Skype visit makes Read Aloud West Virginia statewide news

Posted by Marsha
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on Sunday, 16 October 2011 in StoryMagician

In June 2011, I chatted with second, third, and fourth graders in a rural part of West Virginia via Skype. Tina Riley, Technology Integration Specialist extraordinaire for Roane County Schools, had worked a year on the project, researching 16 authors. I was the lucky author she selected to skype with and we had a grand time.


In September, Tina contacted me again by e-mail, with the subject heading "News...better than I imagined".

One of the teachers at Reedy Elementary is also part of the Read Aloud committee for West Virginia. She contacted the state director about our Skype visit. The next thing Tina knew the visit had made statewide news. You can read the entire story at I'll also post it below.

Now Tina is arranging for three more West Virginia schools to Skype with me, this time with an honorarium and organized activities at each school. She's also had contact with a college that's interested in learning more about Skype visits with educators and authors.

Congratulations to Tina Riley, a special person and tireless educator and all the educators involved in connecting students with authors and illustrators. May the Skyping continue on.

Here's the wonderful news that was shared with all of West Virginia:

Roane students Skype with author Marsha Arnold

On one of the last days of the 2010 - 2011 school year, Reedy Elementary School's second, third, and fourth graders hustled into Mrs. Hall's fourth grade classroom to quickly find a seat. Using web cameras and Skype at promptly 12:30, students dialed to begin traveling across the USA via the computer. On the opposite coast in California, it was 9:30 in the morning and author Marsha Diane Arnold clicked on the phone icon as the computerized phone ring sounded in her home. Students were thrilled to see a split screen come into view as they said hello to Ms. Arnold while at the same time being able to watch themselves!

Thanks to Roane County Schools' Technology Integration Specialist, Tina Riley, and the Read Aloud WV committee, Reedy Elementary School students were able to spend a twenty minute visit being able to talk with published children's author, Marsha Diane Arnold. After a quick discussion of the difference in the weather in both places (it was sunny in West Virginia) and a view of the rain in Ms. Arnold's back yard, the group moved on to the reasons Ms. Arnold became a writer. Ms. Arnold shared her "idea file", where "jumbles of scribbles and scraps (napkins, envelopes, and check deposit slips to name a few) live". Ms. Arnold explained how to capture ideas while encouraging students to begin their own idea file.

Ms. Arnold spend another part of their visit showing the process of creating a book by demonstrating how a story and it's illustration evolve from those jumbles of scribbles and scraps. She emphasized the rewriting process, showing samples of her own rewrites and explained illustration changes from early sketches to the final picture. It certainly gave the students something to think about as they were finally able to stand and one by one ask their questions of Ms. Arnold. From why did you decide to become an author to where did you get the idea to write the book, Roar of the Snore, to how many children do you have, Reedy Elementary students spend the last ten minutes sharing with Ms. Arnold. As the twenty minutes rolled to an end, the students said their good byes and waved to Ms. Arnold.

The "Skype An Author Network" virtual tour between Reedy Elementary School and Ms. Arnold was used as an pilot with the hopes to bring it to the other three county elementary schools in the next school year. After spending almost an entire year viewing the different authors, Tina Riley, Roane County Schools' Technology Integration Specialist approached the Read Aloud WV committee for help to make this pilot happen. Read Aloud WV Roane County Coordinator, Meg Goffreda offers this advice to other schools wishing to give it a try. " After had the experience of a virtual visit with an author and having authors visit our school, the discussion and interaction between the author and the students whether in person or on a screen is so very much the same. Once students understand how the technology works and we all know how quickly they are able to adapt, they're more than happy to carry on the conversation as if the author is right there in the room with them. It was an awesome experience that I would encourage other schools to try. Mrs. Riley's many talents as our school system's TIS enabled her to find the website, Skype An Author Network, and be able to set the entire project up for our school. The site alone has thousands of authors who are willing to skype with libraries and schools across the country. While most of the time is a cost involved, some of the authors will provide the service giving twenty minutes for free. Marsha Arnold was one of those special authors and due to her skyping with just one of our county schools, we're hoping to bring her back for more than the free twenty minutes to do the same of the other Roane County elementary schools. Most published authors have web sites so picking a book and then contacting the author to skype with your class is another option to look into. Skyping is so simple. All the directions for needed materials, how to set, and skyping the other party are all right there on the Skype An Author website. Roane County Schools is so fortunate to have the many talents of our TIS, Tina Riley. We would never have been one of the first school systems in the state of West Virginia to use the Skype An Author ( Our Read Aloud committee is excited to see what she shares with us next year!"

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