Showing posts with label school visits. Show all posts
Showing posts with label school visits. Show all posts

Friday, July 27, 2018

A Workshop on School Visits with Caroline Starr Rose

Make sure all students are included.
Much helpful information on school visits can be found online from experienced children’s authors who so generously share their experiences and advice. But in my book, there’s nothing better than learning the ins and outs in person. Recently, I had the pleasure and privilege of attending a workshop, “Lasting Connections: Planning and Preparing School Visits,” offered by Carolyn Starr Rose, award-winning author of May B. and Blue Birds, both historical verse novels, Ride on Will Cody!, Jasper, The Riddle of Riley’s Mine, and Over in the Wetlands.

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?

  • Work/life
  • 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 

Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, has published over 100 articles for adults and children, and six short stories for children. Recently, she has completed her first book, a mystery/ghost story for children 7-11 years old, and is hard at work on Book Two in the series.  Follow Linda at

Monday, August 12, 2013

Back to School

It's time to think about going back to school. Authors, have you considered doing school visits? Have you considered doing PTA presentations or librarian presentations? Now is the time to make those connections with the school librarians, public librarians and the PTA members who have the ability to schedule special presentations, especially authors. As authors, we have stories to tell and we are hired to entertain. School-aged kids love when a local author visits and always have tons of questions. If you are an illustrator, they really get into demonstrations of how an illustrated story comes to life. What's your passion and what do you have to offer the children? I encourage all of you to go out and set up those author visits, presentaions and workshops. ---------------- Elysabeth Eldering Author of FINALLY HOME, a Kelly Watson paranormal YA mystery

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

How to Avoid the Feeling of Isolation by Conducting Author Visits by Donna McDine

Your writing career is moving at a steady pace, but from time-to-time, the feeling of isolation overwhelms you.  What is a writer to do to get one’s self out into the world of the living, but not neglect your writing goals?  One of the best ways to get yourself known locally as a serious writer would be to participate in author visits to elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools in your area - depending on what genre you write for. Also check out your local library and bookstores – they too may be interested in having you conduct an event.  Presenting your short story or non-fiction article for children’s magazines can be fun way to present the creative writing process to children of all ages without overwhelming them.  And since you are writing for children, why not spend time with them? 
It can be daunting to research school visits, considering the Internet comes up with over 2 million hits when typing in “School Author Visits.”  Why not check out the following resources:
1.      Local Schools –Contact an elementary school in your area and find out whom you need to present your school visit request to.  The school secretaries are happy to point you in the right direction, whether it is the principal, PTA or program coordinator of the school.  IMPORTANT: Keep in mind you don’t necessarily need to have a published book to conduct a school visit.  You may be able to present a published short story or non-fiction article to the class.  In addition, let the school know that you can meet with respective teachers and conform the event to coincide with their ELA State Assessment Guidelines.
2.      Network with fellow writers – We are all cheering for one another and I’m sure your network would be happy to discuss their ideas of school visits.  If you are just starting out, the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators –, has a wealth of information on all topics for writing for children.
3.      Local Librarian – I have had wonderful success in becoming “buddies” with my local librarian.  They are a chock full of information when it comes to conducting events for children.  You never know, they may be so impressed with your initiative that they may request that you conduct a visit at their library.  What better way to keep children inspired to read by meeting a local writer living in their midst?
4.      Local Bookstores – Approach the manager or owner to see if they would be interested in having you conduct an author visit.  If they are, obtain their guidelines for conducting such a visit and tell them that you will get back to them with your proposal / school visit kit.  Be sure to leave your business card with them.
Put yourself out there…it will not only be fun for the children but for yourself!

Bio: Donna McDine is an award-winning children's author, Honorable Mention in the 77th and two Honorable Mentions in the 78th Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competitions,  Preditors & Editors Readers Poll 2010 Top Ten Children’s Books, Global eBook Awards Finalist Children’s Picture Book Fiction, and Literary Classics Silver Award & Seal of Approval Recipient Picture Book Early Reader ~ The Golden Pathway.

Her stories, articles, and book reviews have been published in over 100 print and online publications. Her interest in American History resulted in writing and publishing The Golden Pathway. Donna has three more books under contract with Guardian Angel Publishing, Hockey Agony, Powder Monkey, and A Sandy Grave. She writes, moms and is the Editor-in-Chief for Guardian Angel Kids, Publicist for the Working Writer’s Club, and owner of Author PR Services from her home in the historical hamlet Tappan, NY. McDine is a member of the SCBWI. Visit

Wishing you all the best,
Donna McDine

Monday, January 2, 2012

School and Library Author Visits

When planning a library or school author visit it is essential to have activities that are fun, memorable and involve child participation. I like to include a movement activity and a craft project they can take with them.
Here’s one version of a one hour visit I use.

1.      Simplified prediction activity to introduce Sh Sh Sh Let the Baby Sleep by looking at the cover to predict the story
2.      Read Sh Sh Sh Let the Baby Sleep

3.      Consonant Blend Jumping (see below)
4.      Shelby Puppet introduces Trouble on Earth Day by bringing out fascinating facts about squirrels (ex: they can jump 12 feet) and predicting the story by looking at the cover and other objects I made from the story (see below) TIP: Puppets are expensive. You can transform a thrift store stuffed animal into a puppet by opening the bottom, removing some stuffing and sewing a sock inside.

5.      Read Trouble on Earth Day
6.      They color a picture of a bird on a nest and glue sticks and pink yarn to the picture.
Consonant Blend Jumping

In my book, Sh Sh Sh Let the Baby sleep I feature the consonant blends sh, ch, br, th, and br. I laminated four of each of these blends and taped them to the floor in a line. At the end of each line I placed a basket with a word that uses the blend attached to the front. The children jump on each blend and shout out its sound and throw a beanbag into the basket as they read the word. I change the movement for different age groups. (jump backwards, hop)

Prediction Fun

By adding just a few simple questions and activities to your story time, you can help children begin to learn about important reading skills.  Here’s how to introduce  Fur and Feathers by Janet Halfman.
  • Put a heart in a paper bag for each student and tape it closed.
  • In a teacher’s bag put a piece of fur, a feather, a pin cushion, a jar of slime, sequins, pinecone scales, plastic wing with black dots.
Tell the children they are going to be detectives and solve a mystery.  They have to look for clues and guess what’s in their bag.  On the chalkboard write the word "prediction." Pointing to the teacher bag say, "First, let’s guess what’s in my bag." Guide students as they make a prediction about what might be in the paper bag. Ask what clues they are using to make their prediction. For instance, suggest that size, lack of movement, smell, or weight might limit their guess.  Once you have gathered student responses, write them on the board.  Open the bag, and take out the fur. Let them revise their predictions as needed, emphasizing that you have more information to use now. Ask how fur is used, and do they have any fur at home?  Take each item out of the bag and ask what it might represent.  State that this process is the same when you read a book. Your predictions change based on the information you gather as you read.  Show the cover, title, and some illustrations of Janet Halfman’s picture book.  Ask students what the items might have to do with the story you are going to read.  Make final revisions to the predictions emphasizing that the prediction changed based on the information you gathered. 

Read, Fur and Feathers.  Watch their eyes light up as they discover each item is used in the book to cover the animals that lost their coats in a windstorm.  When you finish the book, ask the children to guess what’s in their own bag.  Let them open the bag to find the candy heart, which coincides with the surprise ending of the story. 

Some Other Activities for Library and School Author Visits:

Recycle cardboard and gift wrap to make a bookmark

1.      Cut a cardboard rectangle 2 ½” by 7”.
2.      Wrap it up like a gift.
3.      Cut a 1” by 4” piece of construction paper.
4.      Put each child’s name on the paper.
5.      Glue it to the center of the bookmark.

Sight Word Tree

1.      Draw a large tree on a poster board.
2.      Make several nests large enough to write on.
3.      Write a sight word on the back of each nest and hang them on the tree.
4.      Children take turns picking a nest off the tree and read the sight word.

Sound Effects

Assign each child a sound effect during a reading. (wind, rain, bells, barking, crashing noises, crying, doors closing, etc) Have a practice session by pointing to each child to say their sound. Just mix it up and have fun. The children love this game. When reading your picture book, point to the appropriate child to sync sound effects to the story.

Sight Word Musical Chairs

Arrange chairs in a circle facing out. Put a dolch sight word on each chair. Children walk around the chairs until the music stops. They pick up the sight word and sit. The take turns reading their sight word around the circle.

Stay tuned for my ebook on this subject which will be overflowing with creative ideas for author visits. It will also include advertising techniques such as a poster to place in the school and sending out press releases to local newspapers prior to the visit. I learned the hard way thinking the library staff would advertise the event properly. Don’t forget photo release forms which allow you to use photos of the children in future advertising projects.

Author Bio: Kathy Stemke

Award winning author, Kathy Stemke, has a passion for writing, the arts and all things creative. She has Bachelor degrees from Southern Connecticut State University and Covenant Life Seminary, as well as graduate coursework from New York Institute of Technology and Columbia University. Hanging her hat in the North Georgia Mountains, she has been a teacher, tutor, and writer for many years. 
As a freelance writer and ghostwriter, Kathy has published hundreds of articles in directories, websites and magazines. She is a reviewer for Sylvan Dell Publishing and a former editor for The National Writing for Children Center. As a retired teacher, Kathy has several activities published with Gryphon House Publishing. Kathy is also part of the team at DKV Writing 4 U, a writing services company that includes ghostwriting, copywriting, editing, proofreading, critiquing, and resumes.
Kathy’s first children’s picture book, Moving Through All Seven Days, was published on Lulu. Her next two picture books, Sh, Sh, Sh Let the Baby Sleep, and Trouble on Earth Day were released in 2011. Both of these books have been awarded the Literary Classics Seal of Approval.  Visit her book blog at
Mrs.Stemke offers great teaching tips and children’s book reviews as well as a monthly newsletter titled, MOVEMENT AND RHYTHM, on her blog.

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