Posted by: Kathy Temean | August 26, 2012

School Visits – Discussion and Opportunity

August Illustration, sent in from Melissa Iwai.  She is a children’s book illustrator and author. To see her more of her work, go to:  www.melissaiwai.com

Adriana Brad Schanen‏ e-mailed asking if I could help.  She just became a co-chair of the elementary school’s visiting author program in Montclair, NJ, so she is on the hunt for authors who do fabulous school presentations.

Adriana says, “We are meeting with the new principal soon to get her guidelines, but I thought I’d reach out and see if you could offer any names appropriate for the k-2 or 3-5 grades?

“I’d love to see if we can get some of some of our local authors to present as well!  The PTA is funding this and typically does one author visit in the fall and one in the spring.

“Do you know anybody great  from the area? Any “rock stars” at school visits I should be aware of if we get a big travel budget?”

This started me thinking about what makes a “rock star” school visit?  I thought I would ask all of you to weigh in. 

I have seen lots of medicore school visits where the author is not prepared, totally wings the presentation, or just sits and reads their book.  School don’t need to pay on to come in and read your book to the kids, the teacher can do that.  So what do you bring to the table? 

I’m going to start it off with this vague observation of what I think makes a good school visit: 

I think a “rock star” school visit needs to be inspiring, teach the kids something,  memorable, and fun. 

What do you think makes a great school visit?

If you are an author or illustrator who does school visits, feel free to pitch what you do visits in the comments.

Adriana will be watching and collecting your info for future visits. There may be others out there looking to make a list for other schools around the country.

If you do school visits, do yourself a favor and make a video of your time with the children.  There are lots of people like Adriana who could benefit by watching your visit and if good, it should help you build the amount of visit you do each year.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Responses

  1. Kathy, I agree with your take on what makes a school visit “rock star” quality. I’ve never done one and hope someday I’ll have reason to, but I’m SURE there are authors and illustrators following your blog that would be interested in helping out Ariana 🙂

    And this illustration! Wow! I love it! It has such a magical quality. I want to know what all the little lights are 🙂 I also checked out Melissa’s site and she has more beautiful work. I’m going to check out GREEN AS A BEAN and SNUGGLE MOUNTAIN 🙂

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  2. Adriana,
    Hi from Verona. Have you asked Margot at Watching Booksellers? They bring in authors all the time and may have some suggestions as well.

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    • hi from montclair, and thanks tracy – yes i have been in touch with marisela and liane at watchung booksellers.

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  3. Hi Kathy and Andriana. I’ve lived and breathed education. Part of my work sent me to school districts around the U.S. to do staff development with teachers and administrators.

    Here are three things I learned about a knock-em-dead presentation:

    1. Be enthusiastic– like a cheerleader on steroids. If you’re not excited, they won’t be. If you’re exuding cheerfulness and energy, then they’ll believe you believe in what you’re doing. But please, do not be phony!

    2. Within the first two minutes (yes, two minutes, it’s about them, not you) have your audience involved in doing something. Make your presentation interactive–ask questions that have real answers (not just “yes”, “no”, or “I don’t know”.

    Make the questions thought provoking and something that hits them personally. “How do you–?” “When was the last time you–?” “What happened when you–?” With children there’s a comfort if you let them quietly discuss their answer with a partner next to them, then you call on the partnership to share with the group.

    If you ask a question, then practice NOT answering it yourself. Don’t laugh, most presenters do this and end up talking the whole time to their self. Tell them, “Who will take a risk and answer this?” or “I haven’t heard from this side of the room, will you tell us what you think?”

    3. Know your audience. What do they already know? How much experience have they had? Don’t be insulting by disrespecting the knowledge they may have acquired by telling them what they already know.

    Bonus: Have fun! There’s nothing more rewarding than helping mold young minds and giving them new experiences that will carry them into adulthood.

    Hope this helps get some reluctant, talented presenters on their way.

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    • Hi, “Inky” 🙂 Thanks for such wonderful tips! I hope to use them some day 🙂

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  4. I have written 23 picture books and one chapter book. In sessions for primary grades, called Kiss Your Brain, I discuss the idea and inspiration behind writing each book and read portions of my books, as time permits. Children are exposed to a variety of fiction and nonfiction literature. My focus is to make reading fun so children will enjoy the experience and take from the session positive feelings about books and reading. If they have fun with books, they’ll have a greater interest in the reading and writing. The children participate throughout the session. My goal is to teach children the love of reading. I conduct mini writing workshops for older students in grade three and up. For additional information check out my website: http://www.nancykellyallen.com. –Nancy Kelly Allen

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    • Nancy, you have a great approach. This sounds wonderful 🙂 Anything that promotes the love of books, especially at a young age, is a good thing 🙂

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    • thanks nancy, great advice! all best-adriana

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  5. I live in Bloomfield, and I LOVE doing school visits with my picture book, Keep Your Ear on the Ball (Tilbury, 2007). I use a PowerPoint presentation to illustrate how an idea becomes a book, then I read and discuss the story (also on PowerPoint), and wrap up with some writing tips for the kids and a short Q&A as time allows. My 60 minute presentation is suitable for grades 3-5.

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  6. I love to do school visits. With younger children, I do an interactive skit that stresses the need to practice anything you want to do well. With older children, I get more into the writing process and where I get ideas. My favorite part of the day is watching children’s reactions to my stories. I will never forget the young boy who cried because he thought Eddie, Melody, Howie, and Liza (characters in one of my series) was coming with me to the school!

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  7. I’ve been speaking at elementary and middle schools for three years. i also taught at the college level. My number one requirement in a speech is interaction from the audience. Kids don’t want to sit there and just listen. I can tailor my speech to whatever the teacher feels the students need to work on. I like to compliment her curriculum or areas of challenge. But they have to get up out of their seats. Or read something out loud they’ve written during the workshop. (If they’re comfortable.) Make it fun, be prepared. Know your topic, be ready for anything.

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  8. I’ve got four picture books out that are mostly for the pre-school set (ironically, Melissa Iwai is my illustrator for two of them: Good Night Engines and Wake Up Engines–Donna Marie, check those out too!) so I haven’t gotten many requests for elementary school visits. My next book, however, is for school-age kids and I’d love to create one of those “rock star” school visits. Is there anybody out there who can consult with me to help me create a program that will “wow” the kids and the teachers? All of the visits I’ve done to this point are quiet and for small groups. I need to ramp it up for this next book. It’s called Bug Patrol, and it’s a loud, silly book about a day in the life of a Police Officer Bug who keeps order in the bug world. I would love to discuss with anyone out there who knows how to knock the socks off an audience of squirming elementary kids!

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    • Denise, I just went back and checked out your books. Lucky you! GREAT illustrations and fun rhyme. Yay!

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      • Thanks Donna Marie! I felt so lucky to have Melissa illustrate my books. Glad you liked them!

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  9. I believe that all rock star presenters are not only authors, they’re teachers (in that they can relay information about their books and writing in general in an inspirational, interactive, and unforgettable way; they’re comedians, kids at heart, crowd control experts, book lovers, and they come with enough energy to set students’ brains on fire, no matter the age. : )
    http://www.nancyviau.com/visits-workshops/

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    • Nancy, I agree about the comedian aspect. What a different skill set from being funny on paper! Your name has come up in the author visit search and I hope to be in touch with you soon. all best-a

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  10. The best part about school visits for me is meeting with the kids. As a former elementary and special needs teacher, I miss the dynamics of shared information. I have done 60-70 school and library presentations. I always bring music (jazz), a powerpoint presentation with images of Mary Lou Williams as a child, the children and I use our bodies to make our own music, I bring lots of props to describe the process of building a story.

    I’d love to come to your school. My website is once again under construction. You can contact me at annvingalls@yahoo.com.

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  11. I get excited when I find people as passionate as I am about ensuring good author visits for schools (no matter who does them)! I have a couple blog posts on this topic as well.

    One of them is on planning school author visits:

    http://www.deblund.com/blog/the-school-author-visit-coach/

    And one is about the importance of school author visits (could be helpful in these tough school budget times):

    http://www.deblund.com/blog/school-author-visits-what-can-they-do-for-teachers-and-students/

    So glad to find so many like minds!

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    • deb, thank you so much for these helpful links! i’m new to this position at our school and just learning the ropes. so glad we have a budget and the commitment to keep a visiting author program alive in these tough times! i’m also a soon-to-be MG author (QUINNY PLUS HOPPER, Disney-Hyperion, 2014), so will be needing to figure this out for myself soon enough. yikes.
      thanks again and great blog posts! best-adriana

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  12. a big and tardy thank you to kathy temean for this helpful post, and to everyone who commented so informatively! i’m late in seeing this and just adding all these names to our author lists now. thanks to everyone for your comments and interest in making author visits a great experience for kids! i hope to be in touch with some of you down the line.
    all best wishes,
    adriana schanen
    co-chair, visiting author program, Charles H. Bullock Elementary School, Montclair, NJ
    adrianaschanen@gmail.com
    (QUINNY PLUS HOPPER, early MG, Disney-Hyperion, 2014)

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