Over the summer School Library Journal floated out the idea that many children’s authors would consider doing a free 20′ Skype author visit. That sounded just great to a third grade teacher and me. We scoured the list for the authors with the most appeal to our kids and sent a few Tweets to inquire. No dice. (But we’re not giving up!)
But in the meantime, I had also heard from Michelle Bayuk, head of marketing for Albert Whitman, that Whitman was going to launch five Twitter feeds: one for the narrator of the Boxcar Children and one in the voice of each of the four characters.
AND, as I’ve mentioned before, I learned that the Boxcar Children (which remains a favorite with our second and third graders) is now a graphic novels series!
There was just one hurdle: how could we connect our young learners with the five Twitter feeds without having them log into Twitter (which restricts access to users over 13) and with all the feeds appearing on one page? We just wanted the Boxcar Twitter feeds, not everything else.
Leave it to my intrepid (and, sadly, about to depart) student teacher Raya, who figured out a way to get the Twitter feeds we need and embed them into our new media center wiki. Voila! We had what we needed.
Now we had a cool opportunity to talk about how there are many ways to tell a story in the 21st century: with “regular” books, with graphic novels, AND with (a safe version of) Twitter.
Our wheels started turning. Would Michelle consider Skyping with our kids?
Michelle had an even more interesting idea: let Boxcar ghostwriter and editor Wendy McClure do the interview!
So we planned a three-day set of activities in lieu of the regular book talks we give when kids come to check out:
- Day One: Introduce/re-introduce kids to Chapter 1 of the chapter book, graphic novel, and Twitter feed
- Day Two: Talk about the role of an editor, with a role-play in which I played the author and Raya and the class played the editor. (See our efforts on Etherpad – a wonderful tool! – here). Talk about what comprises a good interview question.
- Day Three: In classrooms, kids and teachers worked HARD to create great questions. They then came to the media center for the interview!
Wow! Our kids did a phenomenal job. Even with a double-class, they were glued to the screen, poised, attentive, and did ask great questions. Best of all, they listened for the answers because the answers mattered to them.
We didn’t have the typical author visit, but we had something that empowered our kids to do their best and to think more deeply. And next time they get a paper back from their teacher with editing suggestions, I bet they’ll think just a bit more about how all authors have editors, even the famous ones!
Thanks so much to Michelle and Wendy for giving our kids the chance to dig into some authentic work and to feel proud of their results. There is a wonderful feeling that comes over a media center when kids are really engaged with what they are learning about, and we’ve had three great days of that.
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