Thursday, January 12, 2012

Author Visit: Center School

On Tuesday I had the absolute pleasure of visiting Ms. Donlon's fifth grade class at Center School in Simsbury.

Ms. Donlon (a.k.a. Heather, to those of you who know me) is a very good friend of mine and she wondered if I'd be interested in coming in and talking about my revision process with the kids.

I LOVE going into the classroom any chance I get.  It's such good experience for me.  So I talked with Heather about the kinds of things that they teach in 5th grade, and I made my presentation trying to highlight the aspects of revision that we share.

Of course, I could probably talk for a couple hours on plot alone - so it's somewhat tricky to discuss plot, character, dialogue, verb tense, strong verbs, etc. in one hour without being overwhelming.  But I tried to touch on a lot of different things, include examples, and places where the kids could solve problems and do rewrites.

It went pretty well.

When I'm on my game doing school visit after school visit, I can usually run a group like this pretty smoothly.  But I hadn't done a presentation since last Spring and I'm not used to fifth graders, so I have to admit I maybe had a little too much fun.  Fifth graders are funny!

Here's what I learned about my presentation:

I need to ask specific questions.  I put a chunk from the first draft of Wink on the board and asked them what was wrong with it.  The answer was the verb tense switched from present to past.  But they were saying all sorts of things!  They weren't right about what they were saying, but clearly it was too vague a question.  I need to tweak that and ask, "Which verb is in the wrong tense?"

Be careful with nicknames.  I can't always remember everyone's name.  I'm pretty good, but some escape me.  What I usually do in this situation is call the child by his/her shirt.  So if there's a girl in a Hello Kitty shirt - I call her Hello Kitty.  Simple enough.  Well, there were two boys named Kevin.*
One had kind of wild hair and the other had glasses.  So I called them Kevin Hair and Kevin Glasses.  Everything seemed to go smoothly, but I found out later that Kevin Glasses is not in love with his glasses.  Heather couldn't tell if he liked the nickname or not, but most likely, he did not.  Of course, I am mortified.  What I'll try to remember is kids usually have some control in picking their clothes - so if they wear it, they like it.  But kids don't have control over their glasses, freckles, braces, etc.  So I'll try to remember not to make mention of any of those things.  (I hope he wasn't upset.  Sorry Kevin.)

I can't spell dialogue.  Kinda.  Here's what happened.  I presented a visual slide where narrative was balanced with dialog on a teeter-totter.  And that's just how I spelled it.  Dialog.  One girl raised her hand to correct me.  I asked how you spelled it and she pulled out her dictionary and spelled d-i-a-l-o-g-u-e.  OH, WAS SHE PLEASED WITH HERSELF!  And that's totally cool.  I wasn't embarrassed.  I explained that I made a mistake and thanked the girl for pointing it out.  Only guess what?  I wasn't wrong.  I looked it up.  Both are correct.  Dialogue is Old English.  Dialog is a more modern but still accepted way of spelling it.  In your face, Girl!  I'm totally kidding.  I'm glad she felt proud of herself.  But I'm also glad I don't have to change the slide.  :)

THANKS SO MUCH to Ms. Donlon's class.  I had so much fun!  You kids were FABULOUS!

*Kevin is not actually the name of the boys.


Angela said...

Sounds like a great visit! I guess I am a bit "old english" too!

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