There are some good resources online about the basics of an author school visit and here are two of them.
ABCs of Author visits
Rather than restate what’s already available, I’d like to look at the variety of school visit experiences an author might try or a school might ask for.
1. The whole school presentation
When most people think of authors visiting schools the image of an auditorium full of kids listening to an author tell the tale of how a story became a book is what comes to mind. Usually the author brings a power point presentation and sometimes, interesting objects for students to look at. Often there is reading aloud and almost always some time for Q & A.
2. The large group writers’ workshop
Here an author teaches a full classroom of students a writing lesson. It usually draws on an element from the author’s books and involves a writing exercise from the students. It usually works best to have a topic you’ve discussed with the teachers ahead of time and a writing activity every child in the room can feel successful with. Poetry often works particularly well, but any writing topic can succeed if it’s well taught.
3. Small group writers’ workshop
A more in-depth and longer writing workshop works best with a smaller group of students who either volunteer or are chosen for the experience because of their avid interest in writing.
4. The demonstration lesson
This works well with small and large groups and has the advantage of not requiring the students to bring their own pencil and paper and produce individual writing. A demonstration might show how an illustrator creates a character, or how a writer maps a plot using audience participation and usually a white board, smart board or document camera.
5. The author interview
This format allows more participation from students who plan the interview ahead of time and take turns asking questions. It works well with Skype. In a very large school, recording a video of the author reading and students interviewing the author for later viewing may be the most practical way to use an author’s time.
6. The author luncheon
Some schools have a tradition of inviting a small group of students to have lunch with the author and interact in a much less formal way. It can be a great place to run a few story ideas by them or get immediate feedback on a scene the author is working on. Often the children chosen are avid writers so it’s also a perfect venue to ask them to tell you their favorite stories.
7. The non-writing workshop
Sometimes authors will offer a workshop on a subject that pertains to their book and suits a school’s curriculum. It might be anything from drama to history. I know an author who has considerable expertise in historical costuming who brings in clothing from the historical era of her book and talks about how what people wear informs us about the way they live. Fascinating!
8. Family Literacy Night
Another option is an evening event for students and parents that highlights the authors books and the student’s writing. It can be an opportunity for promoting read aloud at home, family story telling, the writing and collecting of letters, or the keeping of diaries. Sometimes this involves author Q&A, snacks, games, or an art activity.
9. The author-in-residence
This is an ambitious and very time-consuming project both for a school and for an author, but it can be the most rewarding experience of all. With a daily visit over one week or one day visits stretched over a few weeks, you have the opportunity to develop the kind of trust with young writers that makes real writing growth possible. Solid teaching experience and an enthusiastic school is essential.
10. The personal visit
The best place for beginning writers to start out is with a single classroom visit where the teacher is a personal friend. The format varies from a simple reading plus a little Q&A to a writing lesson, organized by the teacher and assisted by the author. Here’s a place an author can learn the ropes of working with children and get honest and kind feedback from a trusted source.
I hope this gives you some idea of the range of possibilities. I’ll be following this post up in a few weeks with specific things an author can do to prepare for a school visit and then one more post on how schools can gain the most from their visiting author. I’ll also like to do a round-up of school visit questions, so if there’s something you’ve always wanted to know about school visits, leave me a comment and I’ll follow up later today or over the weekend.