Setting Up in One Location
I'm no diva, but I've got one strong request: please arrange for the programs to take place in one set location during the day (or one location before lunch, another after lunch).
Why? I've found that moving from classroom to classroom guarantees a lesser program.
I've been visiting schools for 25 years now, and I've learned what makes for the most effective presentation. My goal—and yours—is for the students to get the most out of the presentations, and for the PTO / school funds to go as far as possible.
What's the difference?
• Moving from classroom to classroom is NOT simple. Even with a cart. Or plenty of helpers.
These presentations are not "mobile storytelling." If I have to pack up all of my gear, move it to another site and unpack it, more time is required between sessions, meaning less valuable time spent with students. Furthermore, it's more disruptive to the classroom—attention is pulled away from the teacher the moment I enter the room and begin to set up, and while I'm packing up and out the door after the program.
• I present from a "stage set" of a draped table, books on display and an easel, which creates a sense of anticipation in students. ("What's on that table? What ELSE is he going to show us?"). It's impossible to re-create this stage set in individual classrooms, due to space and scheduling pressures, and we lose the benefit of that anticipatory feeling.
• Student behavior and attention:
• In their classroom, students feel too much "at home." The classroom is their space, and invariably there are more "serial sharers" and disruptive behaviors than in a set-aside location. Students arrive at a set-aside location with an understanding that this program is different from their usual daily routine, and that they're to be on their best behavior.
• Students are different today. Teachers know that today's young students are different from previous generations, due to a variety of factors (electronic devices, absence of unscheduled play, testing pressures, etc.). Their core muscle strength and attention levels are lower than in the past, and everything we can do to encourage their successful participation in a program is essential. Having a "special space" for the program enables students to be at their best.
• Teacher involvement: I love having teachers involved in my programs. Nothing is better than an enthusiastic teacher who asks questions during a presentation! After an author visit, teachers can "blame" the author ("Remember what the author said? Great details are important in a story!"), and third-party reinforcement of what teachers tell their students is known to have a lasting effect.
However, teachers today are under enormous pressures to accomplish miracles, and I've found that if I present in classrooms, teacher participation drops off dramatically. If the teacher is not a part of the program, it becomes a one-shot experience for students, and the curricular messages may not last for the remainder of the school year.
I appreciate your efforts to find a single set-up space for the programs. Let's work together to make them as positive and effective for your students as possible!