If you are a teacher of middle graders, a meaningful and exciting way to conclude a read aloud or book group is to Skype the author who wrote the book. Here are 5 tips to make Skyping an author an easy thing to do.
Step 1. Make sure you have the tools to Skype
These days finding a device has become as easy as turning on your phone. In classrooms that don’t have computers or Smartboards, teachers can simply download Skype onto their phone in order to meet an author. If you do have a large device, like an iPad, computer, or Smartboard, it’s certainly better, but all the students care about is seeing the author, hearing his or her voice, and having their voice be heard, so a phone works if it is all you’ve got.
Step 2. Contact the author
To find out if the author Skypes, I first look on his or her website. Often Skype visits are listed on the contact page. If the author doesn’t list Skype visits, it never hurts to find their email and ask. Even if they say no, your kids will love seeing any communication from the author they love. Many middle grade authors offer free 15 minute visits for talking to their fans. Another great resource is Kate Messner’s Authors Who Skype (For Free) List. When you email the author, make sure to tell him or her why you would like this visit, whether you are just finishing a read aloud or studying that author as a class or small group.
Step 3. Find a good time in your day
The visit is usually about 15 minutes, so it is pretty easy to fit it in. Make sure that you aren’t picking a time of day when kids are going in or out or when an announcement is going to interrupt. Have a few of these times in mind before sending your email. I try to send authors at least three separate times of day so we can best fit into their schedule.
Step 4. Test the technology
There is nothing worse than having 20+ kids sitting in front of a Smartboard waiting to meet their favorite author and something not working. Set up a minute conversation with the author before the visit to test the technology. Even after the test, make sure to have backups on hand. You can never be too prepared.
Step 5. Prepare your class
Before the visit, I share the author’s website and make sure they know a little more about the author than the book they read. Then I have my students write down three questions they would like to ask. We share the questions with each other and each student picks one question as their top priority. By preparing we can weed out questions like, “How old are you?” and focus on the more important stuff, like why did you write this book and how did you decide that a certain character was going to be evil. I am always amazed with the quality of questions when kids are given a chance to think about them. And my students love it when during the visit the author says, “Wow, that’s a really good question.”
And that’s really all there is to it. Have the tools, contact the author, pick a mutual time, test the technology, and prepare your class. If you have any additional tips or questions, make sure to leave them in the comments.