Gail Giles, a YA author that has appeal to guys, girls, high and low level readers, Skyped into Collins Hill HS a few weeks ago. I was a nervous wreck, anticipating the many things that could go wrong when you combine teenagers, technology, and the first attempt at something new. However, it was a resounding success! Gail Giles was witty and fun, and our students did a wonderful job asking questions and keeping the conversation going. If you want to see the highlights, see our short video here. If you want more details, keep reading…
Amy Golemme, my co-media specialist, and I brainstormed authors that would have mass appeal. Gail Giles was our first thought, so I took a shot in the dark and emailed her. She emailed back quickly and we got the details planned out – one test session a few days before, then 2 sessions during our 2nd and 3rd periods. We decided to use the media center to keep it cozy and inviting, rather than a larger space like the commons area or theater. I made signs for the hallways and classrooms and the media center. I went into all the 9th and 10th grade LA classes to promote it. Students that wanted to participate had to read at least one of her books, answer a few questions, and write a few questions they’d like to ask her. For those students, I gave them a pass out of class during 2nd or 3rd period and they were our VIPs. I also invited two language arts classes per session and any media specialists from the around the county that could come.
In Gwinnett, we aren’t allowed to use Skype, but we do have an alternative – Polycom and the Blue Jeans network. We use those tools and the author uses Skype. Kevin Tomlinson from the county was excellent technical support for us and helped put my technology fears to rest. On the day of the event, we set up about 80 chairs in the media center, created VIP seats, put out a breakfast spread, set up the technology, and hoped for the best! Gail came on, introduced herself, and then we had the students come up to the computer to ask questions. We had a webcam and external mic hooked up to my laptop. The students asked good questions, and Gail was entertaining, funny, and informative. When I polled the students after the event, they all said they had a positive experience and many expressed interest in doing it again. One student even turned in a top ten list of authors she’d like to Skype with!
If you have any questions or want templates for signs, the handout students filled out, or any other details, don’t hestitate to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call at 770.682.4126. It was a lot of work, but a great experience for us and for the students.
Holly Frilot, Collins Hill High School