When I taught English, my main goal was to get kids excited about reading and writing. That’s still my focus. I use humor, stories, visual aids, group reading, and hands-on activities to engage kids. Follow-up materials for teachers extend the impact of my visit. My school visit presentations work best for K-6. I enjoy working with classroom-sized groups, though I can also present to groups of up to 100. All student presentations include a demo of how a book is printed, plus Q&A time.
My most popular presentations for students are Poetry Rocks (interactive poetry and rhyming nonfiction readings, my writing process, and writing a group poem) and Kids Can Be… Writers! (2-3-visit program working with students to research and write their own Can Be… books). For educators, my most requested programs are Great Things Come in Small Poems (ways to use poetry in the classroom, plus booktalks on great contemporary children’s poetry) and Mentor Texts in Nonfiction Writing. You can find details on these programs below, but please contact me if you’d like more details or want to discuss other topics/options.
Poetry Rocks! (for students)
My most-requested school visit presentation is Poetry Rocks! In this 45-minute to one-hour interactive session, I share lots of poems and rhyming nonfiction with students. The kids read with me, perform actions, and add sound effects as we have a fun time exploring language and poetry and reading.
That’s the core of the session, but I incorporate some or all of the following elements, too:
- How I became a writer
- How a picture book is printed
- My writing process
- Writing a large-group poem
- Question-and-answer time
My poetry sessions also support topics addressed in the standards, particularly:
- word choice
- figurative language
- text structure
- point of view
- close reading
- central themes and ideas
The age and size of the audience, along with the school’s preference, determines the precise content of the presentation. I’d love to come to your school and help them discover that poetry ROCKS!
Kids Can Be… Writers! (for students)
This video shows a project I did with Anoka-Hennepin School District’s (MN) summer program. Read about the process here. Can I adapt it for your school?
This program supports many skills addressed in the writing standards, including:
- write informational texts
- effectively select and organize content
- conduct research projects
Great Things Come in Small Poems (for educators)
Do your teachers have a tough time with poetry? Some teachers find poetry intimidating; others just don’t have time to keep up with the latest offerings in children’s poetry. As a former classroom teacher, I definitely understand those issues. But kids are supposed to:
- Read from and listen to poetry texts
- Identify patterns of sounds such as rhyme and rhythm
- Perform expressive oral readings of poetry
- Write poetry to express meaning
- Describe how meaning is conveyed in poetry
How can you meet those standards and also make kids love poetry? I’m pleased to offer a one-hour in-service booktalk. As a published children’s poet, I can share lots of simple techniques to get kids reading and writing poetry. I’ll booktalk about fabulous poetry books, and I’ll share simple, non-intimidating ideas teachers can use in their classrooms immediately. These books and activities not only meet Minnesota’s standards, they also make poetry fun for teachers and students!
I love to pass along practical tips to teachers. And of course my ulterior motive is to help create a new generation of poetry readers!
Mentor Texts in Nonfiction Writing (for educators)
Want to create an exciting nonfiction writing project in your school? Would you like to give your teachers a powerful tool for inspiring and instructing? Then introduce them to mentor texts and the practice of using a published trade book to guide students through a writing project (opinion, informational, or narrative). I’ve worked with schools to create Can Be… nonfiction books based on my own award-winning books, A Leaf Can Be…, Water Can Be…, and A Rock Can Be…. You can see a little video about what we did here.
In this in-service, I will:
- Give a brief overview of using mentor texts
- Discuss how I use mentor texts for my own writing
- Share lesson plans for student Can Be… books to explore the variety of roles a common object can take on
- Recommend other nonfiction picture books (various authors) and ideas for mentor text projects
- Lead a brainstorming session/discussion on how to come up with and implement mentor text projects in the classroom
This in-service will get your teachers thinking creatively about nonfiction K-8 writing projects!