EVENT KNOWHOW Special School Visits 2

In our Event Knowhow series, Elaine Cline, Fiona Barker and Sarah Morrell explore visits to special schools and today, you are on your way in for the big event!

So, your bags are packed and you’ve made it to the school! Today is the big day.

If you’ve done your preparation right, you’ll have something to engage all the learners’ senses.
Reading will tick the sound box and your song with actions will reinforce that and introduce movement. Now’s the time to put your Makaton preparation into practice. Any sort of audience participation goes down really well.

Break out your props
They could be something linked to your story to hold, touch, smell or even taste (but do check for allergies first!). Take the props to the learners. Calling them up to collect or use something can be disruptive for the class dynamic and some students may have mobility issues.

Craft activities
Practical things like craft activities always work best in a classroom setting that the learners are familiar with. This means they might need to be done after your session if it is taking place somewhere else, for example in the hall or library.

Repetition of your theme
Even if you are changing focus/activity every 5-10 mins, repetition and reinforcing the theme of your story is really helpful. When you change activity, clearly signpost what is happening. Learners with additional needs often need to understand and process what is coming next before it happens. Varying activity is good but a madcap, hi-octane run through ten activities in 30 minutes will overwhelm these learners. If you appear to be calm and in control, they will be more able to relax and enjoy your session.

Prepare to be flexible
The groups you work with might have very different developmental levels. Be prepared to be flexible and change what you had planned for a particular group if it is clear they need something different when you meet them in person. When working with older learners, be wary of talking down to them. A KS5 group could be addressing content that you would normally do with KS2 or KS3 children but they might be aged 17 or 18. They might still need repetition and will benefit from using props etc just like their younger peers but consider ‘aging up’ the props. For example, you might use real money instead of pretend. They relish being spoken to and included as young adults.

If you are approached by a special school, we would urge you to say yes! Just like all readers, learners with additional needs benefit tremendously from having an author visit. You’ll end the day tired but happy. And hopefully, the learners will too!

You can find part 1 of Special School Visit KnowHow here.

Main Image by Wokandapix from Pixabay

L-R Elaine Cine, Fiona Barker, Sarah Morrell

Elaine Cline (pictured left) is an unagented member of SCBWI. She has taught for nearly 30 years in primary mainstream and also across all key stages in specialist schools (broad spectrum, PMLD/SLD, MLD, ASD).

Fiona Barker (pictured centre) writes picture books and is represented by Alice Williams. Her picture book, illustrated by fellow SCBWI member Howard Gray, Danny and the Dream Dog is published by Tiny Tree Children’s Books. Fiona enjoys sign language and leads a pop-up sign language choir. 

Sarah Morrell (pictured right) is a self-published picture book author with one book in print (The King and the Cockerel) and another due out early Autumn (Molly’s Magic Brolly). She is a Criminologist, mum of three and currently on a career break from HMRC to focus on her writing. 


Eleanor Pender is Knowhow Editor. If there's something you'd like to know how to do, send your suggestions to knowhow@britishscbwi.org

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