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.
Well done - that sounds totally nerve-wracking. I'm not sure if being accused of being boring before I'd even started would have strengthened my resolve or sent me from the room crying!ReplyDelete
Hi Nick, Yeah it wasn't the best start, but it made the reward so much better as the same child was one of the ones who asked the most questions and got really involved!Delete
Well done for doing your first school visit. You really turned the session around in your favour. The words "boring" being shouted out would deffinately have sent me running without a doubt!ReplyDelete
Thanks for taking a read Jean! Oh yes it was pretty unsettling but it made me more determined to win them round. Thankfully I seemed to work! :)Delete
Sounds brilliant - well done!ReplyDelete
I really enjoyed reading about your experience. I wish I could have listened - sounds like you really didn't need that Powerpoint presentation at all (I have had my fair few disasters with those in the past!). How did you get involved in presenting assemblies on fairy tales? Sounds great!ReplyDelete
Hi Childtasticbooks, Thanks for reading and commenting. The assembly is much needed practise in talking about Fairy Tales and my writing. I talk about fairy tales primarily as my book, Through Mortal Eyes, has a fairy tale theme.Delete
Also I need to get used to talking to an audience as in Feb 2013, I'm doing a talk to the University of the Third Age to 150 adults about Fairy tales and writing (they booked me after hearing me talking about being short listed for Undiscovered voices on BBC Radio Oxford) So I thought I'd better have some practice.
I really loved doing the school talk though, and I'm hoping to do some more, and hopefully make other children see that fairy tales are exciting!
Really really brave and sounds like you pulled it off fabulously. Thank you for writing it up.