|Make sure all students are included.|
Caroline has taught social studies and English, which I think helped her create her terrific program for students and teachers. A browse-through of Teacher Resources on her website is an education in itself on how to reach children through the content of our books.
In this post, I would like to share the highlights of Caroline’s approach to conducting successful school visits, learned by trial and error, which hopefully will save those of us just starting out some of the challenges she has encountered.
Where to Begin?
- Read articles by children’s author and guru of school visits, according to Caroline, Alexis O’Neill, in SCBWI bulletins.
- Visit author’s websites and see how they handle school visits. We broke into groups, studied author’s websites, and jotted down what we liked or disliked, then shared our findings with the group. Our author-choices included: Kate Messner, Dan Gutman, and Don Tate, who includes a Core Curriculum State Standards guide.
Decide: What Do You Have to Offer?
- Personality strengths
- Writing focus or knowledge: Caroline emphasized that above anything else, students want to learn about the writing process. Under the list of presentations that she offers is “The Writing Process, From Idea to Publication.” On slides that she shared at the workshop, she includes close-ups of drafts of her WIP, with cross-outs and editor’s comments, excellent for students to realize the work that goes into revision.
Choose: Content from Your Book to Present to Students
- What subjects from your book would make good teaching material?
- What grades is your content suitable for?
- Learn what works best in small classrooms or large groups.
- Create ways to capture and hold attention: Photos and images, props and activities.
- As a retired teacher myself, I recognized the activities Caroline shared at the workshop, as ones frequently used in the classroom. Note to self: to gather ideas, you could browse a teacher’s store and look for teaching ideas online and incorporate them into your own uses.
Here are a few of Caroline’s ideas that she shared with us:
- Mingle Game (from May B.): On card stock, write a Fun Fact from your content (Caroline wrote her facts on one side and put the cover from May B on the other, and laminated her cards. Cards are small, about 3" x 3", perfect size for small hands and I loved the size, too). Example: “Chores: Men’s chores included clearing fields, planting crops, constructing houses, caring for livestock, and hunting.
- Class monitors pass a card to each student. Students break out into small groups of two or three, read the Fun Fact from their card, first silently to themselves, then to the others in their group. Then students go around the room and read their Fun Facts to each other.
- Teacher claps, sends students to their seats and asks What Did you Learn? Students can raise their hands and tell the class what they learned.
- String activity: Have students measure out with brightly-colored string the size of the space a frontier family lived in, the typical dimensions of their beds, etc.
- What Did you Learn? How does a person have privacy from the way they lived, etc.
- Act it Out: Choose volunteers to act out parts of a story.
Caroline’s Helpful Tips
- Find out who to speak to and what the school’s policy is on author visits, and where to go when you first arrive.
- Be professional: draw up a one-page contract stating what you’ve agreed to do and what the school has agreed to do and have it signed by you and your school contact. Be gracious to your contact, teacher/librarian. Have contact name memorized.
- Have materials prepared to send to your contact and include your request to have the students read your book and send you their written questions ahead of time. Find out what other books children are reading.
- Ask that the teacher stay in the classroom and participate. Clearly state in the contract that teachers stay to be engaged and to redirect distracting behavior.
- Find out if school will provide technical equipment, such as a projector and screen. (Caroline uses her own equipment to avoid problems, including taking an extension cord).
- Arrive fifteen minutes early, come prepared and be flexible (go with the flow). Keep in mind that there are often glitches with every visit. Organize props and materials ahead of time. Give yourself time to set up.
- Connect to curriculum.
- Practice your presentation—normally it takes longer than it seems.
- Keep visit simple and easy. Do a quick introduction. Establish rules ahead of time. Use school’s quiet signal and practice it together. Remind students to listen and save questions for the end.
- Talk to booksellers, teachers and librarians. Follow teachers on social media and share information. Check what SCBWI has to offer. Caroline has invited a bookseller to come along to sell books.
- Is a business license required? Find out.
- You can offer a special reward: a "Meet the Author" lunch and book signing session with students chosen by your contact.
- Should you get paid? Yes! But you can start by offering a limited number of short visits at no charge. Skype visits can be offered at no charge.
- As a thank you to the school, volunteer for Battle of the Books, Literacy Night, etc.
Remember: there will be good and bad visits. Take it all in stride.
Photo: By Linda Wilson
Visit Caroline at https://carolinestarrrose.com