Our 2nd and 3rd grade Skype with Kate Messner in September was such a fun experience that I couldn’t wait to tell 4th and 5th grade the news: they would get to Skype with an author, too!

Yesterday, we enjoyed a Skype visit with Augusta Scattergood, author of Glory Be and The Way to Stay in Destiny:

image from kidlit.tv - click to visit!
image from kidlit.tv – click to visit!

I haven’t read Scattergood’s first book, Glory Be, yet, but it’s high on my ever-growing list of books to read soon! It’s set in 1964, Freedom Summer, and I really love historical fiction about the Civil Rights Movement. I may have a hard time getting my hands on it, though, because the 4th and 5th graders have been so excited to read it themselves! My one library copy has been off the shelf for a while now… 🙂

We prepared for our Skype visit by reading Scattergood’s second book, The Way to Stay in Destiny, which is set ten years later in 1974 during the wake of the Vietnam War. The main character, Theo, is uprooted from his home in Kentucky and taken to a small town in Florida by his Uncle Raymond, a surly Vietnam War veteran who he doesn’t know at all.

One of Theo’s hobbies is baseball; his favorite player is Hank Aaron, who in 1974 broke Babe Ruth’s home run record. His other favorite pastime is music. Named after jazz musician Thelonius Monk, Theo plays piano by ear–despite Uncle Raymond’s strict orders not to.

Like our last Skype visit, this one was arranged through Scholastic‘s book fair resource catalog (and paid for with book fair profits), so the visit included signed copies of the book for all of our 4th and 5th grade students, as well as three autographed copies for each teacher’s classroom library.

Several of our teachers read the book aloud to their classes before the visit, and many students also read some or all of it on their own! Each class also spent two library sessions with me preparing for our Skype:

Click the image to visit our Padlet
Click the image to visit our Padlet

During the first session a few weeks ago, I told students about the visit, made sure they got their books and autographed nameplates, and gave them a very quick bio of Augusta Scattergood (who used to be a school librarian!).

Then we discussed some of the books’ major themes and issues–being the new kid, the Vietnam War, Hank Aaron and baseball, music, and the idea of destiny. I also gave a book talk and read students an excerpt from the book (with a cliffhanger, of course, so they’d be super excited to read more!).

Our second session was the week before our Skype, and we started by watching a short interview with Augusta Scattergood from WTSP News 10 out of Tampa Bay. In the interview, Ms. Scattergood discussed how her recent move to Florida influenced the book’s setting, the difficulty of getting her first book Glory Be published, and how she was inspired by the community of writers who live in her area.

Once we’d heard the interviewer’s questions, it was time to come up with our own! Students brainstormed together at their tables first:

What's gonna work? Teamwork!
What’s gonna work? Teamwork!

They had a few minutes to brainstorm in pairs/threes, and then the whole table put their heads together to select their top questions. By the end of our brainstorming session, each class had a great list of things they were curious about! (Visit the Padlet to see the class questions!)

The day of the visit, I printed two questions from each class list onto cards for them to have during the Skype visit, and the homeroom teachers selected students from their classes to be responsible for asking the questions. The questioners also had to pay attention, because of course they wouldn’t need to ask a question that had already been answered!

Yesterday, as classes filed into the library for the Skype visit, the kids were SO excited! When the clock hit 10:30, we were still waiting for a couple of groups that were on their way. The kids said, “Ms. Hudson! It’s 10:30!” I told them we’d need to wait for everyone to show up, and I even declined Ms. Scattergood’s first attempt to call us because we weren’t all here! Of course she was very gracious about starting a few minutes late, and we called her as soon as we were ready.

Something I loved about this experience was how interactive Augusta was as she spoke to the kids. She asked them all kinds of questions, showed them a shoebox full of childhood items that inspired her first book (including an awesome Elvis Presley figurine and, if you can believe it, wax lips!), and was just generally so engaging.

A student later told me she liked Augusta Scattergood because “she talked like a regular person.” And kids were still giggling about the wax lips yesterday afternoon!

Augusta gave our students lots of time for questions, which they loved, and the students did a great job speaking loudly and clearly so the microphone would pick up their voices. (This had been a problem during our Skype with Kate Messner, so I was happy things went better this time!)

We learned how she chose her characters names, what parts of her books were inspired by her real life, what some of her own favorite books are, and the things about writing that she likes (editing) and dislikes (coming up with plot ideas). We even got to hear a little bit about her newest book in progress, which will come out next year.

One of my favorite parts of the Skype was her advice to students who are interested in being a writer. She showed us a little notebook and said, “Write everything down! Interesting names, funny things your friends say, things you hear on the bus. These things make your writing richer.” I just love this advice because it reminds students to pay attention and observe the world around them.

At the end of the visit, Ms. Scattergood waved goodbye to us and the students waved goodbye to her–and we both got pictures! Here’s our photo (courtesy of one of our 5th grade teachers):

A fond farewell indeed!
A fond farewell indeed!

And here’s a photo of Augusta’s screen:

From the other end!
From the other end!

This author Skype was such a fun experience for us–and one I think the kids will remember for a long time! Thanks so much to Scholastic and to Augusta Scattergood for making this happen!

I’ll look forward to connecting our students with more authors and illustrators–either virtually or in person–as they continue their learning here at Chase Street School.