Now that summer is in full swing, and we’ll inevitably be heading back to school soon, teachers start thinking about the many experiences and challenges they and their new students will face. One experience you may not have thought of is to bring a guest speaker into your classroom? Nowadays, students have to meet so many writing and reading standards, that bringing an author to the class doesn’t sound like a bad idea. But you’ve probably heard that it takes a lot of planning, it’s time consuming and so expensive. Well, sit back and RELAX. Bringing an author to your school is EASY and potentially FREE. But the most important factor to consider: An author visit could make your job EASIER. How? Check out these 5 ways kids (and teachers!) benefit from a guest author visit:
- Authors get kids excited about reading and writing. Kids’ facial expressions don’t lie. You can read excitement in their faces when an author talks to and reads to them. When they meet the author and hear about their experiences and struggles in the publishing world, kids relate it to their own struggles, maybe, in reading or writing class. During one of my visits, a fourth grader asked me how to deal with his writer’s block. Another asked me what book I could recommend because he wasn’t ‘the reading type’. Often after a visit I hear kids telling me that they will publish a book one day too. I believe them! And I’d like to think that I had something to do with it. Imagine how cool it is when kids get excited about books! And how amazing it is when kids brag about personally knowing an author!
- Authors will side with you and validate you as a teacher. Yes, you have said some things to your students over and over and over again. But the reality is that it will sink in when they hear it from an author! During my visits, I remind children that reading and writing go hand in hand. On one visit, I had a teacher nodding vigorously at my statement. It was her way of saying, “See? I told you so!” Another time, a kid asked me if I write using the writing strategies they are taught at school (prewriting, drafting, etc.). The teacher felt relieved when I explained to my audience the importance of learning those writing strategies.
- Kids realize that writing a book is NOT impossible. When kids interact with an author they realize that authors are down-to-earth, fun and friendly creatures. They might also discover they have a lot in common. In one of the segments on a typical visit, I tell children, “Did you know that writers come from outer space?” Kids laugh. I tell them that we, writers, are people SO special, we are very different from them. Then I point at ‘The Parts of a Writer’. At the end, in what started as a simple, silly game, children understand that they have the parts of a writer too. Creativity is not only for the few. Anyone can create. Anyone can write. That’s the message.
- Kids make connections and feel important. When children talk to an author and get their questions answered, they are making an important connection. But it can go beyond, especially if the guest is someone from a minority group. This visit will help break stereotypes and prejudice. For kids who are part of the minority, that visit can feel inspiring and sometimes, life changing. When I visit a school, children from the Latino community love to hear me speak in Spanish. I can tell that they identify with me and they feel proud of someone who they can relate to. For students whose first language isn’t English, a visit from a non-native English speaker can be eye-opening and encouraging.
- Author visits are F-U-N! Yes, author visits can bring a lot of excitement into the classroom. I’ve had kids ask me if I could come back the next day! A visit takes kids out of their usual routine and brings a breath of fresh air to the learning environment. A good guest speaker will have experience talking to children and will have a planned lesson to keep children motivated and engaged throughout the visit.
I’ve always thought that the best teachers are those who are dedicated and go above and beyond to provide their students with creative tools and alternative ways of learning. It doesn’t have to be stressful or overwhelming, though. Bringing in an author and letting that author be your partner in education, will have a bigger impact on your students than reading a passage from a text book. Authors are passionate about words, books and education. Let that passion be contagious.
And now the question: But, how do I get an author to come to my classroom without breaking the bank? That will be the topic of my next post! In the meantime, you can go to my website, www.marianallanos.com, and learn how I manage to visit schools all around the world!