Surviving My First School Visit
The last week of summer term I did a talk to class of year three students’, twenty eight children in total ranging between seven and eight. I did a talk on Fairy Tales, which was tricky as I write for Young Adults, and the usual things I say about fairy tales; the murder, cannibalism, sexual undertones were all out of the question, in fact, even the feminist’s slant wasn’t really an option. So I decided to go for the changing nature of fairy tales and how they’ve stayed relevant to society through their evolution.
I was terrified, but determined to do the best job I could, and most of all, I wanted the kids to enjoy it. So, I penned a brief outline, decided to have visual aids and physical props, learnt how to use PowerPoint, and then tried to figure out how to talk and engage the children.
Luckily I’ve been fortunate enough to have helped at some events organised by my local book shop, the wonderful ‘Mostly Books’ in Abingdon, watching the likes of Frank Cottrell Boyce, Moria Young, and Cathy Cassidy enthral their audiences. Watching these fabulous authors made me realise the importance of passion, confidence, and most of all interaction.
So that was it. I decided on an interactive quiz using my PowerPoint presentation and props, and even decided to wear a Red Riding Hood t-shirt. With everything ready, I waited, prepared.
The day came and I went in to school to find that I couldn’t use the projector as my version of PowerPoint was not compatible with their PC – so with my nerves even more on edge, I sat down and waiting for the inevitable tearing apart – or worse bored faces!
|Worst Nightmare Board Faces|
The teacher introduced me, and told them I was going to talk about Fairy Tales, at which point some rather louds cries of “BORING” rose from the boys at the back. (now I was really really nervous!) So, with the children sat on the carpet, and my laptop precariously balanced on a box on a table, I began.
I started with my quiz that challenged their perception of Fairytales. I asked a question, and they all shouted out the answer – because of course, 8 year olds know all about fairy tales (that’s why they’re are boring!) But HA!, they were wrong. Using my slides I illustrated the right answer and moved on. This continued, and by the last question they thought they had me pegged and picked the less obvious answer, only to find it was a trick, and all answers were right! There was lots of talking, giggling and excitement, and from there on I talked about the amount of different versions of fairy tales there are, how therefore they are not as predictable as you might think.
The children seemed to be really intrigued, the boy’s especially by witches’ houses made out of crows feet and bones, and the girl by squirrel slippers. We talked about story tellers, and then did a little story telling exercise. We discussed Grimm, and the up and coming bicentenary of the publication of their fairy tales. Here I asked which children had Kindles, and got them to sniff my 186 year old first edition of the Grimm’s tales – this was a particular highlight. Finally, I finished off by using Disney princesses to show how fairytales have changed since snow white was realised in the 1939. The evolution from obedient and unquestioning early Disney princesses, whose main aim was to marry well, through to the princess of the 1990’s, Belles book worm, Arial’s fight for independence, Jasmines’ challenging traditions, and Tangled’s warnings about vanity.
All in all it went really well, even the boys who had written me off as boring before I started were asking questions, and becoming animated and involved in the discussions. So much so, some of them didn’t want to go for break.