Monday, June 14, 2010

Talk about an authentic learning experience!

Last Thursday, the NMHS BookChat! club skyped with young adult author, Sara Zarr.  What an outstanding experience!

Several months ago, one of our members asked about the possibility of bringing in an author to speak with our group.  Having conducted author visits in the past, I know both how valuable and how expensive that would be!  I also knew that Skype, the free software-for-online-communications service, would probably provide a workable solution. 

I browsed the list of writers who participate in  While most of them serve a younger crowd, there are some wonderful young adult authors too.  I researched the young adult authors' books to see if I could find several choices for BookChat! 

At our April BookChat! meeting, members chose one of the books I had proposed -- knowing there would be a skype possibility.   We selected Sweethearts by Sara Zarr.  I contacted the author's representative, agreed to the modest honorarium, had email discussions with a recent reference, and set up a date.  It was BookChat!'s good fortune that the NMHS Student Council agreed willingly to pay the author's fee.  We are very grateful for their generous action!

Sara was very easy for me to work with.  We sent several emails back and forth to settle various details.  Prior experience had taught her the wisdom of checking in advance that all the necessary tech elements would work well, and we did test them out  the week before the session.

In advance of our June 10th skype session, members read Sweethearts.   There was palpable excitement about the upcoming chance to see and hear a real, working author talk with our group. 

We had 13 members of BookChat! take part in our skype session, and it will remain a wonderful, memorable experience for all of us who were there.  Sara filled a full hour with discussion about Sweethearts,  her motivation for writing it, the craft of writing itself, and answers to direct questions from many of our club members.  She was very natural -- some club members were surprised at how down-to-earth a real author could be -- and, we found it very easy to chat with her.  Sara encouraged our club members to keep reading and writing, and to contact her if she could be of help. 
I enjoyed our skype session as much as the students did.  It was a bonus for me to see their enthusiasm and enjoyment.  This experience was a highlight of BookChat!'s year, and I'm so glad we were able to do it.  Talk about an authentic learning experience!!!


  1. Hi Mrs. Keesing,

    I teach English at Millburn High School in NJ, and I've been wanting to Skype an author for a long time, but found mostly authors for younger students. Your post really inspired me to do more research and make plans for next year. It seems like it was an awesome learning experience. Thank you for sharing it!

    Michelle Blakely

  2. Hi, Michelle!
    Thanks for posting a comment on my blog! From past experience with having an author speak with students, I was quite sure that the skype session would be successful. It's great to have such Web 2.0 tools to create a great impact. If I can be of help to you in your effort to set something up, let me know.