Andrew Clements Author Study
Spotlight on Andrew Clements and A Week in the Woods
An author study is an excellent way to investigate and celebrate the work of a writer. One of the best ways to "meet an author" is through his or her books. As students read the books or listen to them on tape, encourage them to note the different genres that an author works in and to examine the copyright dates as a way of delineating the path of an author's career. To launch an author study, you might:
- Display a selection of an author's work.
- List interesting facts about an author on a poster pad.
- Assign one of the author's books as independent or group reading, or read one book aloud to the class.
- Ask students to read one or more other books by the author so they can compare themes, settings, characters, plots, and styles.
- Follow up with discussions and activities to promote comprehension and appreciation of the author's work.
- You might assign groups of students to monitor different aspects of Andrew Clements's work. For example, one group might investigate the picture books Clements wrote early in his career. Another group might explore his early readers. Encourage students to make comparisons among Clements's different books.
Books by Andrew Clements
Titles by Andrew Clements that you might make available to students include:
The Janitor's Boy
Big Al and Shrimpy
Double Trouble in Walla Walla
News Ringo Saves the Day!
The School Story
Things Not Seen
Jake Drake: Bully Buster
Jake Drake: Know-it-All
Link the Author to the Literature
Andrew Clements believes "Good books make good things happen in real life. They can make a big difference." As a former teacher of fourth graders and a father of four boys, Clements is very familiar with kids' lives. And like his character Mr. Maxwell in A Week in the Woods, Clements says that "I guess at heart I'm still a teacher."
Seeing the Setting
Before introducing A Week in the Woods to students, ask: What are some memorable and vivid settings for books? Encourage students to recall favorite settings for books as you list them on the chalkboard. Then talk about how authors make settings seem believable to their readers.
- Point out that if the setting is a real place, the author must be familiar enough with it to create accurate descriptions. Ask: How well do you think Andrew Clements knows rural New Hampshire? How do you think Clements feels about nature? Why?
- Mention that part of A Week in the Woods is set in a school. Have students compare school settings in various books by the author such as The Jacket, The Landry News, and Jake Drake: Bully Buster.
In A Week in the Woods, Mrs. Bender the language arts teacher gives students a lesson in keeping a journal for their Week in the Woods program. She says, "We shall do our best to make our observations original, interesting, and accurate." Point out that a journal is an excellent way to collect descriptive details such as Andrew Clements uses in his books. Remind students that the best way to accumulate such details is by observation. Have students try some of these activities to hone their observation skills and to develop their writing skills.
- Ask students to choose a passage describing a setting or character in one of Clements's books for middle grades such as Frindle or The Janitor's Boy. Using the author's words, have students draw what the passage makes them "see."
- Take students to the playground or a room in the school for about five minutes. Ask them to observe the setting carefully and take notes about what they see. Then back in the classroom, have students write paragraphs describing the place. Invite volunteers to read their paragraphs aloud, then compare the different ways that students describe the same setting. Or as a homework assignment ask students to describe a room in their house or apartment.
The book Frindle is about words, particularly new words that people make up. Encourage students to use the Internet or the library to find out where Andrew Clements got the idea for this book (from elementary students in Rhode Island), then follow up with a discussion on the power of words. Ask students to look for other books such as The School Story by the author in which words are important to the plot. Invite students to make up their own words for classroom use.
Building the Connections
Help students summarize and review what they have learned about Andrew Clements with one of these activities:
- Have students write a list of questions they might ask the author in an interview about his work.
- Invite students to share favorite characters, lines, and events from the author's work by reading aloud passages from his books. After sharing, see if students can identify common traits shared by Clements's characters, or any other similarities among their selected "favorites." Can they make any general conclusions that apply to all or several of Clements's books?
- Have students write reviews or do a class book talk on a book by the author.
- If different reading groups have read different books, have each group act out a favorite scene from their book.
Author study written by Linda Ward Beech