Wednesday 14 March 2012

Author visits school - school prepares brilliantly

In preparation for their author visit, a school I went to this week had put on a 'Day' devoted to that author - who happened to be me. To avoid sounding as if this is one great vast bit of own-trumpet-blowing, I'll call the author in question Dave.

So Dave was due at the school on Monday. In the previous week, on the Wednesday, all the classes in the school looked at things that Dave had written, they put up on the walls some of Dave's work, they tried writing in a similar style to Dave - and found that they could. They produced fact files on Dave by going on line and looking at Dave's website and looking at other info. I think they did a Dave assembly and so on.

So, when Dave arrived, the children were immersed in Dave-ology.

Apart from this making Dave feel good and making him want to do his very best for every child in the school, it made Dave think about what this was doing for the children, their sense of language and literature (er...what is now called 'literacy', even though it's more than that word describes!)

If we think that part of our job in schools is to enable children to own literacy, to possess it, to be able to use it fluently and easily, to be able to get behind words on the page, words is use, so that they can get a sense of where the words they're reading come from, and why - then this whole episode seems to be a contribution in that direction.

The children now have a sense of where Dave is coming from. They made links between what Dave said (off the cuff, as it were), his prepared pieces (Dave is a poet), and things that people have said about Dave. So language is linked here to the person who is producing it. It's not a disembodied form of communication. Ironically though, by getting hold of this idea of words linked to specific people in a specific time, it enables children to understand and to move freely around language-in-use just that bit easier.

As it happens, Dave's performance makes reference all the time to getting hold of language (and non-English languages - eg the Yiddish his father spoke) so that language appears to be 'being made', 'being remembered' 'being contrasted' before their very eyes (er...ears, I mean.)

There is also a direct link between what Dave is saying (which appears to be anecdote) to the written words in his books - which the children had either read already or could read later in copies in the school.

Obviously, there are many ways to prepare for an author visit, but it seemed to Dave (and to me) that this was a particularly good way of doing it.

Please borrow, steal and adapt it.