This year our staff voted to use their limited PTA funds to host Tamra Wight, author of the Cooper and Packrat mystery series. See this post for a description of the launch of our One Book, One School event!
After literally waiting months and surviving a record-breaking three cancelations due to inclement weather, Mother Nature finally cooperated with Tamra's visit on April 5th. It was a truly a day to remember at Williams Elementary School.
As students streamed into the building in the morning, Tamra was given a rock-star greeting as students bombarded her with hugs exclaiming "You're finally here!" To add some excitement to the day, I created a contest for students to guess the number of marshmallows in a mason jar. The winner would receive a basket of s'more goodies and a signed copy of Mystery on Pine Lake, which was graciously donated by Tamra. The contest was a huge hit!
Tamra spent the day presenting to each grade level on the importance of descriptive language in our writing. The students absorbed every word and were completely captivated by her beautiful photographs. I love that she explained to our writers that "You are authors, too." Tamra may be a published author, but anyone who picks up a pencil and spends time writing each day is an author ... such a powerful message for students. As she shared her beautiful photographs, Tamra explained the inspiration for her mystery series. She encouraged students to ask "What if..." in their writers' mind as strategy to find a potential story.
Her game "What's in Packrat's coat?" was a favorite part of the presentation for many students! Tamra called up individual volunteers who selected a pocket from Packrat's coat. The audience used clues to help the student guess the item hidden in Packrat's pocket. Kids used descriptive language to capture everything from string to a cell phone to duct tape. The game had a clear message to students that our words matter, especially for the audience visualize our writing.
My absolute favorite part of the day was the time Tamra spent with our Title 1 readers. I met Tamra three years ago at an author event for nErDcamp Northern New England. My son, Jacob, was a huge fan of Tamra's book series and was so excited to have her sign his book. That moment had such an impact on his life as a reader. I wanted to replicate that feeling for each one of our readers in the Title 1 program, so as part of her visit, I purchased a copy of Mystery on Pine Lake for each one of the readers in the program. Tamra took the time to sit with each child and sign his her or book. I took a picture of Tamra with each reader so they could take the photograph home to share the moment with their parents. It was powerful to see some of our striving readers absolutely mesmerized as they chatted with Tamra. Even our most reluctant readers clutched their signed books as a sacred item. Tamra also crafted a special presentation for our Title 1 readers and parents to end our day together. The feedback was outstanding!
April 5th will be a day to remember at Williams Elementary. We would highly recommend Tamra to any school who is looking to host an author for the day! The readers at WES are already counting the days to the release of Mystery of the Bear Cub!
Our school funds are limited, but the best money we spent this year was to host Tamra Wight for the day. We can't measure the benefits in test scores or on a rubric, but the engagement from our readers and writers at the end of the day was palpable. In their thank you notes, students wrote that Tamra inspired them as a reader, a writer and a nature geek. Many students have shared that they now plan to read the entire book series!
For our students to thrive as readers and writers, the value of time spent with an author is priceless.