Gary Paulsen

Author Study Learning Unit

In this lesson plan, the teacher starts by conducting an author study of Gary Paulsen using an excerpt from a Scholastic author interview. The teacher facilitates a discussion about various books by the author, focusing on (1) the common themes among some of his books, (2) exploring his recurring themes of survival and self-discovery, his love of animals (especially dogs), and how he draws from personal experiences in his writing, and (3) highlighting the powerful voices of historical figures who have overcome great challenges in his works.

Learning Experience

Learning Experience Title: Author StudyAuthor: Diane K. Purvis, Librarian
Grade Level 6School Address: Norwood-Norfolk Elementary School
Subject Area: Library Media/English Language Arts7852 State Highway 56
PO Box 202
Norwood, New York 13668
E-mail: [email protected]School Phone/Fax: (315)353-6674/2408

Learning Context

This learning experience will address these parts of the English Language Arts Standards:

  • #1 Students will read, write, and speak for information and understanding.
  • #2 Students will read, write, and speak for literary response.

Writing and speaking will be assessed, focusing on literary response.


The students will produce in written or audio form and then share with their classmates a presentation that focuses on his or her favorite author.

This experience fits into the sixth grade curriculum mid-year when the students have a wealth of authors to choose from. This experience could easily be adapted for different grade levels focusing on different authors.

In order to succeed with this experience students need to have read a minimum of two or more books by the same author.

The student must be able to present their information to their classmates in a clear and concise manner.

Knowledge of basic paragraphing, punctuation and grammar are necessary for the written presentation.

Ability to search the Internet for useful sites is necessary. This skill will be reviewed during the learning experience.


The teacher will begin by modeling an author study of Gary Paulsen. The teacher will use an excerpt from a scholastic author interview with Gary Paulsen. The teacher will lead a discussion about various titles by Gary Paulsen. The discussion will include what things some of his books have in common and reflect on his survival themes, self-discovery themes, his love of animals, especially dogs, how he writes about things he has experienced himself, and how he shows the voice of strong individuals in history who have faced great odds. Show the students a Website with Gary Paulsen information.

Model the author study with at least one other author, such as Peter Lourie. Show how most of his books have a river trip theme. Show students the Peter Lourie Website.

Have students begin discussing some of their favorite authors. Have each student choose an author.

In their presentations students MUST include the following:

  • Name of the author.
  • Titles by the author.
  • Favorite title and why they liked it.
  • What they noticed about the author’s works (comparisons of books).
  • A description of the author’s life and how he/she became a writer.
  • At least two sources of author information.

After the initial introduction to the project and students have had time to begin working on their author, take class time to share presentations from previous years. Discuss with the students what’s strong and what’s weak in the report. As a class discuss assessment criteria.

When the students begin their presentations they will sign in the name of the author on an easel. Classmates may ask questions about the author.

At the core of this experience is the idea that when students are given the opportunity and the responsibility to choose their own favorite author, the best learning is accomplished.

The use of websites and audio tapes as well as books helps to integrate technology into the experience.

Instructional Modifications

Students are allowed to use alternate forms of presenting their author study. Students with limited abilities are given added assistance in preparing their report and presentation.

Time Required

  • Planning: Researching on web for author sites (2-3 hours)
  • Implementation: Seven 40 minute periods
  • Day 1 present models, students choose authors
  • Day 2 using books, audio tapes and the Internet, students will locate information on the author
  • Day 3, 4, 5 students write and revise written presentations. Students view previous work and set up assessment criteria
  • Day 6, 7 students give oral presentations and hold class discussions

Informal assessment is ongoing as the teacher and students interact about books and authors.

Students will be assessed holistically according to how well they have conveyed the required points.

English Resources

Ideally this learning experience would be done in conjunction with a live author visit.

Scholastic author audio tapes:Gary Paulsen
 Jerry Spinelli
Trumpet Club authors on tape:Judy Blume
 Katherine Paterson
 Lynne Reid Banks
 Lois Lowry


The Author Studies Handbook: Helping Students Build Powerful Connections to Literature by Laura Kotch and Leslie Zackman, 1995.

The Address Book of Children’s Authors & Illustrators: Featuring over 100 Authors and Illustrators by R. Howard Blount, Jr., 1994

Meet the Authors and Illustrators: 60 Creators of Favorite Children’s Books Talk About Their Work by Deborah Kovacs and James Preller, 1991.

Meet the Authors and Illustrators: Volume Two 60 Creators of Favorite Children’s Books Talk About Their Work by Deborah Kovacs and James Preller, 1993.

Meet the Authors: 25 Writers of Upper Elementary and Middle School Books Talk About Their Work by Deborah Kovacs, 1995.

English Language Education Sites

Assessment Plan

In order to involve students in the development of assessment criteria, student’s works from previous years will be used as examples. These will be shared with the students. The teacher will discuss the good and bad points of the presentation. The students and teacher will set standards for presentations rating them on a scale of 1-4.

Through on going observation during the learning experience the teacher will monitor the progress of the students.

To document student progress a checklist and a rubric will be used.

Students’ Work

See attached examples of student’s work.


Discussing favorite authors with children comes very naturally. It helps students make connections to literature. It helps them figure out what they like and it encourages them into further literature. By doing this formal learning experience it gives students an opportunity to read, write, speak and listen about something that is important to them. I gave the students options for presenting their author study so they could try something different or just so it would not be as intimidating for them to get in front of an audience.

The writing and spoke presentation are assessed at the end of the experience with an assessment tool developed in conjunction with the students.

I have learned that students generally have no problem choosing a favorite author. They are usually highly motivated to find out more about their author and share it with their classmates. The main problem I found with the learning experience was that students jumped to the author information without reflecting enough on their favorite book or what they noticed about an author’s style.



Student Check-List

I have included the following parts in my Author Study:

Titles by the author______
My favorite title and why I liked it______
What I noticed about the author’s works______
A description of the author’s life and how he/she became a writer______
At least two sources of author information______



Evaluating the Author Study

Rating Scale

4Beyond expectations-The required information +more
Shows insight, develops ideas thoroughly, well organized, clearly focused, fluent and easy to understand, sound mechanics
3Met the expectations-Covered all the required information Fulfills requirements, generally focused, organized, few mechanical errors
2Almost there-Minor problems or missing requirements Makes some connections, may be brief with little elaboration, mechanical errors exist
1Not quite there-Major problems or missing requirements Difficult to understand, lacking major components, major mechanical errors exist that interfere with comprehension
0Not there-Assignment not completed