So you’re interested in bringing authors into your classroom via Skype? Fantastic! Author Skype visits are incredible experiences for our students and encourage authentic connections with writers. Here are some tips to ensure a smooth and meaningful Skype visit:
- Research authors who Skype and their books on the websites provided in this post. Is there a book that will fit into your classroom (as a whole-class, small group or read-aloud)?
- Contact the author before ordering any books to make sure that the information on the Skype visits is current (I contacted Kate Messner prior to ordering her books from our Scholastic Book order for our I Love Books! Club)
- Confirm with your principal and building technology coordinator that Skype can be used in the building. Outline your reasons for using the technology.
- Begin reading the book with your group of students (I have done this both in a small-group and whole class). Provide students an index card to write down questions about the story, writing process or even the writer’s life. Preview the questions ahead of time.
- Confirm the time and date with the author. (If possible, exchange phone numbers in case of technical glitches and practice using the technology at school)
- Prepare students for the visit. Remind them of appropriate speaker etiquette. Just because the author is on the computer does not mean that he or she cannot see you. Making goofy faces or calling out in a large group would not be appropriate.
- Decide on the set-up of the room. For our visit with Kate Messner, I had students pull chairs around the computer/web-cam and had a computer hooked up to our SMARTboard.
- Decide on how Q+A session will work ahead of time. Will you ask all of the questions written by the students? Will you have per-determined speakers? Will the student stand when he or she is reading a question? Many authors will leave time for questions at the end of their presentations so it is good to plan ahead for this.
- Be ready to troubleshoot. Lost connectivity could happen and you will need to dial up the author again. Be patient with the technology and let students know what do if there are glitches.
- Be sure to thank the author for his or her time. A follow-up e-mail is also appreciated.
Want to learn more about Skype? Kate Messner wrote an excellent article for the School Library Journal about her own experience with Skype visits. At the bottom of the article is another great list of authors who Skype for free!
I would love to hear more about your experience with Skype in the classroom in the comments below.