Friday, February 4, 2011

Skype Interviews a Huge Hit

I want to rave about our two Skype author interviews. The book club was fortunate enough to host authors Julie Berry and Sarah Prineas on Skype. This was the first time our district has approved the use of Skype at school so I wanted to make sure it all went off without a hitch. My district superintendent approved my request and I knew that others would be watching to see how it went. From what I understand others have been turned down in the past when they requested to use Skype.
To prepare for the interviews I took several steps to ensure it went well. First I ensured that students had plenty of time to purchase and read the books. I made sure they were in our book fair and were reasonably priced. I bought copies for the library as well. I tested Skype several times and prepared the students. I spoke with them about the types of questions that were appropriate, reminding them of being polite and thankful and we practiced how we would ask the questions. I pointed out to them that even though our speaker was not in the room she could see them so make sure to sit up straight and be attentive. I left our webcam view up so they could see themselves and see how they appeared to her. Students submitted questions to me on index cards and I highlighted some of my favorites then put them in an order that made the most sense. I wrote down the students' names in the order I wanted them to ask their question and I gave them their index card back. After welcoming the author and having the students greet the author I called the students in the order I wanted their questions asked. Each student stood and clearly asked their question. I also had several questions in mind in case their was extra time or a pause between questions.
Our first interview was with Julie Berry, the author of The Amaranth Enchantment, Secondhand Charm and the Splurch Academy series. The students loved talking with her. She told us about her favorite authors, her inspiration for the stories, her method for writing, current projects and some of the behind the scenes work that goes into publishing a book. She was so friendly and fun. I highly recommend her if you are looking for a middle school appropriate author. Check out her site for more about this amazing author.

Our second interview was Sarah Prineas, the author of the Magic Thief series. She was delightful. She has a way with middle school age students. She shared a few secrets about her books including hints in the cover illustrations and her friends' names in the magic spells. She shared her inspiration from Tolkien and The Sword and The Stone. We also were happy to learn about the fourth installment in the Magic Thief series and a female main character in her new book, Winterling. Check out her site for more about this excellent fantasy author.

My students really enjoyed the chance to speak with the authors. I've heard from other teachers how excited the kids were and how much they talked about the experience when they returned to class. I look forward to using Skype again soon.
If you are interested in hosting an author via Skype check out this list of authors who will Skype 20 minute chats for free. If you have any advice, experience or questions about Skyping an author I would love to hear from you.

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