Explore Writing With Louis Sachar
- Grades: 3–5
- Unit Plan:
Students make connections between the author's life and his work. They learn about how the author comes up with ideas and gain insight into his writing process. Finally, they look into their own writing process and create a collage to express how and what they like to write through words and pictures.
- Learn about the author's writing process and how he came up with his idea for the novel Holes
- Reflect on their own writing process and create collages to illustrate how they view writing personally
- Computer access (activities can be modified from one computer to a whole computer lab)
- Holes Flashlight Readers Activity
- Holes by Louis Sachar
- Collage-making supplies including construction paper, magazines to cut up, glue, markers, glitter, etc.
- Optional: Projector to display online activities
Set Up and Prepare
Bookmark the Holes Flashlight Readers Activity on the computers students will use.
Note: If students have limited access to computers, you can print hard copies of the activity screens or complete the activity as a class using the projector.
Step 1: Have students share what they already know about Louis Sachar. For example, they may know that he won the National Book Award and Newbery Medal for his book Holes. They may also be familiar with some of his other books, such as There's a Boy in the Girl's Bathroom or his popular book series, Wayside School and Marvin Redpost. Encourage students to share what they like about Louis Sachar's books. Record the facts students know about Sachar on the board. Then read the "About Louis Sachar" biography together (link located in the drop-down "Explore" menu in the Holes Flashlight Readers Activity). Afterwards, revisit the facts you discussed earlier. Are there things students want to change or add to your list?
Step 2: Working in small groups, or independently, have students review the Q&As with Louis Sacher: "Louis Sachar on Holes" and "Louis Sachar on Writing" (links located in the drop-down "Explore" menu in the Holes Flashlight Readers Activity). After reading the interviews, have students describe what Sachar means when he says: "By not permitting myself to talk about Holes, I was forced to write it. The story was growing inside me for a year and a half, and I had no other way to let it out." Ask students: What do you think would have happened if the author talked about his book with people before he was finished?
Step 3: Prompt students to understand the author's feelings by having them discuss whether they like to share and collaborate on creative endeavors or if they prefer to work on their own until a creative project is completed. Encourage students to be specific and include song writing, poetry, script writing, comics, and other creative writing pursuits.
Step 4: Read the transcript of a live online interview in which students were able to ask Louis Sachar their questions. Ask if the questions that were posed are similar to the ones they would have asked. Have volunteers read the questions and answers aloud. Following the chat experience, ask students what new facts they learned about Louis Sachar and his writing process.
Step 5: Ask students: What, in your opinion, makes an author? Write students' answers on the board. If students say an author must be published, point out most successful authors wrote long before they were published. Ask for a show of hands of students who have written something creative such as a story, song, movie, or comic. Suggest to students that they each have a writing process, just like Louis Sachar does. They may know things they like to write about or have ideas about how they write best. Encourage students to think about what kinds of things they like to write in preparation for the next part of the lesson. Encourage your class to start thinking of themselves as authors.
Step 6: Revisit what students have learned about Louis Sachar's writing process in past days by asking for specific examples of how he likes to write. Distribute construction paper, magazines to cut up, glue, markers, glitter, and other collage-making supplies to students. Instruct them to reflect upon their own writing process and what and how they like to write. Encourage students to create individual collages of words and pictures to express their writing process and voice.
Step 7: Display students' collages around the classroom or in the halls.
- Have students write captions for their collages explaining what each aspect symbolizes and why they made the artistic choices that they did.
- If students are inspired, encourage them to create multiple collages to express their writing process for different genres of writing.
- Ask students to write a letter to Louis Sachar expressing what they have learned about his writing process and their feelings about the book and the movie adaptation of Holes.
- Remind students that in his two question and answer sessions, Louis Sachar says he did not plan to write a sequel to Holes because he felt the story was finished. Read a later interview in which Sachar talks about why he did end up writing a sequel after all (Small Steps). Ask students if they are satisfied with the ending. If not, encourage them to come up with an idea for a sequel. They should describe in writing, the characters, setting, plot, etc.
- Informally assess students understanding of the author's writing process by noting their participation and the quality of their comments during class discussions.
- Observe students' creativity in expressing their writing process and preferences through the words and pictures in their collages.
Language Arts Standards (4th Ed.)
- Reflects on what has been learned after reading and formulates ideas, opinions, and personal responses to texts
- Makes, confirms, and revises simple predictions about what will be found in a text (e.g., uses prior knowledge and ideas presented in text, illustrations, titles, topic sentences, key words, and foreshadowing clues)