Author Study: Meet Lauren Tarshis

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Author Study: Meet Lauren Tarshis

Reflection Lauren Tarshis has written an intriguing and fascinating historical fiction series called, I Survived. Each book in the series focuses on a different historical event, mainly natural disasters. She brings these time periods back to life by introducing a young boy, who is placed on a twisted journey while trying to overcome obstacles to survive the toughest times in history. Part 1 Connecting on a personal level, I was first introduced to the books while interning in a first grade classroom last year. One of the students started reading at a third grade level towards the end of the year and decided to check the book, I Survived: The Bombing of Pearl Harbor, 1941, out of the library and wanted me to read it with her. Once we started reading it, we both fell in love with the book and she began to check out different books from the series, so it became an adventure for both of us. The characters in these books come to life and represent these powerful times in history in a way that is engaging, thrilling and sometimes terrifying. Even though I am not sure why Lauren Tarshis decided to make all of her main characters male, she does a great job of making them feel realistic. You are easily able to make connections with these characters because not only are they facing intense moments in history, but they face other real life problems that young children may face, such as moving, not growing up with a father or mother, unstable home life, hunger, involvement with the wrong crowd of friends, injury due to sports, and just trying to be a good person. Even for me these themes of friendship, hardship, struggle, etc… are very relatable and even though I am not the intended audience of this series I still can connect on many levels. Part 2 From a critic’s point of view, I would recommend these books for classroom use any day. Not only does it teach young children about history in a view point that they will understand, but it also teaches them valuable lessons about life in general. This is sometimes overlooked in the classroom, next to math, science, reading, and writing. Yes, those are all great components of learning and are needed to succeed, but in addition to those, students need opportunities to learn about real life issues that they might already be going through. As an educator, Lauren Tarshis does a great job of bringing these historical events in her work to life. I watched a short interview on her, where she explained how she spends a whole year researching and collecting evidence on these natural disasters. She only wants to present what actually happened. This includes stories and testimonies presented by survivors of these natural disasters. She believes that these people are the most important aspect of these disasters and the driving force behind her literature. Her work is also used in many Common Core thematic units, in which I found several online for use for teachers in the classroom. In addition to finding reading tests that quiz the students comprehension of the text, which this also shows that as an educator, Lauren Tarshis, is creating moments for these students to grow and learn by reading books that are engaging and adventurous. Her works include history, science, and vocabulary connections. Comprehension activities like, distinguishing between fact and fiction, compare and contrast genres, understanding character traits, analyzing author study, analyzing setting, etc… Overall Tarshsis’ work is great for the classroom and can be used in many ways to help the students develop and learn. When analyzing her themes, characters, and writing style I would say that Tarshis does an excellent job of introducing these tough times in history in an engaging and exhilarating way, that students don’t realize that they are learning something. Her themes are great to use in these third, fourth, and fifth grade classrooms to help students relate to these characters and realize that they may be facing the same situations. Lauren Tarshis’ themes are mostly about survival, but they also include bravery, journeys, coming of age, betrayal, power, hope, loss, discovery, etc… There are too many to list that can be used for these books. Even though real life students didn’t live during these time periods as the characters, they are able to relate in other ways, which makes it a great tool to use in the classroom. The only critique I have with the characters in the stories is that they are all male. I feel as though it would be great to use these books a few times, but by showing all books that only incorporate male characters as leads, might display to females in the classroom a negative connotation that they can’t be leaders or show bravery. The writing style is perfect for the intermediate grade levels. These books show many great examples for teaching about sentence fluency, style, voice, word choice, organization, etc… her writing style is simple, but powerful. The author’s use of metaphors, similes, onomatopoeia, and other literary devices provides rich content for exploring language and meaning of text. Overall these books are great for inclusion in the classroom. Students and teachers could learn from Lauren Tarshis books on many different levels. I know I will be using these in my future classroom!

6+1 Trait Lesson Ideas1. Book Title: I Survived: The Nazi Invasion, 1944Focus Trait: Word ChoiceSummary of Lesson: In this book, there are some foreign words and words not used in today’s language. So the teacher will teach a mini lesson that focuses on word choice, highlighting these new words. The teacher will read chapter 2 of the text and stop on words that might make the students say: is that really a word? For example, “etsies” is a term used in the text, which is a polish town that the Nazi’s marched into during the war. The students will discuss how these words are important to the chapter and how they bring to life the story. The teacher will read the next chapter and allow students to make a list of words that they hear during the story that stick out to them as new and unusual. At the end of the reading the teacher will ask students to share the words and they will try to define them as a class.2. Book Title: I Survived: The Nazi Invasion, 1944Focus Trait: IdeasSummary of Lesson: The teacher will introduce the concept of discovering the best information, but elaborating on the situation. The teacher will say a statement about chapter 2, like: Max is very brave. The teacher will ask the students if this statement tells them enough information. He/she will explain that in order for a reader to be engaged the writer must include as much specific detail as possible that will catch the reader’s attention. The teacher will ask the students: how is Max brave? The students will help the teacher create a more detailed statement that elaborates the idea that “Max is very brave.” After the finished piece of writing, the teacher will explain that you can elaborate and extend ideas that you have in your writing by simply going back to add details that are more descriptive and focused. 3. Book Title: I Survived: The Bombing of Pearl Harbor, 1941Focus Trait: Word ChoiceSummary of Lesson: The teacher will introduce word choice by providing an example from chapter 1 of the text. Students will answer questions about word choice as an open discussion. Answering what they consider word choice to be? How it’s important to telling the story? After the discussion, students will be given a short simple sentence like: the dog ran to the backyard. They will then work in groups of two to change and add words within the sentence to make it sound better. Then the groups will share with the class their sentences and the teacher will discuss how we can take sentences and change the words to make it come to life. Words can change anything. 4. Book Title: I Survived: The Bombing of Pearl Harbor, 1941Focus Trait: Sentence FluencySummary of Lesson: Teacher will read aloud Chapter 4 and discuss the trait sentence fluency. Teacher and students will work together to write a reaction to what they just heard in the story. They will help construct a paragraph together and ask questions like, does this sound right? Does this sentence flow smoothly? After the students help create a reaction to the story, focusing on sentence fluency, students will have an opportunity to discuss with small groups ways that Lauren Tarshis incorporates sentence fluency throughout her book. Once small groups have shared, then the whole class comes back together to share as a whole class. 5. Book Title: I Survived: The Bombing of Pearl Harbor, 1941Focus Trait: PresentationSummary of Lesson: After reading the entire text, the teacher will ask students to revisit the text and think about the word presentation as they skim through the chapters. What does presentation mean to them? After about 5 minutes, students will be asked to share their thoughts. The teacher will talk about presentation and the many factors that go into the trait, such as legibility, spacing, illustrations, balance of text and pictures, font size, neatness, page numbers, etc… The finished piece should be presentable. The first impression means a lot to a reader, so the writer must make their final work something they are proud of. This lesson would lead into a larger writing lesson where students have an opportunity to take an old piece of their writing and find ways they could make it better and more presentable. 6. Book Title: I Survived: The Battle of Gettysburg, 1863Focus Trait: VoiceSummary of Lesson: The teacher will introduce the trait voice, simply by reading the beginning of chapter 4 without any expression. He/she will then ask the students what is wrong with how they just read the story. Students should reply that there was no expression or emotion in the reading. The teacher will discuss with the students what voice is and how it is represented throughout books. The teacher will then read the beginning of the chapter again using voice and expression. The students will discuss with the teacher the differences they heard between the two readings and the importance voice has in writing. 7. Book Title: I Survived: The Battle of Gettysburg, 1863Focus Trait: OrganizationSummary of Lesson: The teacher will begin the lesson by writing a simple introduction to a story. An example might be: “I want to go to the beach. It is hot outside. I need to cool off in the ocean.” The teacher will ask students if this is a good introduction and why? After the short discussion, the teacher will show examples from the text that represent good introductions, an important part of organization. Students will discuss in small groups how introductions are important for organization and then share with the class what they discussed. The teacher will highlight a few techniques students could use for organization of an introduction, such as starting with a thought-provoking question, a dramatic opening statement, or a funny story. 8. Book Title: I Survived: The Attacks of September 11, 2011Focus Trait: ConventionsSummary of Lesson: The teacher will focus on punctuation, the period, question mark and exclamation point. The teacher will review the different forms of punctuation and ask students what each of them stand for. Then the teacher will read to students chapter 7 and highlight the different forms of punctuation. The students will discuss how each of these add to the story. How important is it to includ punctuation at the end of a sentence? After the discussion, the teacher will present to the students different sentences on the board without punctuation. They will work in groups of two to finish each of the sentences with punctuation. Once each group is finished the teacher will go over the sentences and read them with the punctuation. 9. Book Title: I Survived: The Attacks of September 11, 2011Focus Trait: IdeasSummary of Lesson: After reading chapter 11, students will be asked simple questions like: What’s on your mind? What have you been thinking about while reading this book so far? What are you feeling right now? Teacher will suggest that students start writing to find out… After 10 minutes of writing, the class will gather back together to discuss a few ideas they wrote on their papers. The teacher will end the mini-lesson by explaining that ideas for writing may sometimes come from reading. Even if it’s not related to the text that much, the ideas still developed while reading the text. This would be an engaging lesson to use to begin a larger lesson on the trait ideas. 10. Book Title: I Survived: The Attacks of September 11, 2011Focus Trait: VoiceSummary of Lesson: After reading chapter 6, with little knowledge of what voice actually is, the students will be asked to draw a visual representation of what they think the voice is in that particular chapter. They can include words that will help them explain the trait of voice. This will make them think critically about the meaning of the trait voice. After students have about 10-12 minutes to draw, the teacher will ask a few students to share what they drew and explain the voice that represented the chapter. The teacher will share what voice is and that it can be displayed in many different ways in one chapter. The teacher will provide a few examples of voice in chapter 6 to share with the students.

Title: I Survived: The Battle of Gettysburg, 1863 Summary: Thomas and his sister (Birdie) have spent their whole lives as slaves on a farm in Virginia. One day, men come to take Thomas away, and he realizes he has no choice: he and Birdie must escape to the North. With slave hunters on their trail, they rush into the forest, beginning a journey hopefully leading to freedom. But soon they are apart of: The Battle of Gettysburg.Title: I Survived: The Nazi Invasion, 1944 Summary: In a Polish ghetto, Max Rosen and his sister, Zena, struggle to live after their father is taken away by the Nazis. With barely enough food to survive, the siblings make a daring escape from Nazi soldiers into the nearby forest. Max and Zena are brought to a safe camp by Jewish resistance fighters, but soon bombs are falling all around themTitle:I Survived: The Bombing of Pearl Harbor, 1941Summary: Danny Crane is a New York City kid, hanging around the wrong crowd while his mom works two jobs to support him. When Danny's best friend Finn is hurt in an accident, Danny's mom decides she has to get Danny away from the danger of New York. They move to Hawaii, and soon find themselves in the midst of a terrifying bombing that will shock the world.Title: I Survived: The Attacks of September 11, 2011Summary: Nothing is more important to Lucas than Football, but when he gets his thrid concussion, his parents decide it's too dangerous. He is sure his Uncle Benny will convince his parents to change their minds, and skips school to find Benny at the firshouse where he works. But then a terrible attack happens in NYC, and Lucas is caught in the center of the attack.

Lauren Tarshis

Author Study: Meet

Background & Introduction

Born in Albuquerque, New Mexico but raised in New York City, New York by both parents. Today she lives in Connecticut withher husband and four children, who are 8, 14, 19, and 22. Shehas tight-knit family, who happens to live right around the corner from her, including her parents, grandmother, brother, sister in law and three neices. Lauren is the editor of a children's literacy magazine called, StoryWorks. This magazine is published by Scholastic and read by more than 400,000 kids in their 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade classrooms. It includes nonfiction, and fiction works by many amazing authors. Plus, plays, poems, and activities for the kids to read as well. StoryWorks has a website packed with activity sheets, videos, and quizzes for the kids, and the content is east to teach with. Lauren is a very successful writer, but it hasn't always been easy for her. Literacy wasn't her strong area in school. In fact, she mentioned in a article that she didnt actually read a book until high school. Later in life when she was given an oppurtunity to work for StoryWorks, she declined because she never read bookslike Charlotte's Web or Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, but then she decided to go and read all of those prominent children'sbooks. And she fell in love with these books, and it inspired herto be a writer. She never would have guessed that this would beher career, but it was meant to be. Her inspiration for the popular I Survived seris comes from her fascination with distasters. Not just the disasters themselves, but the people who experienced those disasters. So, for each book she has written for the seris, she does a year's worth of studying and research to understand whatpeople were going through at that time. That is what makesher seris so appealing to young people because her characterscome to life and the young readers can learn about these disasters in a age appropriate, fun, and engaging way. Other bookswritten by her are: Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree and Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell in Love


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