EVENTS Making the most of school visits

The dramatic late snow in Cambridge on a Sunday in mid-March was not enough to deter intrepid Scoobies from attending Part 2 of the fantastic School Visits Event, writes Camilla Chester.

The day was a follow-up to the general overview of school visits and assemblies that was run last year. Part 2 focused on delivery of Primary School Workshops and, like Part 1 was led by the inspirational Helen Moss and Benjamin Scott.

'Be clear what you want from workshops' says speaker Helen Moss.
We began by defining what a workshop is: the delivery of an author-led activity tailored to both the author’s expertise and the needs of the school. Helen and Ben worked as a dynamic duo, covering everything you might need to know about delivering successful school workshops:

The dos and dont's

For example: do play to your strengths, don’t try to be someone you’re not.

Practical tips

One top tip was, if the kids are too noisy or you’ve lost track of what you were saying do a collective calming in and out breath!

Alina Surnaite, Jeff Crosby and Anita Lehmann.

Examples of tried and tested workshops

For upper KS2 (years 5 & 6) Helen uses the Dangerous Workshop. This is where she encourages children to think about building suspense and slowing scenes right down. She uses powerpoint pictures of a cute cat, relaxing in front of the TV with a drink and popcorn. Nice, but not very exciting. She shows another picture of a terrified cat with its hair all up, its back arched and spitting and asks the children what could make the cat turn from one to the other.

Helen Moss and Benjamin Scott beside the Wall of Wonder.

She would then read a section from her own book where she had created suspense. Each child is given lots of small pieces of paper and they are timed and have to silently think of and write down all the scary settings and descriptive words, using all their senses they can think of.

Mellissa Norman, Kate Davis and Janet Bingham.

What to expect

Most importantly, children love meeting authors and will treat you with the same respect and authority as a teacher - if you expect that, it will happen.

How to be prepared

This included advice on how to ‘chunk’ up your activities into timed sections so you know exactly how long things will take, that way you can leave things out if you run out of time without other parts of the workshop being affected.

What you will need and resources you could prepare

Don’t assume that the school will provide what you need. Back up your presentation and bring the right cables!

Marjorie Mallon, Giulietta Spudich, Anna Cole and Debbie Edwards.

Other things we covered:

  • How to incorporate your own book
  • How to use your own knowledge and expertise
  • An overview on primary school structure and ability levels of year groups

It was a mine of useful information and everyone was feverishly writing down every pearl of wisdom and experience that Helen and Ben generously shared. After a break we were then tasked with creating our own workshops that we might deliver in schools, plus creating the spectacular Wall Of Wonder with our own books.

Most writers have one: the wall of crippling self-doubt.

The day finished with a Q&A and the opportunity for Ben and Helen to go back and quell the concerns we had posted up on the Wall of Crippling Self-Doubt and Mild/Extreme Panic!

Overall, an excellent balance of interactive activities and the passing on of essential information. An amazing. inspirational, fun, useful, creative, professional day.

Joan Longstaff, Katie Dale and Ruth Hatfield.

Janet Bingham, another workshop attendee, said:
Thank you, Debbie Edwards, Helen Moss and Benjamin Scott for organising and delivering a brilliant school visits workshop today. So much wisdom imparted. I think we all came away buzzing with ideas, and I can't wait to start putting them into practice. Helen and Ben - you're a fine double act!

* All photos: Camilla Chester

Camilla writes for 8-12s. She has always written fiction, but after moving to Hertfordshire with her family in 2010, she enrolled onto an OU Creative Writing Course, joined several writing groups and then discovered SCBWI before publishing her debut, Jarred Dreams in 2016. Camilla’s second book EATS was out at the end of April 2017 and her third, Thirteenth Wish is due to be published in April 2018. In addition to being a children’s author Camilla runs a small dog-walking business.

No comments:

We love comments and really appreciate the time it takes to leave one.
Interesting and pithy reactions to a post are brilliant but we also LOVE it when people just say they've read and enjoyed.
We've made it easy to comment by losing the 'are you human?' test, which means we get a lot of spam. Fortunately, Blogger recognises these, so most, if not all, anonymous comments are deleted without reading.

Words & Pictures is the Online Magazine of SCBWI British Isles. Powered by Blogger.