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Classroom connections

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Shaw Butte Elementary School, Phoenix AZ

Please note that Ms. deGroat will not be booking any school visits until further notice.

A visit from a real live author-illustrator can make books come alive for your students!
My comprehensive and entertaining presentation will inspire them to write and illustrate
their own stories. The visit also helps me to keep in touch with my readers.
I can learn as much from them as they do from me!

Furry Elementary School, Sandusky, Ohio


American Embassy School, New Delhi, India


For grades K and 1. 30-45 minutes
I start by reading one of my (or one of your) favorite Gilbert books, while projecting the art on the screen.
It's followed by a short program about Gilbert and a visual tour of my work space.
If time allows, the students can help me write a Gilbert story.

For grades 2 and up. 45-60 minutes
This information-packed program explains how I create my books,
from the sketches to the finished art, as well as the writing process,
especially revisions. Students will learn that even an author has to rewrite things many times
before they are perfect! I include a tour of my studio and an overview of the Gilbert books.    back

South Elementary School, West Fargo, ND

Elm School, Wyoming, Ohio


Schools: $1500 per day, for a maximum of four sessions. This can be at one school or shared with another nearby school for a half day in each.

For areas requiring air travel, there is a two-day minimum visit. The contact host will coordinate schedules with a companion school(s) and make hotel reservations. Author will arrange air travel, which will be reimbursed along with meals and hotel. There is the option for the author to use a rental car or to be shuttled about by merry volunteers. Payment is due on the day of the author's visit. For schools within driving distance, there is a mileage fee (.50 per mile). Distances greater than two hours will require a hotel stay the evening before at the school's expense.   back


I use a Mac Keynote program with a VGA adapter to connect my laptop to your projector. Please have another computer available with Powerpoint software as a backup. If not using a ceiling projector, I'll need an AV cart or table for the projector and my laptop, as well as a screen and a 2-plug extension cord. A microphone is necessary, even for small groups. A clip-on is preferred.   back

Please note that libraries with skylights and all-purpose rooms with shadeless windows may not be dark enough to see the projected images clearly, especially on a sunny day. As the details in these images are an important component to my talk, I would advise schools with this set-up to consider using their funds for an author who does not use projected images as part of her presentation. It's disappointing for the students (as well as the author!) if they can't see what the author is talking about.   back


Book sales are extremely important to visiting authors, as it helps to keep our books in print. Books can be ordered through a local bookstore, a distributor, or directly from the publisher at a discount. To order online, go to the Books page.   back


As much as I would like to, I can't sign anything other than books. (It would be unfair to those students not getting an autograph.) If desired, you can print out a bookmark with my signature on it to give to each child, either before or after my visit.

I can sign books between sessions or after school. Have a slip of paper or a post-it note on the first page of EVERY book with the name of the person to whom it should be inscribed. Please do not ask me to personally interpret your book order forms, as this leaves room for errors. (And after four sessions, my brain might be mush!) I know this is an extra step for the coordinator, but it seems to be the most efficient method.

Please don't have the children waiting in line while I am signing books, as it is distracting and time-consuming, and I wouldn't want to spell Megan or Meagan or Magen or Meghan incorrectly with permanent marker!   back


For bookings, please contact me directly with your desired dates. I limit the number of school visits per year because I need time in my studio to make more books! I apologize if I am not available for the dates you would like- I start booking a year in advance. Requests are on a first come, first served basis.   back


The more the students are familiar with my books, the more they'll appreciate and benefit from my visit. Have books available for the librarian or teachers to be read to the students at least 6 weeks in advance.
You may find the Common Core Guides for my books helpful as well.

Preparing the students for an author visit - Charlottesville, VA

Discuss appropriate questions that students might want to ask. And do the kindergarteners know what a question is?

Make sure you know in advance what the author will need in the way of equipment (see Equipment)
Send out Book Order Forms to the parents, leaving plenty of time to have the books delivered to the school.
And finally- Read the program descriptions carefully, and group the students accordingly.

Upon my arrival:
Have the room set up with a screen and a cart or table for my laptop and projector. Shades should be drawn.
Provide water and lunch. I'll eat with teachers in the lounge, with librarians (and maybe a select group of students) in the library, or alone in restaurants. But please don't ask me to sit in the cafeteria
with the students ----- authors are not used to the chaos as much as teachers are!
Show me where the grown-up restroom is.
Dinners with teachers and/or librarians can be enjoyable, but sometimes I like to wind down or do some work in my hotel in the evening. For multi-day visits, we can do both.   back

James Edwards, a first grader at Lawson Elementary School in Johnston, Iowa,
surprised the author with a model of Gilbert wearing roller skates (toy tractors!)


If you have ideas to share with other teachers about how to use my books as part of your curriculum, please email them to me!   back

Using downloads from my website, as well as creating new activities, Indian Hills Elementary School
in Topeka Kansas had each grade level do a project for my author visit.
Kindergarteners decorated eggs found on the Fun Stuff page under Easter activities.
Grade 1 made Valentine poems as per Roses are Pink, Your Feet Really Stink.

Grade 2 downloaded the Gilbert paper doll from the website and made their own fashion show.

Grade 3 made their own Earth Day posters, like Gilbert's class did in Ants in Your Pants, Worms in you Pants (Gilbert Goes Green).

Grade 4 made up party invitations, as per the book Happy Birthday to you, You Belong in a Zoo.

Fifth graders cut out photographs from discarded dog magazines and gave them human attributes, as per the book Dogs Don't Brush Their Teeth!

6th graders used the award design from the Last Day of School activities to write about their elementary school highlights.

Wanamaker Elementary School in Topeka Kansas did a school-wide luau theme to celebrate Gilbert the Surfer Dude. Kids wore Hawaiian shirts and grass skirts. The library was decorated as Gilbert's Surfer Shack, and the lunch was island-themed pot-luck.

Media specialist Danielle Galligan at the Hopewell School in Glastonbury, CT came up with these ideas to use prior to the author's visit: After reading a few of Diane deGroat's books, have students make a list of questions they have about her or her books on chart paper.
Visit the FAQ's section to see if you can find the answers.
Save the ones you can't find for her visit.

Brand New Pencils, Brand New Books: Write about your first day of school or make a class list of what you can do to make the first day for a new student a great day.
Good Night, Sleep Tight, Don't Let the Bed Bugs Bite: Have students write or draw pictures on a suitcase of what they would bring on a sleepover or camping trip.
Happy Birthday to You, You Belong in a Zoo: Have students write an invitation to a friend to play at recess that maybe they haven't invited before.
Any book: List all the characters in the book and what type of animals they are. Have students come up with ideas for new characters, what type of animal they should be, and why.
Students could then make the animals for display.

Ms. Galligan includes these suggested activities in a packet for each teacher whose class will attend the author's presentation. She also adds the author's website information, mentioning areas of interest such as downloads for activities and bookmarks.

This activity was suggested by Katheryn Shurley, a student at Angelo State University, San Angelo, TX:
Choose any Gilbert book that the students have not yet read, and extract key sentences from the story.
Type them all onto one page, leaving space between the sentences.
Make enough copies for each student, then cut the individual sentences into strips.
Give each student a packet of the strips and ask them to predict the sequence of events by placing them in order on a sheet of paper.
Read the story to the students. As they recognize the events, have them place the sentences in the correct order.
After the class has found all the excerpts in the story, have them glue the correct sequence onto the paper.
After reading a Gilbert book, Ms. Shurley also asks the students these questions:
    "What is the conflict and the solution in the story?"
    "What kind of person is Gilbert?"

    Show the students a list of character traits and ask them to pick three that apply to Gilbert.
    "If you were a movie director, how would you show the book's setting in your film?"
    The students have to figure out a setting and list props they would use.
    "What do you think the author wants you to learn from this story?"

From Beaver Creek Elementary school in Johnston, Iowa - a lesson for Trick or Treat Smell My Feet: Discuss briefly if anyone has ever had an embarrassing moment. Have students share what happened and how others reacted. Discuss the different story elements, stressing what Gilbert's problem was. Talk about how he was able to solve it and discuss the life lesson - we are all unique. Give students a choice of various characters from the Gilbert series. Have them cut out the head of the character from Ms. deGroat's website print-out Coloring Page 2, and then RIP (NO SCISSORS) a unique costume for the character. Display proudly!

Beaver Creek also studied character traits by making up a new classmate for Gilbert.
Students had to answer: What is the new classmate's name? Is the new friend a boy or a girl?
What kind of animal is it? What is the new friend like?

Students at the Hopewell School in Glastonbury, CT
made an adjective and noun chart for each Gilbert title by studying the illustrations.

Students at Prairie View Elementary School in Lee's Summit, MO,
made three corner hats after reading Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire.

Colonel Johnston Elementary School, Fort Huachuca, Arizona

June Myers at Framington River School in Otis MA pasted the flaps from
the covers of Gilbert books on a poster and had the students
guess which title goes with which flap summary of the story.

The second graders at the Emily A. Fifield School in Dorchester MA
voted on what kind of animal they thought Gilbert was.
Then they put their votes on a graph.

Students in Miss Daddato's literature class at Southampton School #1 in Vincentown, NJ
made cover designs for Gilbert books they would like to see: Earth Day, Father's Day, and St. Patrick's Day.

Southampton School #1 students also made posters for each Gilbert book
containing a new cover design, researched facts about the particular holiday or event,
and what the students normally do on that special day compared to what Gilbert did in the story.

Cathy Bonnell of Ocotillo Elementary School in Phoenix, AZ
had her students replicate Mrs. Byrd's homework assignment in Jingle Bells, Homework Smells:
"Make a picture of a character from your favorite book. Be prepared to talk about the book when you bring
the picture into the class." Here are some samples.

Second graders at Orangewood School in Phoenix AZ wrote a skit after reading Annie Pitts, Artichoke.
They created costumes similar to those worn by the students in the story.

A talented librarian, Joyce Meimer of Southeast Elementary School in Mansfield CT, made a giant piece of
Gilbert art to stand on the stage for the author's visit!

After reading Trick or treat, Smell my Feet, Lori Belair and Dana Ryan (Cayuga and A.J. Smith, Syracuse, NY) had K-1 students design the most embarrassing costume for Patty, Lewis, Gilbert or Mrs. Byrd. Students were given the heads only (downloaded from the website). Then they tore or cut colored paper to design the costume and used markers to decorate them. The banner read, "And the Winner for Most Embarrassing Costume Goes To..." "We also had Grade 2-3 come up with a title for a book you would write in the future. Students knew from your website that you come up with the titles first and then the story, so they were hoping one of theirs would catch your eye. The banner read, "Titles We Think Would Make Great Stories". We also made a huge banner size chart which noted which animal K-3 students thought Gilbert was. It was a close tie between hedgehog, porcupine and possum. Believe it or not, a couple of students thought Gilbert might be a gorilla or a wooly mammoth! Oh no!"

Some fun bulletin boards from New Town Elementary School, Waxhaw, SC:

Ivy Creek Elementary School in Buford Georgia had a Diane deGroat bulletin board contest.
One teacher had the students design their own bed bugs after reading Good Night, Sleep Tight, Don't Let the Bed Bugs Bite!

Another class designed pajamas for Gilbert!

Students at Ivy Creek also made stinky feet poems.

For Trick or Treat, Smell My Feet, students made their own costumes for Gilbert. One Gilbert is a Barbie doll,

and another Gilbert is a house!