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School Visits by David Wood

David Wood OBE thoroughly enjoys visits to schools, book fairs and libraries, presenting a varied assortment of talks and performances, to a wide range of children and needs. Children often recognise him from his television appearances on WATCH and SEEING AND DOING. Teachers recognise him from PLAYAWAY and TRICKY BUSINESS.

Described as “the national children’s dramatist” by Irving Wardle of The Times he is also the author of children’s books, an actor, and performer of THE DAVID WOOD MAGIC AND MUSIC SHOW and DAVID WOOD'S STORYTIME

If you would like to arrange a school visit, please click here.

‘This is just a quick note to say thank you so much for the wonderful day that we had with you regarding our author visit. The children and staff alike were incredibly inspired and your love and warmth of books (all books) really came through.

Thank you again for inspiring us all to be authors!‘

Assistant Headteacher at a London school.

“Thank you for coming – the children are still buzzing about the day.

It really did do everything we wanted – you provided a great male role model for our children, many of whom do not have that at home.

You also demonstrated that books are a thing if pleasure and purpose which was a real surprise to some of our children!

Deputy Headteacher from a Newbury primary school”


School visits can be tailored to individual needs.

All of them carry the message - BOOKS ARE FUN! - If children grow up unafraid of books, because early on they have discovered how much fun they can be, they will soon discover how useful books can be too. David's books, many of them novelty books, with pop-ups, flaps and slots, co-created with Richard Fowler, have proved perfect for putting over this message. The children enjoy them as much as toys!

A full day usually starts with THE GINGERBREAD MAN, a storytelling with magic and music, based on my own book/play/tv series.  It takes place in the school hall, instead of assembly.

The storytelling is for the whole school, although sometimes we leave out the Reception class.  The performance is 40 minutes long.  (For more details, see below).

This is followed by up to half a dozen sessions, BOOKS ARE FUN! Sessions, usually of 40 minutes, for individual classes or year groups, each one no more than 60 in number.  These have ten minute breaks between them and are tailored to fit in with the school timetable.  The sessions for Reception and very young classes are usually 20 minutes.

For the younger children, my own published novelty books feature strongly.  I try to prove to the children that books are instruments of pleasure rather than torture … books like FUNNY BUNNY’S MAGIC SHOW and MOLE’S BEDTIME STORY (both regularly seen on TWEENIES) are very popular.

For older children, I look into the ingredients of good storytelling, with particular reference to the work of Roald Dahl, eight of whose books I have adapted for the stage.  We talk about books, what books are for, different types of books, our favourite books, an investigation into links between fairytale fantasies and modern stories, the world of the imagination, ingredients for story-telling (to help the children’s own creative writing), ideas for starting stories and how to finish them!

The Gingerbread ManTHE GINGERBREAD MAN:
A 40 minute story-telling, including magic, music and audience participation. This is suitable for all primary school ages, and often is done for the whole school in the school hall. A CD Player and a waste paper bin are the only requirements!

'I enjoyed the part when he made the Gingerbread Man.
He really made us believe in magic.'
( Siama, year 6)

Here is a review of THE GINGERBREAD MAN storytelling from ABRACADABRA magazine.


DAVID WOOD'S 'THE GINGERBREAD MAN' As seen St. John's College School, Cambridge on Thursday 8th March Review by Chris Wardle

After seeing David Wood's excellent lecture on entertaining children and hearing about the ways in which he combines storytelling and magic, I immediately invited him to perform at the school in which I work, as part of our Book Week. This proved to be a very special treat for the children.

David Wood's on a school visitDavid performed his own storytelling version of his successful stage play 'The Gingerbread Man' and with just a few simple props, some music cues and his energetic personality, he brought the story to life. Of course there was magic, including a version of instant magic painting, a clever block off rope type escape, with wooden cut outs of the main characters attached to the blocks to illustrate the Gingerbread man's escape, and a magic baking routine, with lots of comedy byplay, to produce around 100 gingerbread men as his finale! David kept over 225 (4 - 9 year old) children spellbound for nearly an hour before leading storytelling workshops for individual year groups. Magic was also in evidence here with his own 'Funny Bunny's Magic Show' book and a clever version of 'Hot Rod'.

David also led some sessions with the older (9 - 13 year old) children in the afternoon, discussing his experiences as an author, playwright and his hugely successful stage adaptations of classic works by Philippa Pearce and Roald Dahl. This was a fantastic day for the children, filled with stories, laughter and magic, showcasing David Wood's talents and demonstrating his communication skills and rapport with children of all ages. If you work within the field of education, then I heartily recommend David's skills and expertise - and you also get a free masterclass into the bargain, watching how he deals with an audience and gets such a lot of business from just a few simple effects.


‘... The children LOVED your visit, they haven’t stopped talking about it. We have some letters and pictures to send you from the children. Thank you again. I will recommend you to all my colleagues.’
Comment from Head Teacher, Infant School, Hampshire

'... your performance and workshops were wonderful and the girls thoroughly enjoyed them, so thank you very much for all your hard work.'
A school in Wimbledon

'Thank you for a brilliant day - the children have not stopped talking about your visit.'
A school in Weybridge

'Sincere thanks for a wonderful morning.
The children were captivated.'

A school in Brook Green, London

... ‘The feedback from teachers was excellent and the children all had a wonderful day.’
A school in Chilton

Below three letters written by Year 5 children from a school in Hampshire that David visited recently.

'...Thank you so much for coming to our school during book week .It was so much fun and your magic was amazing. My favourite part was your spectacular performance of "The Gingerbread Man". Also your jacket was really cool! It was especially nice of you to tell us how you make books into plays. Now I'm sure our play will be much better and easier to make. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did...'

'...I especially liked the Gingerbread man. It is crazy how you pulled all those gingerbread men out of the pot. I learnt what was needed to make a pop-up book. I will have a go at home...'

'...Thank you for coming to our school. It was really funny listening to your stories. You are a great magician! I especially liked it when you pulled all the gingerbread men out of the tin. The pop up books were very clever. I have bought "Save the Human" and it is a brilliant book. I learnt how easy it is to write a story. I used to be scared of books but now I love them...'


Letters of Recommendation (Click on the letters to read them)

The Gingerbread ManARDEN JUNIOR AND INFANT SCHOOl
Birmingham

Click me to read the letter!!..... it was wonderful watching a true professional at work!..

...You captivated audiences of over 200 children,
even though their ages ranged from 5 to 11 years
and you did this twice in one afternoon!......

you kept the children spellbound.....

Click me to read the letter!!WIMBLEDON CHASE MIDDLE SCHOOL

..... David Wood is a prolific and versatile children's author, playwright, composer, actor and director...

The Gingerbread Man... David was very flexible over numbers and he was able to keep the attention of large groups of sixty or ninety children....

... the children were encouraged to ask and answer questions as well as listen...

Click me to read the letter!!... another bonus from the visit was that we were able to sell several books only obtainable through David Wood at discount prices on a sale or return basis. He was available for book signing sessions in the dinner hour and was very generous with his time...

Click me to read the letter!!DULWICH COLLEGE
Kindergarten & Infants School

... you were inspirational and the children have talked of little else today. What a wonderful way to christen our library...

KELVIN GROVE PRIMARY SCHOOL

The Gingerbread Man... David spent a lot of his time before Bookweek discussing an appropriate programme for the school...

... his performances combined music, magic, storytelling, and there was a high level of audience participation with the Click me to read the letter!!children...

... David showed the children how he had been through the process of writing and publishing his books from his original ideas to the completed work...

Click me to read the letter!!... the children were inspired by his magic and storytelling for a long time afterwards...

... David Wood catered not only for all ages but for different educational needs...

 

Click me to read the letter!!Click me to read the letter!!Click me to read the letter!!Click me to read the letter!!


In October 2004 I was delighted to spend four days working in the British School in Brussels, thanks to the invitation from Hilary Vervaeck. I did several sessions with the Nursery and Reception children, plus three performances of THE GINGERBREAD MAN storytelling, several sessions to Years 3, 4, 5 and 6, and a talk to parents and children. It was a hectic, but highly enjoyable few days, as hopefully some of the photos prove!


  DAVID WOOD, children’s author and playwright, argues that authors’ visits to schools should promote reading as fun.
A disaster,” moans an author. “No one seemed to know I was coming, I felt like a leper in the staffroom and no one even offered me a cup of tea. Not only that, the kids were three years older than I'd expected and didn’t go a bundle on my Baby Teddy Tales…

 

A disaster,” moans a teacher. “He was so nervous! He couldn’t make himself heard beyond the front row. As for turning the kids on to books and reading, he probably put them off for life…

Two fictional extremes, but not totally far-fetched. Some authors communicate brilliantly on the page but not in the flesh. Some teachers fail to make the most of authors visits.

But I believe that authors visiting schools (and libraries) can, with careful pre-planning, make a major, indeed magical, contribution to the National Year of Reading, or any year.

I’m an author who really enjoys school visits. My background as an actor and children’s magician helps enormously. I love performing. But I never go in unprepared. Detailed liaison with teachers means I can approach each age group differently, offer six or seven sessions in a day, and hopefully enthuse the children to want to read more once I have gone. Sometimes I start with a storytelling performance (with magic and music) for the whole school, following it up with several interactive sessions with smaller groups. Entertainment is the key. Books are fun is my message. I try not to make my sessions seem like lessons. After all, I’m facing a captive audience. They haven’t chosen to meet me. Therefore I owe it to them to give them something special. For infants and younger primary-age children, my visit should be something exciting, a change from the usual routine, a novelty. They are still in that delightful stage of willing responsiveness, not yet having reached the age of silent, curled-lipped cynicism. And I believe that we authors should relish the chance – the privilege – of sharing stories and thoughts with them.

For the younger ones, good picture books with a strong story, but with not too much text, can help them learn to read almost without realising. They will start to associate the words with what happens in the illustrations, especially if there are repeated phrases to join in with. An appealing text, appealingly performed, with audience participation, will linger in the children’s memory, enabling them to link the spoken words with the printed words when they look at the book next time. Catchy rhymes are helpful too. And humour.

With Richard Fowler I have created several novelty storybooks with characters who pop through slots as the story progresses. These books have the appeal of toys; they are interactive and fun, immediately adding another dimension to the idea of “a book”. When I use these books in schools, the children always want to play with them; having gained their interest in the book as a fun object, it is not difficult to make reading the text an equally important part of the game.

I show these novelty books to older children too, not so much as stories, but as samples of my work. Again, the fun element breaks the ice and opens the door to a more general discussion about books and reading. Apart from talking about favourite stories, common themes and reading for pleasure, I often tell them what one of my teachers once told me. “Education” he said, “is knowing is how to use books”. Not read, use. I ask the children what they think he meant and lead them towards recognising the importance of books in daily life. The Yellow Pages, the A to Z, the T.V. Times are great examples of books we use. Children are often surprised that I talk about such books rather than “serious” books. But they all agree it’s useful to have a book which lists plumbers, if the loo overflows, or gives us directions or tells us what time “Neighbours” is on.

And soon they agree that they couldn’t use these books if they couldn’t read the information they contain. And the notion that anything they want to find out about is in a book (or CD Rom!) somewhere seems to impress children and give a practical purpose to reading which, for some, rings more bells than simply learning reading for its own sake.

To further encourage children to enjoy using books and words, I sometimes demonstrate how to pick several words at random from a dictionary and collaboratively to link them into an original story. Sometimes I deliberately hand the dictionary to a child with limited reading skills. By inviting him or her to use the book for a fun purpose, if necessary inviting another child to help read out the chosen words, I’m sure it takes away some of the mystique.

Learning to read involves unlocking a code. For some children the code is more impenetrable than for others. Teachers and parents bear most of the brunt of providing the key, but a visit from an enthusiastic author can inject a magic spurt of oil to encourage the key to turn.

 


A TASTE OF DAHL

Anthony PedleyIt was a pleasure and a privilege to work with actor Anthony Pedley (whose archetypal performance as the Big Friendly Giant in my production of Roald Dahl's THE BFG has lit up the stages of three West End stages and most No. 1 UK touring theatres) on his one-man performance A TASTE OF DAHL.

Tony plays Dahl, using only the great man's own words. He performs excerpts from the books and explores his theories about writing for children.

A TASTE OF DAHL plays in schools, libraries, bookstores, at festivals and at the Roald Dahl Museum in Great Missenden.

It is a splendid performance - funny, scary, informative and inspiring. Highly recommended to schools! To find out more, please visit www.anthonypedley.co.uk.



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