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Naturally Curious

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  • Katie Vetro

A Few Tips for Skyping an Author from Your Classroom


Photo by Laurie Sullivan. No copyright infringement intended.

When I taught fourth/fifth grade one of the highlights each year was giving my classroom the opportunity to speak with a real, live author. They'd read the book! They were fans! And now... here was the author, live on our whiteboard. What?!


My classes got to speak to some pretty spectacular authors, including Joanne Levy and Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen (who, by the way, taught my students a writing lesson)!! Amazing!


What most teachers don't know is that is easier than you'd expect to reach out to an author and request a short visit to your classroom. Kate Messner, the author of incredible middle-grade books my students loved like Capture the Flag and the Ranger in Time series, keeps an up-to-date list of authors willing to Skype with students and book groups. What a treasure! You can see the list by clicking on this link and going to her site!


A few tips...


1. Make a test call. Once you've got your Skype account set up, make a test call to someone on a different network than yours (so no, don't Skype the teacher next door)! Your connection may seem fine when setting up, but placing a call to someone from away will test the strength of your connection. I like to call my sister in Portland, Oregon!


2. Read the book first. It's exciting to talk to an author, but it is more exciting if everyone in the classroom has had the chance to read and enjoy the writing. A classroom read aloud, paired with a visit, creates a better experience for everyone because students will really appreciate meeting an author they've read.


3. Keep it short. The authors on Kate Messner's list are amazingly generous to take a moment from their busy schedules to talk to your classroom- and yours isn't the only one requesting. Authors who donate their time to make these free calls will appreciate you having an already-established set of questions that keeps the call to only 10 or so minutes.


4. Take to Twitter. Kate Messner's list is a perfect way to get started, but if you'd like the opportunity to participate in a longer Skype session, it's time to take to Twitter. Many authors are active on Twitter. If you follow and interact with authors and illustrators on Twitter you'll find lots of opportunities to win a Skype visit, which is how I got to participate in most of my amazing Skype sessions.