Ingredients for a Great School Visit
1) Kris Larson and Gwen Schuppe, the librarians at Rick Marcotte Central School in South Burlington, Vermont purchased an extra copy of Jingle the Brass and Nugget on the Flight Deck. They cut apart the books, laminated the pages and posted them in the hallways of the school. When I visited, I saw the pages of my books covering the walls of the school and surrounded by student art, depicting train, planes, and aircraft carriers. Kris and Gwen also read my books to every child in the school so when I arrived the students were familiar with my work and prepared with questions.
For lunch, students made personalized placemats and second grade teacher Diane Farnham whipped up a delicious homemade meal.
Small group workshops with fifth graders showed them that writing can be fun! I repeated the dialogue writing workshop (described in my Jan. 29, 2010 blog entry) and we laughed, stretched our imaginations, brainstormed ideas, accepted some and rejected others. In short, we behaved like real writers.
2) At Milton Elementary School in Milton, Vermont, kindergarten teacher Cheryl King arranged for an introductory Skype session so I could meet her students a few days prior to my visit. We discussed the weather in California vs. Vermont (and they kindly warned me to bring my woolies)! The time difference between East and West was a big topic of discussion and the students wanted to know if I was still in bed when they started school. We also talked about what we going to do when I visited their classroom.
Second grade teachers Cathy Stout, Anne Cameron, Janet Lynch and Mary Ladabouche gave up valuable class time for workshops on building believable characters. The children and I created a character based on a few of the character’s possessions I brought to school. We made notes on their Smart Boards, and the teachers planned to extend the lesson into a story writing exercise. (See upcoming blog entry on What’s in Your Character’s Backpack?) Angela Filion’s first grade class put themselves into the shoes of a sailor aboard an aircraft carrier and wrote a postcard home to their families complete with a colorful drawing.
3) Kathy Duggan, Librarian at Summit Street School in Essex Junction created a balanced schedule of assemblies, writing workshops, small group readings, and book signing time. During an entire school assembly, I unfurled the 16 rejection letters I received for Jingle the Brass taped end-to-end. I told them that I never stopped believing in myself or my story. At lunch, one of the teachers tracked me down to tell me that after my assembly a boy in her class struggled with a writing assignment. The girl sitting next to him patted him on the shoulder and said, “Don’t worry. You have 16 tries!” Another student approached Mrs. Duggan and said, “I REALLY like your friend.” Kathy’s program allowed me to meet and speak with several students personally to help them look at writing as an everyday goal.