15 things I’ve learned about author school visits

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At this point, I’ve spoken to well over FIFTY THOUSAND STUDENTS. (Gulp!) I’ve learned a few things along the way…

PuddlePugGiveaway(This is an expanded version of an article appeared in the Spring 2010 issue of “The Highlighter,” the newsletter of the Mid-Atlantic Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. I’m running a contest this week! By June 1, 2015, pop down and leave a relevant comment – to make sure I don’t confuse you with a spammer – and you’ll be entered to win a copy of Puddle Pug WITH the adorable Scholastic CD audio version of the book. There will be two winners, so your changes are good. Good luck!)

1. Pre-Ks, kindergartners and first graders do not really ask questions. They TELL you things. Some things they tell you are sweet and entertaining, but a dozen “I-have-a-dog-too” refrains can eat up precious time. For this reason, I generallystudents raising hands only invite questions from 2nd grade and up.

2. The best presentation is one that combines education and entertainment. I want them to be entertained; they’ll pay closer attention and will remember everything more clearly. But I want them to walk away with skills and knowledge they can apply to their own reading and writing. This is doubly true in this age of standardized tests.

Four podcasts about author school visits

4PodcastsAuthorVisits_150I was recently reminded about a podcast I did a couple of years ago with Katie Davis on her Brain Burps About Books. Katie is a bundle of energy who’s just plain fun to chat with. We had a nice long talk about my school visits and the various ways I publicize them. A search turned up not only the interview with me, but also other Brain Burps podcasts where school visits were discussed. So check out THIS PAGE to listen to four different Brain Burps podcasts – with me, Bruce Coville, Barney Saltzberg and Jackie Reynolds (aka BeeBee the Clown) – that touched on author school visits.

Mine is the 2nd interview on the page – Session 109 – and the interview starts about 17 minutes into the podcast. (Not that you won’t want to listen to the whole thing. You will! Great stuff on Katie’s podcasts.)

My book I Know a Wee Piggy had just come out, so we talked about that, too. I’ve since changed the activity I described in the interview. Back then, I carried around little bags into which children reached to see what was inside. (One object for each color in the book.) Now I use large paper “bibs”–kind of like sandwich boards–that kid volunteers wear to represent each color. Lots of fun, very visual, and a great way to involve the audience in the reading of the book.


PlanningYourVisit_coverSmall_byKimNormanHave you signed up for Cool School Visits updates? Sign up using the form on the upper right side of this page, and you’ll receive a free copy of my guide, PLANNING YOUR AUTHOR SCHOOL VISIT, which includes sample programs and breakdowns to target your sessions to different grade levels. (If you’re on a smart phone, keep scrolling and you’ll find the form at the very bottom of any blog post, below any comments.)

Planning for a wide age span

DogsPlanSpan_150Now and then, I hear from folks asking for advice about writing, publishing or school visits. When I’ve taken the time to write a long response, I like to make that time do “double duty” by posting my reply online where others can benefit. Recently, I heard from a person who has been asked to present to a huge assembly (500 students) with a very wide age span – pre-k through 5th grade (!!!) – so she asked for any advice I could offer related to the visit. Here’s my reply: [Read more…]

Clowning around and playing for laughs

Clown-faced baby imageIt always irks me that actors who play dramatic roles grab most of the Oscar statuettes when comedy is just as hard to pull off… if not harder. I can think of plenty of comedians who are also good at drama, but far fewer dramatic actors who have starred in successful comedies.

Okay, Oscar rant out of the way, here’s my point: comedy is an art. Humor relies not only on content (funny punchlines) but also on timing and “knowing the room.” Meaning, you have to know what will amuse the particular audience in front of you. As a visiting author, in one day, you’ll be presenting to audiences with very different funny bones.

Here are some guidelines: [Read more…]

What if I’m not a comedian and I can’t sing OR dance?

KimNorman_Gocio MarqueeI’m not a comedian either, but – while I can sing and dance – that doesn’t make me a better presenter, or put me in greater demand, than many of my school visit colleagues. Sure, it’s great if you have an extra talent/skill you can apply to your school  presentations. Do you juggle? Ride a unicycle? Know a few magic tricks? Those would all be cool to add into your presentation, but make sure they’re tied to your primary message as a visiting author. [Read more…]