When Students Have Questions

Monday, January 31, 2011

I don't know about you but when I give presentations I pack all the information I can into the alloted time frame with little left over for student's questions. Consequently, students bombard me at the end only to be whisked off to their classrooms before I can answer. This always bothered me. I felt something had to be done. Here is my secret to solving this problem.

I no longer take questions during my presentation/s but instead build in a "Student Press Conference." It is one of the components of the package I offer schools, i.e. two large group sessions, one small and a "Student Press Conference." I have to admit, teacher's LOVE it!

Here's how it works:

Prior to the visit, each teacher is asked to hold a brainstorming session in their classroom. They challenge their students to come up with a list of questions to ask me, the visiting author. This enhances the visit for students by expanding their questioning techniques as well as learning what might or might not be an appropriate question.

Each classroom teacher selects TWO Student Reporters. These Reporters will bring the questions from their classmates to the Press Conference

This small group of Student Reporters, 2/classroom, will meet with me at the end of the day to ask their questions in a press conference format.

It is the Student Reporter's responsibility to report my answers back to their respective classrooms.

During the Press Conference, I will sit with the small group (two/classroom) and go from student to student answering their questions one at a time. We will go around and around the room until all questions are asked or time runs out.

The "Student Press Conference" is held at the END of the day in whatever time frame is available. I've had anywhere from 20-minutes to 50-minutes. I stress the end of the day for good reason. If you have it in the middle of the day, students will be asking questions that you will be addressing in your presentation.

Additional tidbits:

1. The small gathering of Reporters might range in grade level from K to 5th or even 6th grade. All grade levels meet with me at the same time. This age/grade span has never posed a problem for me. In fact, some of the younger students ask more in-depth questions than the older students. And often older students will help the younger ones record my answers.

2. Some questions will be duplicates so you have to caution the students to listen carefully and ask a different question.

3. I've done this session on closed-circuit TV and/or allowed for it to be taped for selective viewing later. (Some teachers aren't interested in the Q&A session.) I've even had a class of gifted students record the session as part of their video/film making class.

4. On a few occasions, interested classroom teachers requested to have their students return to the auditorium to LISTEN IN on the press conference. In this case I sit on stage with the Reporters as they ask their questions. What is really great about this situation is that if you run out of questions, you can turn to the audience and take additional questions. This has happened on several occasions, much to everyones delight.

The "Student Press Conference" idea evolved out of a need to allow students to have all their questions answered, questions that go beyond the, "what is it like to be an author?" ones. You never know who you will touch in the audience. Something you say might just be the motivation that produces a Putlizer Prize winner or Newbury recipient down the road.

I just felt there had to be a more educational way of giving more to the students. "My Student Press Conference" fills the bill.

And as I said earlier, Teachers/Administrators/Parents LOVE my "Student Press Conferences." And I must admit, it's the best part of the day for me also.

If you try this, let me know how a "Student Press Conference" works for you.

Be Thankful for Helpful Rejection Letters!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Can it really be that many months since I "finished" my novel? Finish is in quotes because we all know that a novel is never finished until the editor signs off and sends it to print. I thought I was until an agent said otherwise and kindly - no, that's not the word, bluntly is more like it - turned it down. But, lucky for me, within the body of that, "no thanks," were several clear, concise suggestions for a rewrite.

The rewrite has begun and as I re-read that detailed rejection letter, I can only think how grateful I am for agents who take the time to make constructive suggestions, even when they plan to say, "no."

Tell me about a rejection that movitated and helped you.

Be Thankful for Delays!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Late last fall, I heard from two agents about a novel manuscript I'm trying to place. One loved it and the other had a lot to suggest. After much introspection, I decided that revision was in order. But since that time, life intervened. Family traumas and professional obligations, not to mention the holidays, jumped in to delay physical work on the project. I had spent countless hours mentally contemplating how to approach the revision and had settled on a new beginning, but I just hadn't had the time to do the work. The delay had been frustrating until yesterday when I opened a blog on revision that stopped me in my tracks.

The blog post was titled, Five Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Start Revising, an interview with Kendra Levin, an associate editor at Viking. Within the body of the post was a plot diagram. I've seen similar diagrams multiple times and am aware of the importance of the way your story builds, but this time, for some reason, it hit me smack dab in the face. My new attention-grabbing beginning just wasn't going to work. Starting with the definitive event that turns the character on his heels and begins his healing, is not the way to begin.

So, I'm grateful for delays. Had I been physically working on the revision over the last two months, I would have worked in vane. Now, when I open the computer and begin the process, I'll be on the right track.

I'm learning to appreciate delays.

Have you ever had a delay that changed your story for the better?

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About Me

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Hi! I’m Sandra Warren, a writer with very eclectic writing tastes. I’ve been fortunate to have publications in multiple genres including children’s, gifted education, parenting, how to, poetry, journal, educational activity guides and biography as well as audio and video production. I'm a city gal recently transplanted to the mountains of NC where glorious mountain vistas inspire latest renderings.

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