Meet the Author: It's easier than ever!
Alternatives to Skype
Not ready to take the plunge and try a Skype virtual visit? Is Skype blocked at your school because of bandwidth issues? If your school uses Google Apps you could try to interact with the author through Google Video Chat. Apple iChat is available for Mac environments. Apple’s Facetime is a video chat program similar to Skype, and it works on iPads, too. (Both you and the author need to be using the same tool, though, so be sure to inquire about their technology and arrange ahead of time.) Alternatively, you can still acquaint students with beloved authors through online resources. However you decide to connect with the authors that your students love, you won’t be disappointed. Author studies add depth to your language arts program and give students a glimpse into the world of the writer.
Readingrockets.org has both audio podcasts and over one hundred video interviews of many authors discussing their works and their writing life. Barb Langridge at A Book and a Hug offers author interviews from her public television program. Visit the Books Alive tab at the site to access them. Always remember to preview anything you might want to view with students to ensure that it’s appropriate for your class level. Some of these interviews were clearly conducted with an older audience in mind.
Many authors have an online presence now and maintain a website. Do some searching on the Internet to see if your featured author has a teacher-friendly website. You’ll want to see information about the books they have published and some general biographical information that you can share with students. Many authors have a “For teachers and librarians” page as part of their site. They provide contact information, details for ordering books, relevant links, maybe even lesson plans or support materials for you to use when reading their books with students. Authors use their websites as marketing tools, so the sites are often quite robust, visually attractive, and full of helpful classroom resources.
Publishing houses promote their authors on publisher websites as well. Check to see who publishes most of your featured author’s books. Visit the publisher website to look for video interviews or other relevant information and links. Here are just a few examples:
Randomhouse.com provides information about many of their authors for children, often with downloadable guides for book discussions.
Houghton Mifflin’s Eduplace site offers short, kid-friendly articles about the popular authors and illustrators that appear in their reading textbooks here. Each article includes a list of works by the author.
Scholastic has a number of author video interviews at the Authortube portion of its website. When you click on the thumbnail of the author interview you’d like to watch, it shows a series of clips in the sidebar, with each clip answering one interview question.
Don’t forget to search for the author on YouTube. If you cannot access YouTube at school, you can always download the video using a tool such as Zamzar and bring it to school on a “stick” to load on a classroom computer center or to project for the entire class.
Whatever tool you choose, make author visits a habit. Once you do the first one, you and your students will be “hooked.” As your students become inspired as writers, your class can also conduct student-to-student “author interviews” and record them on video to share with parents and grandparents.
Preparing Your Students • Alternatives to Skype