As we all know, many school districts have had their funding decimated. Even though I love staying at a school all day and teaching writing workshops to individual classes, I receive many more invitations to give a single talk at a big school assembly. Rather than turn down these invitations, I’ve put together a colorful, fast-paced, and entertaining presentation that will keep 200 students (many of whom are NOT into books) interested.
Big assemblies are scary, but they do go much better if you can get the kids involved. I try to ask lots of questions and find ways to get students to stand up and be a part of my presentation. I show funny pictures of myself reading when I was a kid and tell stories of my childhood misadventures while I’m communicating to students how important and fun it is to read, write and daydream.
I close my presentation by having three student volunteers come up and put on scuba gear, including snorkels, a tank and fins. Then I have my volunteers give a marine fashion show to their peers. By doing so, they help to illustrate the point that many books grow from the simple question, “What if?”
What if we didn’t have to wear all this cumbersome gear to live in the sea? That’s the “what if” question that led to my writing The Neptune Project, a story about genetically altered teens fighting to survive in the sea. Even the sleepy, bored jocks in the back row sit up when I start talking about the time I was bitten by a rattlesnake, or when their best friend clomps by them wearing dive fins.
Think about something tangible and interesting that you can bring in to a school that will grab and hold the kids’ attention. Yeah, it’s a bit gimmicky, but remember, you’re fighting for the attention of a generation who can build and destroy entire civilizations in an hour playing a computer game!
Here’s one more quick hint. If you can find a way to make your presentation help to fulfill state testing requirements, librarians or teachers are much more apt to get funding from their principals and PTA’s for your visit.
I still haven’t figured out the perfect presentation that will meet Texas state requirements plus my own in the fun and interesting department, but I’m working on it!