One of the schools I visited was Sacred Heart Catholic Voluntary Academy, where I worked with Years 5 and 6. A few weeks ago, I went back for a morning, voluntarily, to help the children to edit the stories they had started on the day of my visit. (Brilliant morning - I used a genuine Granny Rainbow story written by a child and we worked our way through it looking for how it could have been improved before applying the lessons learnt to the Sacred Heart children's stories).
What I didn't expect after that, was an invitation to Year 5's class assembly, all about what they had learnt from the author visits they'd attended as part of Loogabarooga. (They were lucky enough to have spent the morning listening to Philip Reeve - of Mortal Engines - and Sarah MacIntyre - Oliver and the Seawigs - and then have little old me in the afternoon).
I was honoured - but wasn't sure quite what to expect...
The parents filed into the hall and I followed. Year 5 were all sitting at the front with their English books, and on the stage behind them was a rainbow house and other rainbowy items - one of which was a rainbow layer cake, made by a Y5 child's mum! Someone spotted me, yelled "Katherine Hetzel!" and everyone started shouting and waving.
I now know how celebrities feel!
All the parents turned to look, no doubt wondering who the heck had just walked in (one dad did remark he thought it might've been a visit from the Queen), so I sat myself in the middle of the back row, out of the way - only to be told by Mrs D that the children were going to invite me to say a few words at the end of the assembly... So I stepped on toes and brushed past knees to get to the end of the row while the rest of the school came in.
The assembly was brilliant!
The children began by explaining what they'd learnt with the different authors, and followed it with a demonstration of how to write a story - BY WRITING A BRAND NEW GRANNY RAINBOW STORY AS A CLASS, which they acted on stage during the reading AND supplemented that with identifying the different writing techniques used on boards, which were held up at the relevant time. (I learned what a fronted adverbial was!)
And yes, I said a few words afterwards. About reading lots and keeping on writing and keeping on learning. And how bowled over I was at how much work Y5 had done by writing yet another Granny Rainbow story. (It was about Dr Lettergo and his potion-enhanced, first-letter-stealing cake, in case you were wondering...) I felt so proud of the children, and honoured to have been invited to such a special celebration of their learning.
After the assembly, I was invited back to the classroom for a slice of rainbow cake, (DELICIOUS!) and Mrs D told me that she has seen a big improvement in some of her class's writing - particularly for some of the boys - since my visits. The work I did on editing seems to have boosted confidence and enthused even the most reluctant writer, because I demonstrated practically how we can always make our writing better.
THAT is what makes these author visits so worthwhile; in a small way, I can make a big difference.
Perhaps I ought to extend my strapline? Katherine Hetzel, the short author who tells tall tales and makes a big difference...