Thursday, April 23, 2009

How to have a great school visit

The best way to have a great school visit is to have it organized by someone as on-top of things as Sara Shacter. Yesterday I presented Truck Stuck to the four preschool classes at Families Together Cooperative Nursery School. Sara had made all the arrangements, first talking with the teachers to see who was interested, then scheduling a day that worked for all of us, and lastly, arranging for pre-orders of Truck Stuck. Twenty-seven copies were sold! I think that's pretty good for a school with a student body of 72.

I arranged to bring the books, already signed (as specified on the order forms Sara had devised), from the Magic Tree Bookstore. Sara distributed the books in the students' cubbies. In each of the four classes I introduced myself as the person who wrote the words to Truck Stuck. I pulled out my shoebox model of a viaduct and we talked about what a viaduct is, (a tunnel that goes under railroad tracks). I had the children repeat the word viaduct, and then we were ready to read the story.

I love reading this book. It has not grown old for me. I still find new details in the pictures and I love to see the way children respond to Andy Robert Davies' playful, cheerful drawing style. We made faces like the disgruntled drivers in the pictures. The children described the action (or lack thereof) at the lemonade stand--a sub-plot told entirely in the pictures. We counted lemonade cups. We discussed the resolution of the problem (better read the book--I don't want to give anymore of it away). Then it was time to open my suitcase full of trucks.

I handed out a vehicle to each child in the class (explaining that these were my toys which I was sharing, but would need back). Then, as I reread the story, this time without stopping to discuss the action, the children lined up their vehicles behind my big truck, stuck under the shoebox viaduct, recreating the traffic jam of the book. I was surprised at how long our truck parade became. There are a lot of interesting vehicles in this story, and I have managed to find toy versions of almost all of them. I'm still searching for a good exterminator truck with a dead insect on top. At the end, each child got to drive his/her vehicle through the viaduct and park it back in my box so I could pack up my suitcase for the next class. For hand-outs I had coloring sheets for the two younger classes and a word search puzzle for the two older classes, as well as postcards with the book cover image on the front and my website information on the back.

Although I was doing four similar presentations, all in one day, I found that each class responded in different ways, with different questions and observations. To keep my own energy high I focused on really listening to the children and on sharing in their fun. The teachers were wonderful, helping to keep the children focused. And I felt that the classes had been well-prepared for my visit. They knew my name and welcomed me warmly. And there were many truck-oriented activities planned for the rest of the day that tied into the story of the book.

An extra bonus--I got to go to lunch with Sara and her two boys, who are true fans of Truck Stuck and made me feel like a rock star.

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