Monday, March 8, 2010

Talking about Author's Purpose

This level of comprehension can start in the very youngest readers and mature as they do. It is one skill that is "tested" in school, yet that isn't the only reason to learn it.

I would begin with my youngest readers by talking about what I liked that the author did. For example, while reading Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, I mention to Nick that I really like how she made the words match the picture, and how I get a peaceful feeling. I KNOW he doesn't get it, but he does hear my response. He hears how I think, feel, and knows the author's name. He hears me say, very specifically and on purpose, that I like how she did something or makes her books a certain way.

Kids sometimes read, oblivious to what an author really does. And that's ok, but it is sooo much richer to know more. They would be able to tell you "an author is the person who writes the book." But they have little awareness of how the author has ORCHESTRATED the book to teach, influence, persuade, and give emotions.

That is what is so valuable about teaching them about author's purpose. They will start seeing themes, intentions, and structures that a real live person has created for them to see.

They can also start forming opinions - things they liked/disliked, things they would change, things they see repeat from other books by the same author, and even whether they like the author's style or not.

Now, as they get older, it is extremely valuable in writing to have this awareness because the tables are turned. They are the author, they need to consider what they want their story to do.

I remember in third grade Matt's "AHA!" moment with this. He had never really understood how to do paragraphing, and dialogue was difficult for him. He just didn't know when to use it or not.

We took out a book he was reading, Hank Zipzer, by Henry Winkler (great boy series, by the way) and he pointed out where paragraphing happened. Then I asked him why Henry Winkler did it at that point. He looked at me and said, "What?" Again, I said, "Well, Henry is the author, and he has all the freedom to choose to do what he wants in his books. He does know how to follow grammar rules and all, but he decides what to put where." His eyes widened. "OHHH. You mean, I can decide like he does?" There it was. The synapse.

We reviewed reasons for paragraphing (change in speaker, location, time passing, new idea) and then he was off and running -- he had control.

So as you talk about stories, make sure to talk about authors:
  • How they make you feel
  • How/why they chose to write the story
  • Where the author chose a twist
  • Your opinion of the way it was done
  • How you might have done it
  • How you appreciate they did it differently

Make sure you use the author's name frequently. Talk about them as if they were a friend who told you something and you were just talking about it with your child.

Authors love when kids appreciate what they have done and learn the depth of their's a lot of work!!!!!

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