Planning a classroom visit

30 Apr

In my short time as a blog owner, I’m saddened to report that blogs do not, in fact, write about topical issues, proliferate themselves across the web, and then create thoughtful discussions in the comment sections on their own. (I have reported this to WordPress, though they seem to be slow to respond.)

Anyways. Picking up as though there hasn’t been a five month blogging gap…

Tomorrow, I’m doing my first classroom visit and I’m also discouraged to find that my initial Google search for “an author’s guide to planning a classroom visit” has not come up with a magical agenda to fill in with Spartacus-appropriate activities. Instead, I’m finding guides aimed at teachers and schools on how to prepare for said author’s visit. (Note: I certainly don’t expect banners–just someone to point me to the restroom if needed.)

I did find some simple notes on promoting your book at schools (more like, “You should try going to a school!”). That really wasn’t a huge help.

Instead, I spent time with a teaching friend and she gave me some great ideas. In addition to sharing where my ideas came from, she clarified that when kids want to know how something was written, this isn’t, “I rewrote it and sent it to my publisher and then he blah, blah, blah, blah…” but more of about where I physically wrote and how I kept myself organized and how I got in the mood for writing–and while I don’t know if my technique really is the best, I do know that I can prep myself to write about a scary circus situation faster than anyone I know.

In the mood...for writing.

In the mood…for writing.

And, of course, I’m going to share the books that inspired me, photos of all the coffee shops I wrote in…and photos of my cat helping me write. Duh.

She also told me to play it loose and casual. (Essentially saying that I shouldn’t read verbatim from a Power Point presentation–sad.)

Have you done a classroom visit before? How did you prepare–and how did it go?

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3 Responses to “Planning a classroom visit”

  1. elizabethteater May 3, 2013 at 6:58 pm #

    I made an outline and filled it in with lots of notes, examples, tips, anecdotes, industry info, opinions, hard numbers and personal philosophy. I mentally tied some of these to visuals I would bring with me. I practiced speaking louder and kind of slowly. I memorized some of my outline. It was only because of detailed preparation that I was able to think on my feet and come off as knowledgable yet comfortable. Preparation = relaxation maybe. I brought a note sheet to prompt me. It was nice! Not the sheet – the experience. Tell us how it goes.

  2. wherethebadkidsgo May 1, 2013 at 10:25 am #

    I am definitely of the “come with a super prepared presentation beforehand” school. I do rely on Keynote, mainly so I can keep things moving and be sure I don’t miss an opportunity to bring up a point or make a bad joke, etc. It sort of serves as the spine of my presentation. That way, since kids are insane, if I am pulled off topic, I can respond and riff off whatever is brought up, then creep back into my presentation. It really depends on what the expectation is of the school visit. I just came back from a week on the coast talking with 12 different classes in 8 different schools. The focus was on writing, so I integrated a series of writing prompts and exercises along with my usual book-focused presentation. Some of the teachers had specific requests, so I rolled in exercises relating to those subjects for those classes. I think the kids like having something to look at besides you, and if it is entertaining and has a flow to it, they will—for the most part—be engaged. I like having a presentation to fall back on because, truth be told, some classes are duds. It could be the teacher, the kids themselves, or simply the time of day or day of the week. It’s insane how all of these things can really affect a presentation. I did one class with a sub, and she just had that vacant hostage look on her face so the kids were rowdy. After a while, I just sort of gave up and turned it back on them and turned their outbursts into opportunities to talk about writing, expression, etc. Also, classes after lunch suck, or right before dismissal. They just tend to be either lethargic or restless. I guess the main point is to entertain them, but also have opportunities for them to interact to keep them interested. Prizes are good too. Talking about writing doesn’t seem to grab many of them unless they are already super-enthused about writing. Most kids just like a break from the routine. But you still have to give them a reason to respect you.

    • Molly E. Johnson July 15, 2014 at 8:27 pm #

      Thanks to you and Elizabeth for your thoughtful and useful replies!

      It took me this long to reply out of sheer sheepishness. The visit went well enough, but not in the way I’d hoped. I’d wanted to bring something memorable to the kids, but I think I really bottomed out midway through my talk. I was prepared, but not in the right way. (And by the right way, I mean in a way that would help me when it came time to actually do it.)

      But what I gained from the visit was something completely unexpected: kid-couragement. I don’t know why I didn’t expect enthusiasm from the kids, but meeting them was amazing to me. These kids loved the book, were excited to meet me and talk about the characters–and were still kind after I flubbed through the 20 minutes. I want them to sign MY book…

      Ooh, I just may have come up with a schtick if I ever do another talk…though I don’t plan to. And if I ever did…I think I’d need a year to prepare.

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