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February 2, 2015

Build Reading Excitement With an Author Visit

By Brian Smith
Grades PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8

    High-stakes assessments take their toll on teachers and students on all grade levels. Teachers stay uber-focused on making sure that students can answer questions about what they read. But a result of teaching to the test can be that students are able to answer questions, but hate to read. I have always seen my objective as to create lifelong lovers of books.

    One way to make reading come alive for our students is with author visits. Authors will often make school visits, but are we as educators prepared to make the most of these opportunities? Here are some tricks to help make the most of these awesome educational events.

    The system that I proudly work in, Newton-Conover City Schools, recently hosted the author, Jarrett J. Krosoczka. He has written many books but we decided to focus his visit on his Lunch Lady graphic novel series. Once we decided on that series, we narrowed the focus to one grade level. We chose fourth grade because at this age, students can often feel disconnected to reading. One of the great things about focusing in on one grade level is that it can be a more personal experience for all of the students.

    To build excitement for Krosoczka’s visit we planned several fun events.

    Contest

    We planned two contests for the fourth graders in the participating schools. Since the Lunch Lady books are graphic novels, it made sense for our contest to include the reading and visual aspects of the books. The first contest was an essay challenge in which students wrote about how they make a difference in the world.

    The second contest was a visual one in which all students were given this graphic novel sheet and were asked to create their own villain for the Lunch Lady to defeat. This was a great activity to allow students to be creative and to practice their summarization skills because they only had six frames to convey their original story.

    All the fourth grade entries were judged and district winners were selected. The first place winners for each contest received a full set of Lunch Lady books signed by the author and lunch with the author at a local restaurant. The district-wide second and third place winners were also recognized and received autographed books.

    Lunch Ladies

    Whole-School Activities

    Our cafeteria staff contributed to the fun of our Lunch Lady author visit. They dressed up as the Lunch Lady character by wearing yellow aprons and gloves. Seeing everyone around the school supporting reading sends a very positive message that reading is important to everyone. The media coordinators also got in the act by collecting the contest entries.

     

    Heather Mullins as the Lunch Lady

    Pictures

    Pairing with a Newton-Conover high school teacher, we were able to get a great character cutout made. Every fourth grader in the participating schools had their picture taken as the Lunch Lady. The paint only cost $12, and it provided immeasurable fun for the students. It will also provide a great reminder for each student about that time in fourth grade when they fell in love with the Lunch Lady books!

     

    Like a Boss Word Bubble

    Student/Author Connection

    One of the best ideas that I have ever come up with for author visits is to spend a few dollars on poster boards. For this author visit, we gave each student a half of a piece of poster board.

    Right before the author visit, each student drew a word bubble (Lunch Lady is a graphic novel so the word bubble was the obvious choice) on their board and cut it out. They then wrote a question that they wanted to ask the author during the visit. This worked better than I could have ever imagined. When Krosoczka asked for questions, all the fourth graders held up their word bubbles. Many of the questions the author may have already answered in his presentation, but by doing a Q&A session in this way, each student was acknowledged, and felt that they had a connecting experience with the guest author. This also worked to ensure that they were thinking about the books. So many of the questions were very thoughtful. It was great to see how excited they were about the books that they had read.

    Books

    Of course, with any author visit, you want the students to read the author’s work. In this case, we wanted students to have access to all 10 titles in the Lunch Lady series. To help Lunch Lady Bookswith this, I applied for an Innovative Grant and was awarded enough money to purchase one book for each fourth grader in the participating schools. I ordered equal numbers of all 10 books and made sure that when books were passed out in the classroom, there were plenty of each of the titles in that classroom.

    Students read the book they were given and then traded with each other. Well over half of the students in the 10 participating classes had read all 10 books before his visit! That is a lot reading that the students were excited to accomplish.

    Each student had a book to keep after the visit, although it was rarely the same title that they initially received. Funding this particular activity can be tricky, but there is plenty of grant money out there from companies that want to support education. Getting books in the hands of kids is something tangible that people with grant money love to support.

    Take it from me:

    • Planning is key, so make sure that you allow yourself plenty of time to apply for the grant and don’t schedule the event until after you know that your book money is secure.

    • Be frugal in the grant application. Organizations that supply grant money want to see that their money is doing the most good, so shop around. Scholastic Reading Club does a great job of getting their flyers up early so you have time to choose books. If you can order 300 books for $3 apiece, that speaks volumes about your dedication to making the grant money go as far as possible.

    Pizza Bookmarks

     

    A Takeaway

    With the last few dollars, I was able to buy every student a takeaway. I shared with a great friend of mine about Krosoczka’s Lunch Lady visit, and she found these fantastic pizza bookmarks that went perfectly with my Lunch Lady themed events. I was able to order 400 of them for less than $20. The students loved them.

     

     

     

    Community Sponsors

    When looking at organizing an event, don’t hesitate to ask for help. We were very fortunate that a local hotel donated a night stay for Krosoczka. A local restaurant donated a gift card for the author/contest winner’s lunch. We invited Dr. David Stegall, Newton-Conover’s superintendent, and many other administrators from our central office to the lunch, which provided paying customers to thank the restaurant for its generosity. Our local bookstore also donated items as prizes for our two contests. All of our sponsors were prominently displayed on all materials about the event that went home to parents, and to the media.

    Jarrett Krosoczka and meFinding an Author

    When I initially planned our Lunch Lady Day, the author visit was a pie-in-the-sky dream. However, all of the other activities would have still occurred even if we weren’t able to get Krosoczka to come to our schools. Since we were fortunate enough to make his visit a reality, by the time he arrived, the students looked at him like he was rock star! Isn't that a terrific objective to achieve?

    Author Resources

    Many authors have their own web pages that include information about their books, activities to accompany their work, and information about their school visits. Another fantastic option, if you are interested in finding an author for a visit, is using Scholastic's website. Authors are listed alphabetically and it's so easy to navigate.

    Leave a comment below or tag me on Twitter, @dad2ella, with your favorite author that you have had come visit your school. You can also find me on Pinterest.

    I can't wait to see you next week.

    High-stakes assessments take their toll on teachers and students on all grade levels. Teachers stay uber-focused on making sure that students can answer questions about what they read. But a result of teaching to the test can be that students are able to answer questions, but hate to read. I have always seen my objective as to create lifelong lovers of books.

    One way to make reading come alive for our students is with author visits. Authors will often make school visits, but are we as educators prepared to make the most of these opportunities? Here are some tricks to help make the most of these awesome educational events.

    The system that I proudly work in, Newton-Conover City Schools, recently hosted the author, Jarrett J. Krosoczka. He has written many books but we decided to focus his visit on his Lunch Lady graphic novel series. Once we decided on that series, we narrowed the focus to one grade level. We chose fourth grade because at this age, students can often feel disconnected to reading. One of the great things about focusing in on one grade level is that it can be a more personal experience for all of the students.

    To build excitement for Krosoczka’s visit we planned several fun events.

    Contest

    We planned two contests for the fourth graders in the participating schools. Since the Lunch Lady books are graphic novels, it made sense for our contest to include the reading and visual aspects of the books. The first contest was an essay challenge in which students wrote about how they make a difference in the world.

    The second contest was a visual one in which all students were given this graphic novel sheet and were asked to create their own villain for the Lunch Lady to defeat. This was a great activity to allow students to be creative and to practice their summarization skills because they only had six frames to convey their original story.

    All the fourth grade entries were judged and district winners were selected. The first place winners for each contest received a full set of Lunch Lady books signed by the author and lunch with the author at a local restaurant. The district-wide second and third place winners were also recognized and received autographed books.

    Lunch Ladies

    Whole-School Activities

    Our cafeteria staff contributed to the fun of our Lunch Lady author visit. They dressed up as the Lunch Lady character by wearing yellow aprons and gloves. Seeing everyone around the school supporting reading sends a very positive message that reading is important to everyone. The media coordinators also got in the act by collecting the contest entries.

     

    Heather Mullins as the Lunch Lady

    Pictures

    Pairing with a Newton-Conover high school teacher, we were able to get a great character cutout made. Every fourth grader in the participating schools had their picture taken as the Lunch Lady. The paint only cost $12, and it provided immeasurable fun for the students. It will also provide a great reminder for each student about that time in fourth grade when they fell in love with the Lunch Lady books!

     

    Like a Boss Word Bubble

    Student/Author Connection

    One of the best ideas that I have ever come up with for author visits is to spend a few dollars on poster boards. For this author visit, we gave each student a half of a piece of poster board.

    Right before the author visit, each student drew a word bubble (Lunch Lady is a graphic novel so the word bubble was the obvious choice) on their board and cut it out. They then wrote a question that they wanted to ask the author during the visit. This worked better than I could have ever imagined. When Krosoczka asked for questions, all the fourth graders held up their word bubbles. Many of the questions the author may have already answered in his presentation, but by doing a Q&A session in this way, each student was acknowledged, and felt that they had a connecting experience with the guest author. This also worked to ensure that they were thinking about the books. So many of the questions were very thoughtful. It was great to see how excited they were about the books that they had read.

    Books

    Of course, with any author visit, you want the students to read the author’s work. In this case, we wanted students to have access to all 10 titles in the Lunch Lady series. To help Lunch Lady Bookswith this, I applied for an Innovative Grant and was awarded enough money to purchase one book for each fourth grader in the participating schools. I ordered equal numbers of all 10 books and made sure that when books were passed out in the classroom, there were plenty of each of the titles in that classroom.

    Students read the book they were given and then traded with each other. Well over half of the students in the 10 participating classes had read all 10 books before his visit! That is a lot reading that the students were excited to accomplish.

    Each student had a book to keep after the visit, although it was rarely the same title that they initially received. Funding this particular activity can be tricky, but there is plenty of grant money out there from companies that want to support education. Getting books in the hands of kids is something tangible that people with grant money love to support.

    Take it from me:

    • Planning is key, so make sure that you allow yourself plenty of time to apply for the grant and don’t schedule the event until after you know that your book money is secure.

    • Be frugal in the grant application. Organizations that supply grant money want to see that their money is doing the most good, so shop around. Scholastic Reading Club does a great job of getting their flyers up early so you have time to choose books. If you can order 300 books for $3 apiece, that speaks volumes about your dedication to making the grant money go as far as possible.

    Pizza Bookmarks

     

    A Takeaway

    With the last few dollars, I was able to buy every student a takeaway. I shared with a great friend of mine about Krosoczka’s Lunch Lady visit, and she found these fantastic pizza bookmarks that went perfectly with my Lunch Lady themed events. I was able to order 400 of them for less than $20. The students loved them.

     

     

     

    Community Sponsors

    When looking at organizing an event, don’t hesitate to ask for help. We were very fortunate that a local hotel donated a night stay for Krosoczka. A local restaurant donated a gift card for the author/contest winner’s lunch. We invited Dr. David Stegall, Newton-Conover’s superintendent, and many other administrators from our central office to the lunch, which provided paying customers to thank the restaurant for its generosity. Our local bookstore also donated items as prizes for our two contests. All of our sponsors were prominently displayed on all materials about the event that went home to parents, and to the media.

    Jarrett Krosoczka and meFinding an Author

    When I initially planned our Lunch Lady Day, the author visit was a pie-in-the-sky dream. However, all of the other activities would have still occurred even if we weren’t able to get Krosoczka to come to our schools. Since we were fortunate enough to make his visit a reality, by the time he arrived, the students looked at him like he was rock star! Isn't that a terrific objective to achieve?

    Author Resources

    Many authors have their own web pages that include information about their books, activities to accompany their work, and information about their school visits. Another fantastic option, if you are interested in finding an author for a visit, is using Scholastic's website. Authors are listed alphabetically and it's so easy to navigate.

    Leave a comment below or tag me on Twitter, @dad2ella, with your favorite author that you have had come visit your school. You can also find me on Pinterest.

    I can't wait to see you next week.

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