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Reasons to do school talks...

Cheryl's Musings: Reasons to do school talks...

Cheryl's Musings

How to Thrive on the Writer's Road


Reasons to do school talks...

...even if you aren't published in the book genre.
  1. For the experience: most professional authors bring in a significant portion of their income from speaking engagements, so it never hurts to start figuring out what works and what doesn't work.

  2. To encourage kids to read or write or both.

  3. For the opportunity to ask kids questions.

  4. For the opportunity to talk to teachers.

  5. To spark ideas for new articles or books.

  6. Because it's fun!
Cynthia Leitich-Smith's blog contains a great post on doing school visits (which I read just after speaking to three separate classrooms full of 5th graders yesterday!): The ABC's of School Visits.

If you're an introvert, speaking in front of a classroom of kids may seem daunting, but it's entirely do-able--with some practice and preparation. Here are a few of Cheryl's tips for keeping the kids engaged (because engaged kids are happy kids!)

  1. Prepare, prepare, prepare! I prepared my talk as a Powerpoint presentation (and wow, is it easier to speak to a group when you have slides to show), then practiced until I could go through it with minimal help from notes. If you're stumbling through your words, the kids will lose interest.

  2. Lots of eye contact and interaction with the kids. I like to ask lots of questions when I'm speaking, questions such as:

    - What things have you wondered about that might make good article or paper topics? (answers included: Why does my cat think she's a dog? Why does your nose get all stuffed up when you have a cold? And, why do some people get sick when they try to read in the car and others don't?)

    - If you were writing about this topic (I spoke on the Red Gulch Dinosaur Tracksite), how would you narrow the topic?

    - Which of these cool facts would you want to include in the story?
  3. Mix plenty of pictures and fun stories into your talk.

  4. Practice your talk in front of a mirror with a focus on movement. Movement, facial expression, variations in voice tone and volume--these are all tricks that presenters can use to help keep kids engaged. Practice being big! Wave your arms! Stand on tip toes! Make eye contact! Get excited! And they'll get excited along with you.

  5. Finally, have a stash of small pieces of candy available (with the teacher's permission) to toss to kids who answer questions. Participation will skyrocket :).
I spoke about writing nonfiction to the 5th graders of my local elementary school yesterday morning. We went through the process I used when writing "Walking Like a Dinosaur", which appeared in the September 2008 issue of Highlights for Children. The kids especially appreciated all the cool info about dinosaurs; the teachers especially appreciated my emphasis on rewriting. It was exhausting, but great!
:) Cheryl

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At November 19, 2008 at 7:23 AM , Blogger Kim Baise said...

This is wonderful advice. My sister and I have a book coming out in the Spring and I plan to do some classroom and library visits.
Thanks for the tips!

At November 23, 2008 at 6:34 PM , Blogger Cheryl Reif said...

You're welcome--I'll look forward to hearing more from you when you visit with your book. Congrats!!


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