Important Guidelines for Hosting a Writer at Your School

GUIDELINES for WITS: The following guidelines for the number of sessions per visit and session length are designed with fairness to the writers and the schools. While a WITS visit may last only a few hours at your school, a great deal of preparation is required of the writer before the visit and, in many cases, several hours of driving. All of these factors were taken into consideration when deciding on these guidelines.

We ask that the following guidelines be adhered to:

  • Each session is approximately 45-55 minutes in length. A full day WITS visit is 4 sessions and a half day WITS visit is 2 sessions.
  • This is a general framework to assist in visit planning. The session length may vary slightly from these guidelines depending on the writers’ session format or after discussion with the hosting teacher/librarian/principal.
  • For schools with class times longer than one hour we ask the teacher be prepared with a related activity for the end of the session such as writing thank you notes or feedback for the visiting writer.

Please read the writers’ profiles carefully. Special considerations may have to be made under the following circumstances:

  • Writers travelling 2-3 hours to visit a school may require meals or overnight accommodations.
  • Writers who don’t drive and/or don’t own a car will require the school to arrange for travel by bus or car-share.

Be prepared!

  • Make the most of the WITS visit at your school by planning ahead with the writer.
  • Contact the writer well in advance of the visit and again just a week or two before the visit date. Talk to the writer about important details such as the size and age range of the class or group, the facilities and space you will be working in, and the length of the session(s).
  • Discuss with the writer ways in which the presentation might connect with activities you already have planned in your classroom.
  • Find out what materials are required for the day of the visit, including paper, pens, pencils and other items the writer or students may require.
  • Discuss any special equipment required by the writer, such as tables, chairs, computers, screens, DVD/VCR player, microphones, etc.
  • Ask the writer if they need a particular set up in the room for their session. Be sure to ask the writer if he/she has any personal requirements, such as dietary or health needs that may need to be accommodated during their visit. This is particularly important if a meal is planned during the visit at the school.
  • Do not surprise your visiting writer with major changes to the arrangements. If plans change, please alert the writer as soon as possible.

Basic WITS Visiting Day Strategies:

  • Introduce the writer at the beginning of the session, and thank him/her at the end.
  • Have cold water and a drinking glass on hand for the writer.
  • Be mindful of unnecessary noise and other school activity during your WITS presentation.
  • While not always possible, we ask teachers to do what they can to minimize interruptions and distractions.
  • Make sure computers, cell phones, and other electronic equipment are put away or the volume has been muted.
  • Remember to greet local media representatives who may be covering the event and be sure to introduce them to the writer before the WITS session.

Please Note!: It is important the teacher remain in the classroom at all times while the WITS visit is occurring. Writers are not responsible for handling classroom disruptions or discipline.

Get reading! Having books on-hand makes all the difference.

  • Borrow and/or buy books by the writer. It is important students and teachers be familiar with the writers’ works.

Get excited! Engaging students in the planning stages can go a long way towards ensuring an excellent WITS visit.

  • Read aloud and/or give students time to read independently from the writer’s work.
  • Have students compete in a trivia contest about the writer based on the information you find and consider offering one of the writer’s books as the prize.
  • Involve students in research about the writer’s life and works and ask students to prepare questions to ask the writer.
  • With your students, create an informative and interesting display and/or performance to welcome the writer. It could be a banner, a book display, or a song.
  • Maybe the students would like to decorate the room based on a theme from the writer’s work? Just about anything goes and it’s a great way for students to connect with the writer and his/her work.

Publicize the visit to students, staff, and parents in the community.

  • Post it on your school’s website or Facebook pages.
  • Have the students and fellow teachers tweet about it and tell their friends.
  • You might even invite a local newspaper to cover the event.
  • Whenever possible, please let us know about any promotion that you do – we’ll do our best to help spread the word.

Extend the WITS experience after the visit:

  • Have an informal discussion with students.
  • Have them share their thoughts and experiences while they are fresh in their minds. Many writers are happy to hear feedback from their visits, and are delighted to receive mail from students.
  • Ask students to write a letter of thanks to the writer, as a group or individually.
  • Create a classroom and/or website display, such as a mural of images that reflects the writer and his/her work, or a collection of the photos and/or sketches from the day of the visit. Suggest a group or individual write an article about the visit for the school newspaper or website, a home-and-school newsletter, or the local paper.
  • Work with the students to help them write short pieces inspired by the WITS visit. Encourage students to write something that models the writer’s style or tackles similar themes.
  • Write and perform a short skit to represent some aspect of the writer’s life or excerpts from his/her writing. You might want to video tape the performance for future classes or your website.