What is it?
Author's Chair is the final step in the writing process. A special time and place is allotted to writers who wish to share their final products with an audience. Because the writing has already gone through revising and editing based on constructive criticism, Author's Chair is an opportunity for the writer to receive positive feedback from their classmates.
What is the purpose?
- Providing an audience for hard work done well is a motivating force for children to write more in the future.
- As an active-listening audience member, students develop listening and attention span skills.
- Analyzing written work requires reflection and critical thinking abilities. Giving and receiving feedback is beneficial for both parties. Both the presenter and the audience member's own writing improves as a result of the critique.
What does it look like?
A special chair such as a director's chair, an oversized office chair, or a spare teacher's chair is designated as the Author's Chair. Audience members face the presenter and listen carefully, critiquing the story silently. Critiquing involves thinking of parts of the writing that one likes and doesn't like. Only those things he or she likes should be shared with the author. Authors are encouraged to respond to the comments they receive.
In my class of third graders, many students were eager to respond at the end of an author's story or report. So, I asked authors to choose no more than three people with one or two comments each to respond to their work. Students were asked to provide examples for the aspects of writing that they enjoyed.
For example, when someone said, "I like the part where the one guy beat up the other guy," I would ask the person to specify what it was in the story that he or she liked about someone getting beat up. This question forced the student to consider the elements of writing that went into the feedback. If the author used many descriptive details so that the scene was easily visualized, that quality was the one that was stressed. If it turned out that the audience member simply liked to read about violence, then I would redirect by asking, "What about the writing did you like?"
In order to facilitate higher-level thinking skills, I modeled frequently the kind of feedback I was looking for from the audience. For instance:
- "The language you used to describe the scene at the beginning of your story was fabulous! I could picture the 'bright' sun shining on the 'pale' blue sky on the 'hot' summer afternoon."
- "You developed your characters very well! You described the main character's personality traits as 'sassy,' 'smart,' and 'bossy,' and your physical description of 'red-haired,' '3rd-grade,' and 'boy' gave me a good idea about what kind of behavior to expect."
- "Wow! The tension you introduced in the first scene was great! Just like J. K. Rowling in the Harry Potter books, you really keep the reader hanging until the end. All the clues you provided pointed to Freddie being the hero. I didn't know until the last paragraph that Sally was the actual heroine!"
How long does it last?
Third graders can sit and listen well without becoming antsy for about 15 to 20 minutes. Younger and older students will have different endurance periods. I scheduled Author's Chair almost every day. Students loved it!
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