A Quest for Author Importance
Class members discover information about an author through a WebQuest and a brochure project.
By Noel Woodward
In most textbooks, after each short story, poem, or play, there is a short blurb about the author, listing his or her achievements and briefly detailing his or her life. When working with the textbook, I often skip or skim over this part, dismissing the importance of an author’s life and the impact experiences can have on writing style, content, and theme.
However, there are some authors whose lives are reflected strongly in their work, and finding out information about the author builds a greater understanding of his/her writing as a whole. But how do you engage your class in this person’s life, other than reading a few paragraphs in the textbook or at the end of a book? I’d like to suggest a project that involves several steps, and that will encourage your class to research, write, and connect.
Setting Up a WebQuest for Research
Set up a stable, convenient, and reputable research environment by creating a WebQuest for your class. This can be done more simply than it sounds. First, you will need to do some research on your own in order to find trustworthy sources. For example, you might find a few different biographies, an interview, and possibly some videos of the author speaking about his or her work.
After your research is done, simply create a Google Doc that includes all of the steps for the assignment, including links to the websites you have found and links to other Google Docs that you might want students to use. Depending on your school’s computer system, you can post this document to your webpage or any other designated space. My school uses Edline, and it is possible to post documents to my page. I usually use a PDF when posting so that the document can be opened on any computer and cannot be altered.
Researching in Class
Now that you’ve set everything up, run through with your class how to find the WebQuest and speak about the final product. This can be your choice. If you want your pupils to write about the author, I suggest an “About the Author” section, a brochure, or a one-pager about the author.
Provide a graphic organizer or notes page, and take a few days either in the computer lab or library to complete the WebQuest. It helps to give students focus for their individual research notes. On the notes page, you might include topics such as:
- Early life
- Books the author has written
- Author quote
- Critic quote
- Summary of a particular book.
There are many possibilities as far as topics go; what you ask your class to focus on depends on what you think is important and what they will find interesting.
Producing a Final Product
I’m going to suggest a brochure as the final product. A brochure requires learners to choose only the most important information because of limited space. In addition, a brochure requires writers to put together images and words in order to create a cohesive final product. Incorporate collaborative learning by allowing class members to work with a partner.
Since many students are still learning how to use technology, this is where you can incorporate Google Docs and utilize your initial WebQuest page once again. Include a link of a template on the WebQuest so that, while researching, pupils can check in to see what their space will look like. Then, once the research is complete, have class members sign into their Google accounts and make copies of the document. Make sure you get a final product from every member of your class by having them share with you immediately!
Once writers have composed and typed in all of their information, added images, and tinkered around with spacing, colors, and formatting, they will have a professional final product. They will also know all about the author, and not from a blurb, but through research and the creation of their own brochure.
Discovering Other WebQuest Resources on Lesson Planet:
WebQuests can be used for almost any subject. This one focuses on Mary Cassatt, including all of the links you need as well as two pages of famous pieces of art by Cassatt.
Introduce Victorian England in preparation for a unit on A Christmas Carol. There is an attached WebQuest that learners can use to discover information on their own and translate it into a PowerPoint presentation. The plan also includes a SMART Board presentation that teachers can use to present information.
If you are planning a unit based around writing by Ernest Hemingway, this WebQuest might be a useful tool. It leads class members to a series of websites that takes them on a ride through Hemingway’s life.