Tuesday, February 1, 2011

First Skype Author Visit

Last week after much wrangling with my county to allow us to do this, we had our first Skype visit with author Melissa Stewart.
I first learned about Melissa last year from Twitter - one day I tweeted about doing a reader's theater project and she tweeted back to me to check out her website, she had some reader's theater scripts on there. As it turned out, I had just ordered her books for the library that she had scripts for! I used the scripts with my class, we created a slide show/podcast with the reader's theater, which I put up on this blog and Melissa saw it. She linked to it on her blog and it made my kids DAY - I mean, how COOL to have an author put your work on her blog!!! So, Melissa and I talked about a school visit (she wasn't heading to Georgia anytime soon) and she suggested a Skype visit. Great idea, I thought, until I had to deal with my county telling me it wasn't possible.
So fast forward to this school year and I was determined to make it happen! With the help of my district media coordinator, we convinced the county technology department to let me do this. Originally they wanted me to use a different software to conduct the visit, but ended up letting me use Skype (but I have been told that any future virtual author visits need to use the other software). It helped that Melissa was on board no matter what software we had to use for the visit - and that made it so much less stressful for me to know that she was willing to work with me on this.
So then FINALLY last week was the day. I had my two reader's theater classes in the media center for the visit (about 28 students). The students had written questions the week before when we met and we had talked about what is an appropriate question to ask and what is not (not asking How old are you but maybe ask When did you start writing instead..). My partner in crime for this class - the 4th grade gifted teacher Mrs. Zawacki - typed the questions up and made copies for the whole class and we highlighted the questions WE thought were the most important to ask her. I had done a test Skype with Melissa earlier in the day and we had determined that we would mostly have the kids ask questions to her during the visit. I think the visit went FABULOUS and the kids were SOOO excited about the while thing. Most exciting for Janet and I was the advice that Melissa gave to our students about writing a reader's theater, since our students will be writing their own as our next unit. The students blogged about it after and you can read their reflections here and here.
I can't wait to do this again, I think having a smaller group (under 30 kids) works out best and definitely having a group write questions before speeds things along and makes for a better visit (I think this applies for any author visit!) I also think that since we have spent SOO much time with Melissa's books that it really meant more to the students than if we had a Skype visit with an author they were not as familiar with. I can totally see doing this again, maybe with my 4th grade book group or maybe with another class that has done an author study on a particular author.
Here is author/teacher Kate Messner's great article on author Skype visits to get you started.


Jim Randolph said...

Good for you. I didn't think this was possible in this county. What's the "other" software?

Kathy said...

Jim - if you want to do something like this email me - it is not exactly easy, but hopefully I have "paved the way" for more things like this to happen in our schools! I don't know what the "other" software is, they didn't tell me, other than it is something the system has purchased.

Kim said...

Hi Again! I wonder if I'll be asking questions on everyone of your posts... hopefully not or you'll be sick of me!

I'm looking at the picture of your Skype setup and wondering what sort of projector screen you have. I am in the process of trying to get one for my library. Are you happy with yours?

Kathy said...

Hi Kim - actually the "screen" we were using is a Smartboard that no longer works. I have another screen in my computer area and it is mounted to the ceiling. I have no idea what kind it is though, our county purchased it and installed it a few years ago.