“How can I start? How does Morpurgo start his stories?” many students
“How can I add a letter or note in my story ?” Mila – Tomi B
“Can we go on after break?” practically all the class, after three periods of writing, including a few that had never before wanted to write.
“How can I show my shift in point of view?” – Anita
“I know a lot because I asked my granny , she lived in Germany during WWII and was very hungry and hid in the basement”- Tomi
“I read the story to my parents and they loved it!” – several students
“Can I continue writing at home?” -several students
As a means to publish their stories, we decided to let them draw their story cover and record their stories in different clips. These clips had a QR code which was stuck to their inside cover so anyone walking through the corridor could scan it and listen to their story. This was the perfect closure to an extremely successful author study.
Reading Morpurgo books started to become a must. Children wanted to read whenever they had a spare minute including breaks, when they finished a test before everyone was done and while waiting for their parents to come and fetch them. They read at a really fast rate and asked constantly if they could go and change their book, even if we had our library period on the same day. We believe that our objective was accomplished and the results completely surpassed our expectations. So the question still remains. What do the children think about this author study? We’ll let them tell you themselves:
“Michael Morpurgo’s books have definitely changed me because now I can grab a book such as running wild and read it in 1 week or 5 days and also that I feel that I improved my language on writing. I loved morpurgo’s books, they are the best books I read!” – Mia
“I like a lot the Morpurgo books because in some cases it’s fun, very funny and it changed my mind because now my English is improving and my words on English are much better and my pronunciation is also very good.” – Santino
“I like the books of Michael and before I didn’t read and now yes”- Manu
“The Morpurgo books made me read longer books because they were very interesting.”- Anita
“I really enjoyed reading and it makes me read lots of more books.” – Paco
“Morpurgo books changed my life because now I enjoy reading, when before I didn’t even like reading.” – Niklas
“Morpurgo reading has changed me a lot because I didn’t enjoy reading but now I do and I am reading all day. My opinion on Author study is a really fun project to do.” – Ulises
“I liked the books very much and now I like more reading that I used to.” – Lauren
“Liked a lot the books of Morpurgo. In march I liked to read but not a lot but when we started reading it was like reading is the best of the world because Morpurgo knows how to put interesting things. They were very very GOOD.” – Mica
“Thanks to Michael Morpurgo I discovered my favourite and second favourite book of all times. Including books in English and Spanish!” Felipe
P. S. To go a step further, we created a Summer reading club, and several students have enrolled!