School Sessions

The content of my school sessions changes all the time, as new books are published and old ones go out of print, but a typical day and some typical sessions are outlined below. I’m also happy to consider tailoring sessions to fit a school’s individual requirements.

I use computer slideshow presentations for my school sessions. Presenting on a big screen is a great way of sharing picture books with a large audience as it allows children at the back of the room to see the illustrations in greater detail. I bring my own laptop and – if schools do not have a suitable video screen or digital projector – I can bring a projector too, but I need a suitable room with a screen, whiteboard or large area of clear wall to project onto, preferably a room where the lights can be turned off and the curtains/blinds drawn. Once set up, I prefer to stay in one place if this is practical.

A Typical School Day

A typical school day might look something like the one shown below, but my programme can be tailored for individual schools and the order of sessions changed to fit the school’s regular timetable.

Years Session Length
All Optional assembly 30 minutes
Reception Readings of a selection of picture and pop-up books 30 minutes
Year 1 Picture book session 45-60 minutes
Year 2 Picture book session 45-60 minutes
Years 3 & 4 Chapter fiction / older picture books session 60 minutes
All Optional book signing (ideally at end of day) According to demand

Years 5 & 6: While I’m willing to do one of my chapter fiction or picture book sessions for Years 5 & 6, I encourage schools to consider booking a middle grade author to visit these older classes. To avoid additional travel costs, you could book a virtual author visit for these years. You can find lots of middle grade authors who offer virtual visits to older KS2 classes on this page of the Virtual Authors web site and I would be happy to help you find an appropriate author.

Session Outlines

Assemblies 

An assembly at the beginning of the day is a good way of introducing me to all of the children.

Reading and Ask the Author Assembly (30 minutes)

After reading one of my picture books I do a question and answer session.  Although I take questions throughout the day, one of the advantages of doing a Q & A in assembly at the beginning of the day is that it allows me to address some of the more oft-repeated questions, such as “Where do you get your ideas from?”, in front of everyone, leaving me free to answer more specific questions, such as “Where did you get the idea for a particular book?” later in the day.

These sessions always work best when the children have thought about their questions in advance and can be further improved by the children writing their questions on my Ask the Author sheets, which you can download here.  If you use the sheets, then 20 or so questions can be selected by the school in advance and stuck up on a notice board for me to choose from.  This allows teachers a degree of editorial control over the questions asked and allows me to select the questions that I know will have the most interesting or entertaining answers.

As well as the child’s name, the Ask the Author sheet has a space for the child to draw a self-portrait.

She’ll Be Coming Round the Mountain Sing-along Assembly
(30 minutes)

After reading my picture book adaptation of She’ll Be Coming Round the Mountain, I teach the children the actions that accompany the song with the help of The Cowgirl Hat of Compulsory Silliness and some young volunteers. Then the whole school joins in with a sing-along version. 

This session can also be done as a class session.

Class Sessions

All class sessions include opportunities for the children to ask questions.

Reception picture book and pop-up book session

I usually read a couple of my younger picture books and a pop-up book to reception classes. The book selection is agreed with schools in advance and I’m happy to include particular books by request or to try to select books to fit a current class topic.

Suggested Age: Reception and Year 1

Session Length: 30 minutes

Pig Tales

This session features readings of Pigs Might Fly!, The Princess and the Pig and A Spot of Bother. Between stories I talk about how each story was inspired.

Suggested Age: Reception and Year 1

Session Length: 45 minutes

Prince Ribbit – Froggy Fact or Froggy Fiction

Prince Ribbit is a story about books in which fiction plays off against non-fiction. After a reading of the story, the children take part in a Froggy Fact or Froggy Fiction true or false game in which they learn some surprising facts about frogs. The last child in the game wins a signed copy of the book along with a non-fiction book (by another author) about frogs.

Suggested Age: Years 1 & 2

Session Length: 45 minutes

Bringing Down the Moon – Make a Moon Mobile

After a reading of Bringing Down the Moon the children make cut-out-and-colour Moon Mobiles featuring the characters from the story. I provide card printouts, silver/gold crayons (for colouring the moon), hole punches and string (ready cut and knotted so little hands can do the rest). If there is time at the end of the session, I read a second Mole and Friends story to suit the season.

Suggested Age: Years 1 & 2 (Maximum 30 children)

Session Length: 60 minutes

How the Borks Became: An Adventure in Evolution

How the Borks Became introduces children to Darwin’s principle of natural selection in an entertaining and accessible way. After discovering how the Borks evolved from smooth-furred, short-necked, blue creatures into shaggy, long-necked, yellow ones in the book, a Borks: The Next Generation activity introduces 3 further changes to the Borks’ environment. Children are encouraged to suggest how the Borks might evolve as a result of these changes, while I draw an evolving picture of a Bork.

Suggested Age: Year 1 and older

Session Length: 60 minutes

How the Borks Became: The Tree of Life • KS2 session

This session features some of the same content as the Borks session above but is intended for an older, Key Stage 2, audience and features readings of both How the Borks Became. and the poem My Cousin is a Cucumber (from Skyboy and other Stupendous Science Stories). The session also introduces children to Charles Darwin and explains how all life on earth is related in one great family tree.

Suggested Age: Year 3 and older

Session Length: 60 minutes

Here Be Monsters

In the first half of this session I read Here Be Monsters and explain how a five-hundred-year-old sea map inspired the story. In the second half, the children draw maps of monster-infested islands and mark them with a cross to show where they think treasure might be hidden. At the end of the session the location of the treasure is revealed and whichever child is nearest wins a signed copy of the book.

Suggested Age: Year 1 and older (Maximum 60 children)

Session Length: 60 minutes

The Clockwork Dragon

The Clockwork Dragon is made from recycled arms and armour. In this session I read the book, illustrated by Elys Dolan, and explain how the idea for it was also recycled, beginning life as a pop-up book before going on to be published twice as a picture book with different illustrators. In the second half of the session, I help students create their own Clockwork Creature using a cut-out-and-make kit of parts.

Suggested Age: Years 2 and older (Maximum 60 children)

Session Length: 60 minutes

Stupendous Science Stories

This session features readings of science-themed stories and poems from two of my chapter books: Skyboy and other Stupendous Science Stories and The Emperor’s New Clones. I talk about some of the science topics featured in these books.

Suggested Age: Year 3 and older 

Session Length: 60 minutes