This year our school was lucky enough to schedule Matt Phelan for our annual author visit. Along with organizing a luncheon and the sale of books, I wanted to prepare the students thoroughly so they could engage with him fully. We met this goal.
While my initial plan was to expose them to as many Matt Phelan books as possible, I didn’t want to seem as if I were pushing book sales. Granted, I was excited to share my enthusiasm for Matt Phelan’s books and illustrations, but something seemed missing. I needed a better plan.
To begin, I created a Google Presentation about Matt and his life. After a number of lessons on creating a PowerPoint in Google Docs this year, the students were immediately drawn to my presentation. They were given the opportunity to not only view my work and content, but to offer suggestions. Fortunately, this initial step provided the catalyst to my next step.
Now that I had them excited about Matt and his work, I wanted to explore questioning. As a former reading specialist and classroom teacher, it seemed natural to provide a lesson on thick v. thin questioning. I began by modeling, and then we brainstormed a list of questions. The next step was pivotal. How do we ask a visiting author questions that show us at our best?
Each grade (K-4) had the chance to practice asking questions. While this may seem like over-preparation, it is an important life skill, and it was a lot of fun! The students learned how to introduce themselves, and then ask questions that couldn't be answered with a yes or no response. They learned to lower their hands while the author responded and to be polite and patient listeners. We worked really hard on our listening skills so we wouldn’t waste precious time asking questions that were already asked. The younger student concentrated on forming their question in their mouths so they would be ready if selected.
During Matt’s presentation, the students were focused, attentive and showed their best “Myers Manners.” This catch phrase became our signal to present ourselves in our best way. When Matt asked for questions, even the Kindergarten students remembered to introduce themselves, lower their hands while he responded and ask deep, rich questions that showed they connected to his work. Matt was very impressed.
Overall, each grade exceeded expectations, and most importantly, learned how to present themselves respectfully and politely in a public forum.
By the way, the books sold out and the excitement for reading grew even more.
It was a memorable day.