Academic journal article Ohio Reading Teacher

Teacher Stance Is Critical in Planning a Classroom Author Visit

Academic journal article Ohio Reading Teacher

Teacher Stance Is Critical in Planning a Classroom Author Visit

Article excerpt

Author visits enhance reading and writing in the classroom. The purpose of an author visit is to support the teacher's efforts to stimulate and encourage reading and writing, to offer insights into the creative process of writing, and to extended this knowledge through the author sharing his/her experiences. The purpose of this article is to provide suggestions for planning and preparing for an author visit in the classroom.

Author studies are used by classroom teachers as a teaching tool in the language arts curriculum. The purpose of an author study is to make connections between an author's work and an author's life. By doing an author study, the teacher is able to involve the students in an in-depth study of the author's work, background and literary style (Routman, 2000). An author study followed by an author visit presents the author as a real person. By doing so, this may develop motivation in the students to seek out other work by the same author and to value the work involved in writing a book. Author studies have the power to affect the quality of the students' writing- their style, organization, vocabulary and sentence structure (Routman, 2000). An author study increases awareness of the students' own potential as writers because "favorite authors become mentors to students and their works become powerful models" (Routman, 2000, p. 79). One advantage of an author visit is the author sharing his writing and discussing the craft of writing. In doing so, the students gain further understanding of the writing process and possibilities for their own individual writing.

Students especially want to know about their favorite authors because they often feel that an author is speaking directly and personally to them through their work (Vandergrift, 2001). The school visit by the author may increase an interest in further reading and writing by the student. As students read stories, poems, and various genres by an author, the students may become curious about the person who writes this literature and may make connections from the text into their own personal experiences with the reading/writing connection. This may encourage students to recognize the style of one particular author and develop critical reading and thinking skills as they examine the characters and themes in the author's work.

A Social Constructivist View of Learning

There is an increased interest in using author visits in schools; however, there is very little research available on how these opportunities are shaped and constructed by the teacher and students. An understanding of how children learn and develop in a literature based classroom will be best explained from a social constructivist perspective. In a social constructivist model of learning, which draws on the perspectives of Lev Vygotsky (1978), teachers work to establish a shared community of learners. The emphasis is on the connection between the student's social and psychological world. The teacher's role within this community of inquirers is to organize the learning environment around the students' thinking. In this environment, the students talk, write, and present their ideas as the core of the learning culture. According to Marshall (1994), cultures are learned and shared and always changing. When classrooms are viewed as cultures, the teacher's role can be seen as constructed through interactions with the students and the materials. Relationships are built in the context of the classroom. The interactions with materials such as reading and writing are also constructed and not given (pp. 38-39).

The theory of social construction suggests that meaning is best achieved through dialogue, communication, and interaction with others in the classroom (Barnes, 1976; Cook-Gumperz, 1986; Tharp & Gallimore, 1989). According to Peterson (1988), as students engage in dialogue, "they collaborate one-with-the-other to comprehend ideas, problems, events, and feelings. …

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