Planned well, a good author visit can enhance what you’re currently doing in the classroom. The first thing to do ahead of time is therefore think about is how you’d like the visit to be organised. Start with your curriculum links – which particular topic do you think could come alive in the hands of a visiting speaker?
Having identified an area to focus on, consider then what you’d like the visiting author to actually do. The most basic option would be to have them read out one or more portions of their work, followed by some talk of what their process of creating characters usually involves and a discussion of where they like to write, before ending with a Q & A session. You could think a little more ambitiously, however. For example, why not ask the author to help run a writing workshop, or even a drama session in which the children role play some of their characters and scenes?
Once you’ve decided on the purpose of your author’s visit, and how you’d ideally like to involve them, the next stage is to actually find an author (unless you already have one in mind, of course). Unfortunately, some authors simply don’t do school visits at all, while others can be in heavy demand and therefore unavailable for long stretches time. Depending on who they are and their public profile, you may need to start planning their visit as much as a year or more in advance.
A good way of finding willing authors is via the professional directory maintained by the National Association of Writers in Education. Accessible via a national map, it lets users select authors by school phase, specialism (‘storytelling’, ‘poetry’, ‘scriptwriting’, etc.) and location.
Having found an author, liaised with them about what they’ll do on the day, agreed on a fee and set a date, the thing to do next is build up some buzz. Ask the author to contact their publisher about getting in some books for purchase that the author can sign and prepare some posters advertising the event. If you can, inform parents of the event in writing, mentioning that they can give their child the money to buy a signed book
Officially, if the visitor won’t be left alone with the children then a DBS check isn’t needed, but some schools require that all visitors be vetted. If you’re unsure, consult your school’s visits policy.
Also check whether your LA, governors or trustees require visiting speakers to have public liability insurance. If so, it’ll be up to the author to arrange this, though if they undertake school visits regularly there’s a good chance that they’ll have done so already.
Terry Freedman is an independent education technology consultant and writer