Author Craft via Big Books Reflection 2
As I process this final piece, yet another creation by my class awaits publication. This time we studied Gail Gibbon’s non-fiction big book titled, The Milk Makers. We also read an assortment of her works as our author study for several weeks. Writing a non-fiction book requires prior knowledge, experience, and researched information and I felt we would have to create something in order to get a good book. Our project took place before Thanksgiving. I wanted the kids to get a chance to cook so we settled on making a book about apples to applesauce.
What I liked about this project was it required two types of experiences in order for the kids to write well. First, we had to read many books about the cycle of apple trees and apples (the research phase). Second, we had to make applesauce to experience the process so we could write about it in a how to format. Since the book was a two- part process, the children illustrated the cycle of apple production and I photographed the steps of making applesauce. My intent was that the change in mediums would signal a change in the book for the students.
The book is not complete because we have had so many interrupted weeks in the month of November. Finding time to share the big book, read other works by the author, make applesauce, write our text, illustrate our text, and put the book together has been very difficult. Since this is a capstone project, I am under a deadline and forcing a situation that would otherwise be saved for full weeks of school and spaced out over a longer period of the school year. The students’ enthusiasm for writing and illustrating is waning, as this is our eighth book in two months.
Here is a list of positives and negatives I have been collecting along the way. I plan to continue this project throughout the year. My students have asked to create seventeen books. They each want one to take home when first grade ends. We are half way there! Marrying shared reading and writing just seems natural to me. The benefits have far outweighed the obstacles.
Big books are easy for everyone to see and read
Students choose to read the big books after we have studied them during their literacy workstations
Students pick up sight word vocabulary as they do repeated readings
Students learn strategies for reading with daily modeled reading
Fluency is increased with daily practice
Retelling is rehearsed as we read and write
Students gravitate toward the books we wrote and illustrated in the library, reading them over and over again
Students see the connections between the text and the illustrations
Students make text to text connections
Students become more familiar with the author’s style (craft)
Students are more aware of visual and auditory craft
Students get to know authors’ works and talk about them as if they know them
Students look for books in the library by a known author
Students get the opportunity to toy with the author’s craft by imitating it in their whole group writing and illustrating
Students begin to recognize craft in other books
Students transfer craft they have studied into their own writing
Transfer is taking place with all types of writers in every stage
Students make suggestions about books we can imitate
Students point out craft they are using in their own writing (“Did you notice I am using speech bubbles like Mo Willems?”)
Students are reading more fluently and writing with some voice
Students have asked if we can make seventeen books so everyone can take one home at the end of the year.
Short weeks don’t allow enough time and rolling into a second week drags the process out too much
There needs to be time to study an author/big book and then take a break
Putting the books together is time consuming (but worth it)
The whole group writing is better than the illustrations which are sometimes hurried and messy (students want to get the product done)
This was an expensive project buying hard cover blank books, lots of clear packaging tape, printing photographs, etc.