My First Class Visit...
You know, I wasn't all that nervous heading to my first class visit to talk about writing and my books with an 8th grade class. I admit, I didn't have any notes since Ms. Kelly said the chat would basically be about my books, how I got into writing, and likely an excerpt.
I'd already decided I'd chat mostly about Graffiti Girl since it was being used in the "BookUpNYC" program to help promote middle graders to read in NY and GG has been added to high school reading lists. I packed up Graffiti Girl and Invisible Touch, Graffiti Girl stickers, Invisible Touch bookmarks, and candy--a big fat variety bag of mini Willy Wonka candies.
I went into the office, got a visitor's pass and was pointed in the direction of the class. Unfortunately, the class numbers were on the inside of the closed doors. haha. I finally made my way to the correct class and that's when the nerves hit!
The class was scattered in groups and it was a fairly large class, around 30 students, with some college tutors helping out. And the students were bigger than I expected. *grin* I usually hang out with grade schoolers so it was like I could hear myself swallow with an audible "click". All eyes were on me as I maneuvered my way to Ms. Kelly, who gave me a warm welcome. I was a few minutes early so the class finished up their groups as Ms. Kelly told them she had a special guest visiting.
There weren't many interested expressions. These students wouldn't be won over easily, and gees, would they really care what I had to say?? BTW, what would I say??
A student had a copy of a newspaper article on me and introduced me. I went to the front of the class and told them who I was.
"Hi Everybody, my name's Kelly Parra and I write books for teens." I showed them my two books and propped them against the white board. I started with how I was from our town and based aspects of the town in the book as well as my high school in Graffiti Girl. How I'd been a teen artist--but not a graffiti artist. I talked about how I got into writing, and went into an GG excerpt.
I finally calmed down as I read the excerpt. Reading is calming. :)
I read the back copy of Invisible Touch and started answering questions from Ms. Kelly. I talked about how MTV actually publishes books, and how I love stories and loved movies as I kid. I'd ask the kids, "Anyone hear of MTV?" "Anybody love movies?" I finally got a lot of hands up and things started picking up.
Ms. Kelly asked if anybody else had a question. One boy raised his hand and asked, "How long did it take to write the book?" I threw him a candy while I answered the question and the class came alive.
About 15 hands went up just like that and the questions rolled in with candies being tossed in different directions. I had to thank my Economics teacher for that little tip (Yeah, that was also written into Graffiti Girl). Then there was a break, and more kids came up and asked more questions. Yes, to get a candy, but who cares. They were interacting and it was fun!
Soon the class came back from break and I answered more questions...Did I design the covers of the books, why did I start writing, how do you publish a book...?? It was a great interaction. Next, I gave the rest of the class a candy and a sticker.
I thanked the class for having me, and students came up to me and I signed a bunch of bookmarks. They were really great, and they'd all had candy, but still wanted a signed bookmark and to chat with me. We took a couple of pictures and I have to say it was great success for a first class visit. I really had a great time with the students.
Ms. Kelly asked if this was my first class visit and I said yes, and she seemed surprised because I really got the kids interacting. I think that's a big thing about getting kids exciting about learning and reading.
And maybe next time I won't be as nervous. :)