For 10 weeks during September, October and November, a group of 9 students who wish to pursue their love of writing would assemble in the school library on a Wednesday lunchtime to linkup with Christopher Herz, an author from Brooklyn, New York. See more at Lunch with an author – a reflection. Christopher would set them tasks each week. The following week, he would discuss the progress of students on an individual basis and set the next task.
As we completed the sessions in 2011, Christopher’s new novel, Pharmacology, was released. He asked whether I thought the students would like a copy and I said I am sure they would love it. The only concern was that it had been written for the older teenager. In January, whilst we were on summer holidays the box of novels arrived. As first term was crazily busy and there were different students away from school on most weeks, we delayed the ceremony until Thursday this week. I wanted Christopher to give each student their copy virtually and combine it with a special celebration.
Parents were invited and special permission letters went out to ensure parents were happy for their child to receive the novel (as some students were in their early teens. They all agreed to the signed book being given to the students). Students were asked to bring a plate to share, with drinks and hot nibbles provided.
As the day drew closer, Christopher and I ensured we had the right day for each of us and the correct time as we had finished daylight saving. On Wed night at 11:00pm for Christopher and Thursday afternoon at 1:00pm for us, we assembled in the library. Unfortunately, two students were absent due to school commitments and illness.
- Four parents attended to watch and feel the excitement of these linkups
- Students were excited and nearly drove me mad with questions etc prior to the lunch.
- Each student came up closer to the web camera to receive their book from Christopher. Christopher called up each student one at a time and made a great speech about each student and their progress with writing over the 6 months, encouraging them to continue on.
- Christopher had signed each copy with a motivational comment on the front page of each book.
- The video over skype was crystal clear as was the audio. It was as though Christopher was in the room with us. Thank you so much, Christopher for these amazing connections!
- Despite logging into skype 30 minutes prior to the linkup, there were technical issues. Unfortunately, the microphone would not work. As 1pm approached, we asked our technician to come in and help us solve the problem. We had to swap from the front usb port to the back one, and then update the software which seemed to take hours!
- I set mylaptop up on a chair at the front of the tables laden with food, so that we could communicate with Christopher and start the videoconference. At 1:10pm, skype on the interactive whiteboard was working. The sound was much clearer for Christopher as some students still speak very quietly.
- How to share our food and drinks with Christopher – but he seemed happy with his apple juice.
- The session was recorded with video and microphone. Photos were taken. A podcast will be created when time permits.
Where to from here? It is hoped to commence linkups at lunchtimes towards the end of this term or the beginning of next term. Instead of assignment style work, images and videos may be used to trigger writing tasks. I wonder how many of these students we will keep. I wonder whether more students will come on board!
What do you think of this kind of activity? How could we include more students from across schools and the globe in such activities. Imagine if students of different cultures all created a character and others involved grabbed some of these characters to include in their stories. How can we publish student stories online? What tools are available? So many questions, so much learning still to be done!
Read what the students have to say:-
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