School Visits

I would love to visit your school (either in-person or virtually) to share my books and the stories behind them—and talk to students about research, writing, revision, and other fun topics. (Yes—research and revision are FUN!) I offer several presentations tailored to grade level, individual goals of teachers, and Common Core standards. 

My goal is to inspire students and give them strategies they can use in their own writing. I use real-life examples, newspaper clippings, and funny Power Point images to show children how incidents and people from my real life have sparked stories. I swallow my pride and show marked-up manuscripts to illustrate the stages of revision. And I talk about the adventure of getting to know a biography subject by researching her life. 

I prefer presenting to groups of seventy-five or fewer.  Presentations are most effective if schools group students by grade level (e.g. kindergarten and grade one, grades two and three, grades four and five).  I am able to perform up to five presentations per day. Please contact me regarding fees and other details.

I hope to see you soon!

Brief outline of my general school visit presentation for Polka-Dot Fixes Kindergarten and Emma’s Question
(grades K-3)

Resources for educators

Virginia was a Spy (grades 3-5)

Who better to introduce Virginia was a Spy than Virginia Hall herself! In her milkmaid disguise, Virginia (that’s really me— shhhh!) introduces herself and provides her brief, first-hand account of World War II. Students have an opportunity to share what they know about the war. Then Virginia exits and I take her place.

I read the book, then launch a discussion of my research, writing, and revision process. The presentation meets a number of Common Core standards. Topics include:

  • Exploring your own passions and interests to decide upon a topic or biography subject
  • Primary- versus secondary-source information and the importance and limitations of each
  • Using anecdotes to provide interest and help readers better understand the subject (in contrast to just stringing together facts)
  • Giving the subject personality without crossing the line into fiction
  • How biases can affect the telling of a story
  • How to decide which details to include
  • The importance of revision and fact-checking

As an add-on activity, I use Virginia was a Spy to lead students in a character trait exercise, which also satisfies Common Core standards.

My school visit can serve as a jumping-off point for this teacher-led biography activity. There is a student packet available as well for this activity.

Unlocking Ideas (grades K-3)

  • I begin with a brief introduction followed by a personal (and humbling) slide show I call The Do’s and Don’ts of the Idea Hunt.
  • I read one of my fiction picture books—Polka-dot Fixes Kindergarten (grades K-1) or Emma’s Question (grades 2-3) and use slides from my childhood to show how personal experiences can be sparks for stories.
  • I tell the real-life story behind the books. We talk about generating ideas and how stories can be a combination of real and pretend. I show students how they can take something or someone real and build a story around it. Exaggerate! Make yourself a hero! Change what happens! 
  • I talk about how a story became a book—from the idea to the writing to the revision process and the steps of publishing. I show marked-up drafts (to emphasize the importance of rewriting and revision), as well as publisher proofs.
  • We finish by building a story together. If time allows, each student writes and illustrates his or her own resolution to the story. 
  • For older students, I offer prompts to help them mine ideas from their personal lives: What’s the most exciting thing that’s ever happened to you? The scariest? The most embarrassing? The saddest? I encourage students to use their own experiences as sparks for a story. 

I also have a tolerance and anti-bullying presentation.

NOTE: I use Power Point images and various props to hold students’ attention. I request that the school provide an LED projector and screen, if possible. 

I provide book order forms for schools to send home in advance of my visit. I then personalize and autograph the books. My publisher offers schools a significant discount on pre-orders, allowing sponsoring organizations such as PTO groups to use book sales to help offset the cost of the school visit.