In February a group of students at NDMS had the opportunity to Skype with author Sundee Tucker Frazier from her home in Seattle, Washington. Mrs. Frazier was extremely friendly to the students, and they loved listening to her stories and asking her questions. She has written several children’s books, but her most well-known is The Other Half of My Heart, which has been on the middle school Battle of the Books list in years past. It was a great experience, and I would love to do it again!
How I found the author:
After hearing several presenters at NCSLMA talk about their positive experiences with Skype events, I wanted to give it a try. I searched the Microsoft Educator Community for authors who do Skype visits for schools. https://education.microsoft.com/skype-in-the-classroom/find-guest-speakers
I was hoping for someone whose book we already had in the media center and someone who would Skype for free or a minimal charge. When I found Sundee Frazier, I sent her a request through the Microsoft Educator Community. I knew we had several copies of her book because it had been on BOB, plus the book has a North Carolina connection - it was perfect! The book is a sweet story about identity and the bond between sisters. She emailed me back and we set up our day/time. She agreed to do a 30 minute Q&A chat for free!
How I picked the participating students:
I sent information to all of the ELA teachers and asked them to share with their students. I required that students read The Other Half of My Heart in advance (this was also a request from the author). I set up a waiting list. As soon as one student returned a copy of the book, I let the next student in line know that it was available. There were interested students who were not able to check out a copy in our time frame; however, I did tell them when they added their names to the waiting list that they could always buy their own copy of check one out from the public library.
How we prepared:
When students checked out their copy of the book, I asked them to think of some questions they had along the way. We met a couple of days before the Skype so that we could talk about the book and plan out which questions we wanted to ask. After our planning meeting I created an agenda for us to follow so that every student had the opportunity to ask at least one question. I did tell them to be active listeners - if their question was answered earlier in the conversation, they should ask another question so there was no repetition. They did a wonderful job coming up with questions in advance and on the spot.
I found that the Skype app on my Dell laptop did not work well with Zscaler. Using Skype online with Internet Explorer worked perfectly! Our ITF Jill Elberson did a couple of “test runs” with me to make sure I could connect to her and the sound/audio worked well. We did one of these test runs with our student group so they could see what it would look like to Skype with someone! Mrs. Frazier and I were not able to connect ahead of our scheduled Skype to do a test run, but that would have been a great idea.
What I will do differently next time:
Next time, I will meet with the students an additional time or two beforehand so we can spent more time chatting about the book. It would also have been helpful for the students to have visited Mrs. Frazier’s website in advance because some of their questions were answered there. I wish more interested students had been able to read the book before our deadline. Maybe next time I will try to tie an author Skype with a book that is available as a multi-user eBook or one that we have in our building as a class set (or that we could borrow from another school). Google Hangouts is another option for virtual guest speakers that I would like to try.
If you have used Skype in your media center to connect with authors or other experts, I would love to learn from your experiences!
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