Before meeting with author Barbara Gowan, this year's "Artist in Residence," I wanted the kids to think about the kind of things they'd like to ask her (Anticipating the Author Talk). We brainstormed a list of questions on the board about twenty minutes before her scheduled presentation.
As it happened, she didn't have time for many of our questions, so the exercise didn't pan out the way I had hoped. Although I was disappointed, as were the students, it was still a good way to engage them in the spirit of her visit, and to have them anticipate the talk was, in itself, valuable.
Author Barbara Gowan has written numerous books. G is for Grand Canyon, D is for Desert, Desert Digits, Little Arizona Little State, which are picture books that are all about the desert. L is for Leprechaun is an ABC book about Notre Dame, and R is for Rosary is a Catholic Family Alphabet (Display of book jackets).
She delivered a presentation to the 5th graders that included a reading of D is for Desert, and vocabulary exploration (Watching the presentation). She also included the importance of a writer's toolbox (Showing artifacts), and why she refuses to use an eraser so she can always go back and see the discarded treasures she previously wrote (Discussing the Cactus). One of the best visuals was a blown up copy of one of her rough drafts so the kids could see that even published authors do not write perfect manuscripts immediately. Additionally, she passed around a few desert treasures so the kids could see her inspiration (Passing around the prickly pear cactus).
It was clear through her delivery that her books are probably the better speakers, but the kids learned some valuable information along the way (Kids watching). There is something to be gained from any experience.
In the spirit of the author's theme of writing Alphabet Books, I decided to have my kids write a kind of state alphabet book. The objective is for students to contribute to a class book named, Stories of the States, by writing a tale focused on the state for which they recently wrote their report 5th Grade State Reports. These stories are unique and fun to create, and the kids love the idea of making this lasting classroom book.
Each of the stories is titled with the author's name in a table of contents in the front (Titles/Authors of Stories). I put the stories together with the school spiral binding machine. The front and back covers are chosen by the kids after voting on the illustrations created by kids who want to participate. I also include the entries that didn't win throughout the book so everyone's pictures are on display (The Winning Cover).
They stand before the class and read their state story to the class. As always, they enjoy the opportunity to share what they've written (A Massachusetts story), and it's a fabulous opportunity to get in front of their peers and practice their public speaking (An animated telling of her story). On the flipside, it's also necessary for them to practice their listening skills.