Ten Ways to Enhance a School Visit

Ms. Deyamport and her fifth grade class at Thames Elementary could serve as a model for this how-to blog. I visited them yesterday for my “Katz to Keats” presentation about Ezra Jack Keats.

Of course, it is important for a visiting writer to be prepared with a good presentation, but the visit is enhanced by advance preparation and participation of the teacher and the class. Here are ten things I noticed that might be helpful to others who want to get the most from hearing a speaker, whether it is in a school setting or somewhere else.

1.    The poised student who came to the office to escort me to the room made me feel welcome. She told me how they had been anticipating my visit with my name on the board.

2.    The students were eager to show me the books they had found as they followed my pre-visit suggestion that they look in their library for books showing our diverse American culture. They seemed to share my pleasure that one of their books, A Bus of Our Own, was written by my good friend Freddi Williams Evans.

3.    The class obviously had read books critically on a regular basis before I came. Students were able to answer vocabulary questions related to reading and recognized authors I mentioned and could tell me what they had written.

4.    Students were seated in an optimal semi-circular fashion in their desks so everyone could see and participate.

5.    As the teacher saw a need to move a couple of children to better participation angles, she did it without fanfare or interruption to the discussion.

6.    The teacher modeled good listening practices. If she had lesson plans to do or papers to grade, they were not in evidence.

7.    The students listened carefully, made contributions that stayed on topic, and responded thoughtfully to questions I asked.

8.    At the end of my presentation, they asked good questions indicating that they had been thinking as well as listening.

9.    They thanked me without prompting for the Ezra Jack Keats bookmarks I brought!

10.    We exchanged blog addresses before I left. I checked theirs out when I got home and found some creative and practical projects that used math, reading, and critical thinking skills. I’m hoping they check mine out as well.