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A New Brand of Author Visit March 14, 2010

Posted by Ronica Stromberg in Uncategorized.
Tags: , , ,

I visit a lot of schools, and interest in the old-style author visit (with an author speaking to an auditorium full of children) seems to be flagging. These visits typically consist of an author or authors speaking about overcoming obstacles such as rejection to reach their dreams. The authors intend to motivate students and might spice up their speech by singing, dancing, playing a musical instrument, or using whatever other talents they possess.

With the No Child Left Behind Act and other legislation, I’m finding teachers would rather have author visits that directly apply to or complement instruction in the classroom. Schools are under pressure to attain high test scores, and teachers view all instruction time as precious.  If an author can teach children to write better, that’s more valuable than discussing the road to authordom.

This is fortuitous for me. I’ve never enjoyed being “on stage,” speaking to large groups primarily as an entertainer. I enjoy a smaller audience I can interact with. The two presentations I conduct most in classrooms might be more accurately called “workshops.” In my “You Be the Artist!” presentation, I speak to younger children (usually kindergartners through second graders) about the process of publication and they take part in illustrating a page for a book. In my “Great Aunt Mabel’s Sweater” presentation, I speak to older children (usually middle schoolers) about descriptive writing and they perform two writing exercises and volunteer to read their work in “share time.”

I led both of these workshops at a public school last week, and a teacher said to me, “This is what we need. The kids were more interested than they usually are in author visits, and they learned more.”

I’m going to pass this along to my author friends. Some despair about visiting schools because they “have no talent but writing.” But writing talent is precisely what many teachers and schools hope authors can spark in students. Increasingly, schools are looking at authors more as mentors for students than as entertainers.



1. Lisa Cindrich - March 16, 2010

Do you have any idea how great this is to hear? I’m sure I’d still be nervous (you know, that annoying speaking-in-public phobia), but this sort of program sounds much more doable than trying to entertain an auditorium of 400 students. I can see why teachers would love it too.

I really like the sound of your program for younger kids. I always envied illustrators because it seems like they have a talent that would be more captivating to kids than “just” writing talent. With your program, a writer doesn’t have to be able to illustrate in order to let the kids do some artwork. And better understand how illustrations mesh with the text while they’re at it. Bravo!

Ronica Stromberg - March 16, 2010

Understanding how illustrations mesh with text is one of the National Standards too. If you can key your presentations into addressing national or state standards/goals, that really helps. Both of the presentations I mentioned meet National Standards.

Sometimes for the “You Be the Artist!” workshop, an art teacher at the school will join me in the classroom. I’ve had children paint their illustrations and use crayons, colored pencils, markers and even chalk. The time children used chalk, I learned right along with them on techniques and could now provide that same instruction in the classroom. And the great thing about this is even the children who can’t afford books get to go home with something. I don’t worry about that in the older grades, but in kindergarten and first grade, I like to see every child go home with something.

2. Lisa Cindrich - March 18, 2010

I would never have thought that would be one of the National Standards. Interesting. Obviously something I need to read up on.

I bet the art teachers like being a part of the workshop too. (Heck, some of them may be aspiring illustrators themselves!) And I agree that with the younger kids, it’s really bad if the ones who can’t buy books end up feeling left out. Good deal all the way around.

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