Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Kwame Alexander Has A Strategy: Do You?

Kwame and Lee hamming it up

Recently I had the opportunity to sit in on one of Kwame Alexander's amazing school visits with an assembly of Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd graders. As always when I get to see a master do their thing, I learned so much. How it's as much performance art as anything else. How music (guitar played by Kwame's friend Randy Preston) can elevate and set the tone. How giving the kids some measure of control (like asking the students which of his two picture books they wanted to hear him read to them) is empowerment, and that's the key to having the audience engaged and hanging on your every word.

An incredibly well-behaved and excited group of 5-8 years olds are still a bunch of excited 5-8 year olds, and there was a moment about twenty minutes in when there was a lot of excited chatter that wasn't really focused. Kwame didn't miss a beat, shifting into a call and response cadence that he'd already engaged the students with earlier, but changing the words:

Kwame: I say, Surf's, you say Up. Surf's...

Kids: Up!

Kwame: Surfs...

Kids: Up!

Kwame: I say Listen, you say Up. Listen...

Kids: Up!

Kwame: Listen...

Kids: Up!

And then he just stood there, smiling. And they were listening again.

Kwame's picture book "Surf's Up"

It kind of blew my mind how elegant and tied into the title of his picture book "Surf's Up!" it was, and it worked! Do you have a strategy to re-gain control of your presentation? It's certainly worth considering.

Illustrate and Write On,

Gratitude to my librarian friend Yapha for inviting me to Kwame's presentation and for the photo above!

You can find out more about Newbery-Winning author Kwame Alexander here.

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