November 7, 2011

I often hear from college students who are studying to be teachers and doing author studies on my books and my writing style. I am always flattered and honored to learn that future teachers have chosen to study my work and plan to use my books in the classroom. Thank you, if you are one of them!

Here are two letters I have received recently, both of which are quite typical of the kind of questions that often come up. I decided to answer them here on the blog, as a way of sharing the information with other education students.

Dear Seymour Simon,

I am presenting an author study on you and your work for my Literacy in the Elementary Classroom class at Moravian College in Bethlehem, PA. I am contacting you to ask you for any help that you may be able to give me. I chose to focus my attention on three books in particular, Killer Whales, Cats, and Knights and Castles. I am developing three activities that correlate to each book. These activities focus on either fluency, phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary and comprehension. I also need to write a paper on you (biographical information) and your writing style. Anything that you can do to help will be greatly appreciated!

Jordan Mertz, Moravian College


Mr. Simon

I am a student at Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas. I am currently enrolled in a literature for children and adolescents class. My instructor has asked all of her students to present to the rest of the class an Author Illustrator Study. I was reading information about you on your web page but I did not see answers to a couple of questions that I would like to include in my study. What are you hobbies and what do you like to do in your spare time?

For this lesson we also have to prepare a snack for the class that pertains to the author. I was wondering what is your favorite snack?


David Honeycutt

To answer Jordan’s question, I would say that although you could use my books to cover any of these topics, I think that nonfiction photo-essays are particularly well-suited to teaching vocabulary and comprehension. In all three of the books that you are focusing on, your students will come across words that are unfamiliar. One technique that you can teach your students is to look for the little word inside the big word. For example, from the books you have chosen, this would apply to the word "purebred" in CATS, the word "blowhole" in KILLER WHALES, and "crossbow" in KNIGHTS AND CASTLES. You can also encourage your readers to make connections by using all the resources on the page - photographs, graphs and other illustrations - to help them decipher unfamiliar words. Use open-ended questions to initiate discussion that will help students expand their comprehension of the text.

Schools around the country are using my Seymour Science blog to encourage and reward student efforts as growing readers and writers. Last April we had an enormously successful month as readers celebrated Earth Day 2011, culminating in the online publication of extensive student writing about a cause in which they are deeply invested. We often feature student writing, research and artwork, and children’s comments are moderated for safety and then posted quickly (so that they get a rapid, personal payoff for reading and writing.
I also provide many resources for educators to use with my books in the classroom. There are detailed Teacher Guides available for all twenty-seven of my Collins/Smithsonian photo essays. They are free downloads and they offer exactly the kind of resources you are seeking - Questions to Ask Before and After Reading, Suggested Activities, Additional Resources, and a reproducible student activity page. I would urge you to go to the Educators and Families section of my website to find many of these free resources, which I have created specifically to assist you in the classroom.

As for writing style, I am always amused when students ask me to describe my writing style for them. The best way to analyze my writing style is to read my writing! That said, I can offer you a few more sources of information to help with this. I have written about this topic on my blog. Click on the label Becoming a Writer to read these posts.  I also speak fairly regularly to professional groups about Writing Exciting Nonfiction. I will do one of these workshops on November 18, 2011 at the NCTE annual convention in Chicago, and I have prepared a handout for workshop participants to take away. Readers of my blog can also download this document by clicking here.

As for questions about my biography, there is extensive information available in the About Seymour Simon section of my website. Be sure to take a look at the section called "Press," to supplement the traditional biography and interview links that you will find there. In the Press section, you can find reviews and even articles that I have written for other publications.

As for what I like to do in my spare time, I love to be out in nature (no big surprise!). My wife Liz and I spend a lot of time driving, walking and photographing in all seasons. I also love sports, and am a big reader.

I love the idea of a "snack that pertains to the author"! I think your best choice by far would be bear claw pastries - I confess that I do love sweets, and the wild animal reference makes it the perfect choice.

Thank you again to all student teachers who choose me for their author studies. Nonfiction reading is so important for your students, as they will encounter and need to decipher informational text throughout their entire lives. My goal as a writer is to excite children about the world around them, and encourage them to be explorers in their own lives. Thank you for celebrating nonfiction in your studies!


Photo: Corpus Christi Caller-Times. Photographer: Michael Zamora. 

READERS: Are you wondering how to add your own "comment" to this blog? Click here for exact directions on how to add a comment so you can become one of our Seymour Science writers! We also want you to be safe and not share too much information when you write on this blog, so please take a minute to read about how to stay safe on the Internet. We love to hear from you, so give "comments" a try! 

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: Teacher Guides, Teachers and Librarians, Writing   •  Permalink (link to this article)   •  Share: