Recently, I was invited to Smiley Elementary School in Redlands, California to give two author presentations for Read Across America week. The groups were to be divided into Kindergarten to 2nd grade and 3rd to 5th grade. The original understanding was to present my book, The Declaration of Independence from A to Z, but I didn’t feel the book met the interest level for the younger students. So, I had to figure out a totally different presentation for the K to 2nd grade group.
Here are some tips that helped me develop a presentation for younger students.
Ever since I began writing twenty years ago, I have asked the Lord to direct my writing. And that goes for being creative as well. With a little less than six weeks to prepare, I needed all the help I could get. God has always been faithful to provide.
I hadn’t given a full school presentation in a while, so I needed to check out what resources I had that could fit a younger audience. I knew I could give the older students a talk about writing nonfiction, but the K-2nd needed something more to grab their attention. Since I was also a former elementary school librarian, I reached out to my teacher friends and they told me they focus on author, illustrator, setting, and characters for Kindergarten. That was a start.
I knew I needed a story that I could read to the kids that was fun (I know…nonfiction can be fun, too, but I felt some rhymes were in order). Years ago I was part of a small group that got together for several weeks to study picture books. We read a bunch of published stories, then used what we learned to write our own manuscripts. There was one manuscript I wrote that I really liked – it was a farm story that was engaging, rhythmical, and full of imagery – so I pulled it out and knew I had to make it into a book for the kids.
I have always loved to draw. I created my own cartoon characters as a child, and was constantly doodling. However, I never took any formal lessons until after I was married and had children. Those courses, including how to use illustration software, helped me feel confident enough to illustrate my own book. But could I finish such a task in time? Again, I prayed, and set to work.
I can do a lot within a short period of time, but I don’t always feel so organized. So, I had to break down everything into manageable parts.
First, I divided my manuscript into 32 pages. Then I made some rough sketches on how I felt the story should go. Then I concentrated on developing characters. Most of the characters, of course, were animals, but I still had the little girl and grandma to work on. I am so thankful for my animal drawing and character development classes.
As I was drawing the various characters, backgrounds, and assets, I also had to think about font and font size. I didn’t want it to be too big, and not too small either. My oldest son has a degree in graphic design, so his input was very valuable.
Finally, I started putting everything together in my publishing software.
Besides all my other deadlines and trying to finish the full book in time to send to the printer (namely, Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing), I still had to work on what was I going to say. Reading the story would come last; therefore, I needed a 30-minute presentation talking about my experience as an author.
I decided to interweave my personal story with the idea of storytelling. Then I gathered things to support my points such as magazine articles and books I wrote to use as visual aids. I even chose to use my Creative Cache (see my previous blog post here if you missed it) to show how you can use anything to help tell a story.
Finally, it was the day of the presentation. I was nervous, especially since I had only finished my PowerPoint presentation the night before. But everything went off without a hitch. The students listened, laughed, and then were very attentive when it came time to read my story, Thunder Comes a Rumblin’. Despite not having the actual book on hand (my order didn’t come on time), the kids loved the story as well as the PowerPoint I created using my pictures.
Presenting to a younger audience is very doable. Just remember these tips to help you on your way.
How do you present to younger students?
Catherine L. Osornio has written inspirational articles for a women’s ministry newsletter, over 200 leveled reader stories for a school’s reading program, fiction and nonfiction articles for Clubhouse and Clubhouse Jr. magazines, The Declaration of Independence from A to Z, plus various work-for-hire projects. A former elementary school librarian, Catherine is passionate about sharing the love of reading. She enjoys cartooning, illustration, and reading kids’ books. Email her at CLOsornio@verizon.net or visit her at www.catherineosornio.com.