Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Turning Authors Into Rock Stars

Not too long ago, when I was still in the classroom, I presented to local school and district coaches on Extending Student Thinking with Extended Texts.  We discussed the power of reading aloud to students, discussing a shared text with students, and most importantly, authentically modeling what readers do to be successful.

Throughout the presentation, I shared a few strategies my co-teacher and I had implemented to engage students in reading.  I STRONGLY believe the most powerful strategy to do this is for us to actually talk to our students about their reading.  That needs to be the foundation, but I shared a few other methods as well.  We had created Animoto videos at the end of each quarter to showcase students' favorite books (an example can be found here), but we had also shared our students work with the authors who's work they were enjoying (video of our students discussing books and pictures of the strategies they were implementing).

After the session, a mentor (and a very good friend) thanked me for my work and made the statement "You're turning authors into rock stars!"

Her comment has stayed with me since that time because 1) Authors are WAY cooler than rock stars and 2) Was that what we were doing?

After having some time to digest that statement, I think I am more comfortable with my understanding of it, but would would make a slight adjustment.  Yes, I do think that we helped our students look up to authors, but I would also make the claim that even more than turning authors into rock stars, we worked to turn authors into real people.

I must say that this was not very challenging work as authors are already real people.  However, our students do not often view authors this way.  Enter social media.

Thanks to Twitter, I am now able to hook students on books by letting them into the lives of the authors that write them.

While some of the fun tweets above showcase author personalities and allow students a glimpse into their lives outside of writing, it is also great to know that authors face some of the same struggles we all face as writers....

Over 20 rejections?  I'm so glad Kwame Alexander is persistent because as nice as those medals look on the cover of The Crossover, Josh and JB's story is even more powerful.

Social Media has allowed teachers to get to "know" authors so that we can tell a student reading Cynthia Lord's Half a Chance that her husband is a photographer or that Lynne Kelly's Chained was probably written because she is an animal lover (who I believe has a Cocker Spaniel) or that Lynda Mullaly Hunt (author of One for the Murphy's and Fish in a Tree) is attending a writing retreat in less than two weeks.

These conversations turn rock star authors into human beings with whom our students can relate; and in turn, transform our students into rock star readers and writers!


A few notes....

Many thanks to the authors who allow us into their lives.  Your influence is far-reaching!

Honorable mention went to the one and only Patricia Polacco who is currently remodeling her kitchen and also has a FANTASTIC video of her very own rendition of "Man of Constant Sorrow" on her Facebook page.


  1. Thank YOU, Tim! We may write the books and beat the odds of getting published BUT without teachers/librarians like you who care so much about literacy and children, the kids wouldn't get the chance to read them. So thanks millions for everything you do!

  2. Discussing books with students and strategies to ensure their success is probably my favorite part of the day!

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