Guide to Hosting a WITS Visit
WITS is a co-pay program: WFNS covers the entirety of a writer’s mileage as well as a portion of the writer’s fees. The hosting school covers the remainder of the writer’s fees.
For a full-day visit, a school co-pays $175. For a half-day visit, a school co-pays $90.
Session Number and Length
Please adhere to following guidelines for the number of sessions per visit and the length of each session, which were designed with fairness to the writers and the schools in mind. While a WITS visit may last only a few hours, a great deal of preparation and, in some cases, several hours of travel are undertaken by a writer before each visit.
- A full-day WITS visit is 4 sessions. A half-day WITS visit is 2 sessions.
- Sessions are approximately 45 – 55 minutes in length.
- Session length may vary slightly from these guidelines based on each WITS writer’s session format or on the writer’s discussion with the hosting teacher/librarian/principal.
- In schools with class times longer than one hour, teachers should prepare a related activity for the end of the session, such as writing thank-you notes or feedback for the WITS writer.
Please read writers’ profiles carefully. Special considerations may have to be made under the following circumstances:
- Writers who must travel 2+ hours for a WITS visit may require meals and/or overnight accommodations, to be provided at the expense of the hosting school.
- Writers who do not drive or do not have access to a vehicle may require arrangements for travel by bus or car-share, to be provided by the hosting school.
Preparing for WITS
Contact the writer well in advance of the visit (i.e., within a month of receiving confirmation of a visit) and again just a week or two before the visit date. If plans change, please alert the writer as soon as possible. Do not surprise your visiting writer with major changes to the arrangements.
- Inform the writer of important logistical 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 each session).
- Discuss with the writer how their session might connect with curriculum and activities you already have planned in your classroom.
- Determine what materials will be required for by students during each session (including paper, pens, pencils and other items) and any necessary special equipment required by the writer (such as tables, chairs, computers, screens, DVD/VCR players, or microphones).
- Ask the writer if they need a particular classroom arrangement for their session.
- Ask the writer if they have any personal (e.g., dietary or health) requirements that require accommodation during their visit. This is particularly important if a meal is planned during the visit.
Engaging students in the planning stages can go a long way towards generating excitement for a WITS visit.
- Borrow and/or buy books by the writer so that teachers and students can be familiar with the writers’ works.
- 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. 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 (such as a banner, a book display, or a song).
- Encourage students 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 their work.)
Sharing news of the visit with other students, staff, and parents in the community can also help create excitement among your own students.
- Post news of the visit on your school’s website or Facebook page(s).
- Have students and fellow teachers share news by word-of-mouth and on social media.
- 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.
Strategies for Visiting Day
Teachers must remain in classrooms at all times during a WITS session, as writers cannot be responsible for handling classroom disruptions or discipline.
- Introduce the writer at the beginning of each session, and thank them at the end of each session.
- Greet any local media representatives who may be covering the event, and be sure to introduce them to the writer before the WITS sessions begin.
- Have cold water and a drinking glass on hand for the writer.
- While we understand that it is not always possible, we ask teachers to help minimize interruptions and distractions during your WITS session. Be mindful of unnecessary noise and other school activity, and please make sure computers, cell phones, and other electronic equipment are put away or muted.
Extending the WITS Experience
Get the most out of your WITS visit by engaging students in reflection on the writer, their work, and their session.
- Start an informal discussion with students, asking them to share their thoughts about and experiences during the session.
- Ask students to write individual thank-you letters or a group letter to the writer. Many writers are happy to hear feedback about their sessions and delighted to receive mail from students.
- Invite students to write short pieces inspired by the WITS visit, encouraging them to model the writer’s style or tackle similar themes.
- Help a group of students or an individual student write an article about the WITS visit for the school newspaper or website, a home-and-school newsletter, or the local paper.
- Create a classroom or website display that reflects the writer and their work, such as a collage of found images or a collection of sketches/writing from the day of the visit.
- Make time for students to write and perform a short skit representing some aspect of the writer’s life or excerpts from their writing. You might want to video tape the performance for future classes or to share online.
Teacher resources for continuing literary engagement in the classroom and beyond:
- Association of Canadian Publishers represents over 140 Canadian-owned publishers. ACP retains consultants and researchers to conduct various studies, including the recent Canadian Books in Schools and The Crisis in Canada’s School Libraries, both available on-line.
- Canadian Society of Authors, Illustrators and Performers is an umbrella for its membership of published authors, illustrated and children’s performers that forms the largest organization in Canada supporting creative work for children and young adults. CANSCAIP’s website features author webpages, workshop information and all the latest news on what’s happening in the world of Canadian children’s literature and performance.
- Canadian Children’s Book Centre was founded in 1976 to promote, support and encourage the reading, writing and illustrating of Canadian books for children and teens. CCBC organizes Canadian Children’s Book Week annually and makes it possible for you to invite a visiting Canadian writer into your school. WFNS is home to the Atlantic collection of the CCBC Library and you’re welcome to visit in person or on-line where this rich collection of books for children and young adults is listed in a searchable database.
- The Hackmatack Children’s Choice Book Award is an Atlantic Canadian book award which allows children in Grades 4 to 6 to choose their favourite Canadian and Atlantic Canadian books. Hackmatack authors are also available for school visits.
- The Ontario Library Association has, over the years, taken a leadership role with reading programs aimed at all readers. Annually, OLA administers their Forest of Reading program, which includes the Blue Spruce, Red Birch, Silver Maple, White Pine, Evergreen and Golden Oak Awards. They are also a great source of lists of wonderful book choices. The OLA’s annual Best Bets evolved from a list put out by the Canadian Materials Committee of the Children’s Services Guild of the OLA which selects books on the basis of their literary/artistic merit as well as their appeal for children. Text and illustrations are of equal importance in picture books and information books.
- Freedom to read can never be taken for granted. Even in Canada, a free country by world standards, books and magazines are banned at the border. Books are removed from the shelves in Canadian libraries, schools and bookstores every day. Free speech on the Internet is under attack. Few of these stories make headlines, but they affect the right of Canadians to decide for themselves what they choose to read. FREEDOM TO READ WEEK will be celebrated from February 24 to March 1 in 2008. Freedom to Read Week is an annual event that encourages Canadians to think about and reaffirm their commitment to intellectual freedom, which is guaranteed them under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. There are lots of hints about how you and your students can participate in Freedom to Read week at this site.
- Booktrust is an independent national charity in England that encourages people of all ages and cultures to discover and enjoy reading. This web site provides free resources and recommendations for teachers, librarians, and parents about books for young people of all ages.