LAE4311 Author Study

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Language Arts

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LAE4311 Author Study

Chris Van Allsburg

By: Alexandria Forgione

2. For my second mini lesson I chose to use The Polar Express to teach the word choice trait. I chose to use this book to teach students about similes and metaphors within writing. For example, Chris Van Allsburg uses similes to compare language and bring a story to life “rolling over peaks and through valleys like a car on a roller coaster.” Students can create a T chart and compare plain language with the similes used. Through this, students can learn how word choice sharpens a story.

3. For my third mini lesson I chose to use The Mysteries of Harris Burdick to teach the ideas trait. I chose to use this book because the story is meant to function as a source for writing ideas. Chris Van Allsburg creates an exciting list of story ideas within his text that makes it impossible for the reader not to want to finish the stories on their own. With the use of this book students can create list of their own ideas to elaborate and develop a story of their own.

8. For my eighth mini lesson I chose to use Jumanji to teach the conventions trait. I chose this book because students can learn the use of dialogue through Peter and Judy. Within this book Chris Van Allsburg creates vivid dialogue between Peter and Judy as they play the game of Jumanji “I don’t think that I play...this game...anymore’ said Peter in between gasps of air ‘But we have to,’ said Judy.” Students can practice and learn how to write dialogue through the use of this book and by taking part in an activity such as “Look Who’s Talking.”

5. For my fifth mini lesson I chose to use Zathura to teach the trait of sentence fluency. I chose to use this book because Chris Van Allsburg constructs sentences within this story to enhance meaning and establish a rhythm. For example, Allsburg sets the scenes within this story by using sentence patterns that allow readers to explore the senses and create a picture within their heads “The noise grew louder, like a thousand golf balls bouncing off the roof. The room got so dark, Walter turned on the lights. Then—KABOOM—a rock the size of a refrigerator fell through the ceiling and crushed the television.” Students can also experiment with the use of punctuation within this text. Students can practice sentence fluency through choral reading or using a fluency phone while reading.

6. For my sixth mini lesson I chose to use Two Bad Ants to teach the word choice trait. I chose to use this book because within this story Chris Van Allsburg uses descriptive words that show rather than tell. For example, “Dew formed on the leaves above. Without warning, huge cold drops fell on the marching ants. A firefly passed overhead that, for an instant, lit up the woods with a blinding flash of blue-green light.” Students can learn the power of using descriptive words to enhance their story and create a picture within the readers head.

10. For my final mini lesson I chose to use The Polar Express to teach the trait of organization. I chose this book because Chris Van Allsburg organizes a story through the use of pacing and creating a beginning, middle, and end. Transitions are also used and can be taught to show location and time. Students can practice putting a story in order through an activity such as “Ten minutes only.”

Chris Van Allsburg was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan on June 18, 1949. While growing up, Chris moved around Grand Rapids with his mom, dad, older sister, and two cats. The houses and streets in which Chris lived in became inspirations for illustrations within his books. Chris grew up with an interest for math and science and did not consider art until speaking to an admissions officer at the University of Michigan. Beside free drawing at home, Chris had no experience with art. Chris entered the University of Michigan art program in the fall of 1967. At first, Chris felt out of place due to his lack of experience. However, Chris then discovered sculpture and developed skills and techniques. Once graduated, Chris went on to the Rhode Island School of Design, earned his M.F.A, and opened his own studio in Providence, RI. Chris then married this college sweet heart, Lisa Morrison, who also studied art and became an art teacher in an elementary school. While exhibiting his work at art galleries, Chris began to draw on the side. Chris did not think his drawings were important, however, others did and wanted Chris to show his work.

Visit Chris Van Allsburg's website by clicking the link below!

Visit the website below to view a personal interview between Martha Stewart and Chris Van Allsburg!

Complete list of Chris Van Allsburg’s work includes: Bad Day At Riverbend, Ben’s Dream, The Garden of Abdul Gasazi, Jumanji, Just A Dream, The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, The Polar Express, Probuditi, The Stranger, The Sweetest Fig, Two Bad Ants, The Widow’s Broom, The Wreck of Zephyr, The Wretched Stone, Zathura, The Z Was Zapped

Lisa, who used picture books in her 3rd grade class, encouraged Chris to make illustrations for story books. After much encouragement, Chris brought his work to editor Walter Lorraine at Houghton Mifflin Company in Boston. Mr. Lorraine loved Chris’ work and encouraged Chris to think about stories of his own. Chris began to set aside time and created his first book titled The Garden of Abdul Gasazi, which was then published in 1979. Since then, Chris has written and illustrated 15 books and has illustrated three others that were written by Mark Helprin. In 1980, Chris was awarded the Caldecott Honor Medal for The Garden of Abdul Gasazi. Chris is also the winner of two Caldecott Medals, for Jumanji and The Polar Express, and was the recipient of the Boston Globe Horn Book Award for The Garden of Abdul Gasazi. Additionally, he received the Boston Globe Honor for The Polar Express as well as The Mysteries of Harris Burdick. In addition, Chris has been awarded the Regina Medal for lifetime achievement in children's literature. In 1982 Jumanji won the National Book Award and in 1996 it was made into a popular feature film. Additionally, in 2004 The Polar Express became a feature film and is widely considered to be a classic Christmas story. Chris now lives in Rhode Island and spends time with his two children.

Biography Continued


The Polar ExpressLate one Christmas Eve, a boy boards a mysterious train: The Polar Express bound for the North Pole. Once there, Santa offers the boy any gift he desires. The boy asks for one bell from the harness of a reindeer. The boy then loses the bell on his journey home. On Christmas morning, the boy finds the bell under his Christmas tree. To the boy’s parents the bell appears broken, however, it is soon learned that only believers can hear the sound of the bell.

JumanjiThe game under the tree looked like a hundred others Peter and Judy had at home. However, they were bored and restless and, looking for something interesting to do, thought they'd give Jumanji a try. Little did they know when they unfolded its ordinary-looking playing board that they were about to be plunged into the most exciting and bizarre adventure of their lives

The Mysteries of Harris BurdickThe puzzles and the mysteries, presented by the drawings in this book, are not what we are used to. Each image is accompanied by a title and a single line of text, which compel readers to create their own stories. The solutions to these mysteries lie in a place at once closer to hand, yet far more remote. They lie in our imagination. Many famous writers have tried to put their own little twists on the pictures.

The Wreck of the ZephyrAt the edge of a cliff lies the wreck of a small sailboat. How did it get there? "Waves carried it up in a storm," says an old sailor. But is it possible that waves could ever get that high? There is another story - the story of a boy and his obsessive desire to be the greatest sailor, the story of a storm that carried the boy and his boat to a place where boats glide like gulls high above the water and not upon it.

For full lesson view attachments located on the upper right side of this page

Mini Lesson: Modeled and guided Instruction with a focus on word choice

1. For my first mini lesson I chose to use The Wreck of the Zephyr to teach students about the trait of voice. I chose to use this book because the story moves quickly from the voice of the author into the voice of the old man. “A light breeze blew through the trees. The old man looked up. ‘Wind coming,’ he said. I’ve got some sailing to do.’ He picked up a cane, and I watched as he limped slowly toward the harbor.” Through the text, students can learn about the power of ones voice and how sometimes the “I” voice can switch and tell another story. Students can experiment with both styles and compare and contrast the voice of the old man with the voice of the author.

4. For my fourth mini lesson I chose to use Jumanji to teach the organization trait. I chose to use this book because the events within this story are organized in logical order. Chris Van Allsburg presents the information within the story in the right doses at the right times so the reader never loses the “big picture.” Through the use of this book students can learn how to create clear patterns within their writing and organize their papers chronologically.

7. For my seventh mini lesson I chose to use Just a Dream to teach the presentation trait. I chose this book because Chris Van Allsburg not only provides us with a story that has a good balance of text and pictures but puts the story together focusing on one small moment and describing it in detail that makes the reader want to read. The artwork within this story also contributes greatly and helps the reader focus on one moment by zooming in on a detail. Students can use this book to view what finished quality should look like and how writing takes time.

9. For my ninth mini lesson I chose to use The Wreck of the Zephyr to teach the ideas trait. I chose this book because it is filled with ideas and details that offer a unique and insightful way to look at the subject. For example, Chris Van Allsburg discovers the best information to convey an idea as simple as the weather by stating “under an ominous sky...already a strong wind was blowing.” The idea presented allows readers to develop and picture the idea as a whole. Students can practice this trait by using an activity such as “Picture This” and describing the weather using their own ideas.

6+1 Traits Lesson Ideas

Reflection on the process can be viewed under attachments


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