The Volponi Sessions – January 19, 2012

This winter we did something that has never been tried before!  Students from Ms. Graham’s 8th grade English class conducted a SKYPE session with nationally known author Paul Volponi.  Before we skyped with Mr. Volponi, we read a combination of 9 titles by him.  In order to ensure all students had access to the books, we had to borrow copies from all the school libraries in Newport News as well as the public library branches.

Volponi was chosen because his storylines are so catchy.  He is inspired by current events, so there’s a lot of reality in his work that leads to great discussion.  I have been encouraging males at Crittenden for the past 3 or 4 years to read his books as a part of my campaign to encourage boys to read.  What I found out was that girls also love to real Paul V, too. 

In order to attend the Skype session, students were required to attend an afterschool book talk in the library.  Sitting in the round, students answered a set of questions from that were generic yet indept.  The questions were easily adaptable to any title and were perfect for triggering conversation.   The Skype Session was a very rewarding moment for the students.  They knew that Mr. Volponi used his novels to promot a more leveled view of youth and crime issues then what was usually portrayed in media broadcast. ” Broadcast Media makes it appear as if people of color are the major wrong-doers”, says Volponi.  His stories put a diverse face on the subject and makes the reader aware that illiteracy, teen crime, dysfunctional families, and poverty is a human issue not a specific race or culture’s issue. 

The SKYPE session allowed them to hear him say this in person.  The students were very impressed on how he was genuinely interested in their thoughts and ideas.  He encouraged every last student in attendance to right their own stories.  He was very impressed that they were also working on final book trailer projects using Photo Stories 3, and requested to see some of the final projects. The idea that he was interested in their trailers, really excited them, making them work really hard to produce a quality pieces of work. 

You can view the book talk and Skype session that was taped by our NNPS TV station Channel 47 at, or click on the video below (at 2:19).  Some of the best book trailers on Volponi books are posted on the Student Work page of this blog.


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