The main thing I feel I can contribute to a classroom programme is to motivate students to love reading books and to love writing stories. Here are a few ways in which I try to do this when visiting schools:
- I'm a great fan of getting students involved in story telling. I have props, costumes and puppets which students use to take on different characters and help act out my stories. There is usually lots of laughter and the occasional star actor who brings my characters 'alive'. Hopefully my visits inspire students to read more – yes, because it helps learning, but also because it’s fun!
- I tell students my story about how I became a writer. This starts back with why I began writing when I was a young girl, right through to how I became a published author. I describe and show the process of crafting a story, the LOADS of drafts and recrafting that I go through, and then what happens when it’s accepted by a publisher. There are always more edits, then first proofs and, eventually the final product. What I hope students learn from this – especially students in the upper primary years – is that writing great stories isn’t easy for ANYONE. First drafts are usually not that good, and it takes perseverance and hard work to produce something you’re proud of.
- One of the things which characterise my writing is the use of sophisticated vocabulary, onomatopoeia and made up words. During my visits, there are lots of opportunities to discuss the meaning of words and extend students’ vocabulary. My hope is that students not only learn some new words, but see that you can have fun with language in order to impact your audience.
I have a loose format I follow when I am invited to visit schools, but which varies according to the ages of the children in each session.
I usually do sessions around 45 minutes long, and appreciate a small break in between for everyone to regroup. Around 5 – 10 minutes is good. It’s a bit chaotic when we dress up, and props need to be sorted for the next session.
I use PowerPoint for visual effect, and have the illustrations scanned so it is easy for the children to follow along.
My format is loosely as follows:
- Introduction and a little bit about how I started writing.
- Talk about the Kiwi Corkers series.
- Read a story, with volunteers to act it out.
- Talk about 'Scribbles to Books' - how a story becomes a published book. (PowerPoint)
- Possibly read another story or part thereof, talk about where ideas come from.
- Approximately 5 -10 minutes answering questions at the end.
I’m available for school visits through the NZ Council’s Writer in Schools programme.