Tips for a Successful Virtual School Presentation


Through the Ontario Writers-in-the-Schools program, authors will provide 20 minutes of material for the virtual presentation. Depending on the material and grade level, this can be delivered in a single presentation or multiple shorter presentations (e.g., two 10-minute mini-presentations, four 5-minute readings). 

Presentations to different schools should be unique in some way although they may contain the same readings. Previously recorded material can be incorporated as a small portion of the session but must be part of a larger original presentation.

To support the teaching of Canadian writing, authors will also provide the following resource materials to accompany their virtual presentation:

  • 5–7 discussion questions related to the presented material
  • 2 classroom activities/exercises related to the presented material

These resource materials will be provided to the teacher for classroom use following the presentation. (These materials will not be part of the author’s presentation.) 

Resource materials should be geared to the grade and curriculum level. Think of how you usually engage your audience live and put that in the form of discussion questions and activities students can do with the teacher and/or at home. Should you have a teacher’s guide that you have created or have copyright permission, you may use questions and exercises from there. Otherwise use the sample discussion questions and exercises below as springboards to come up with unique resources specific to your book.


Preparation is essential for a successful virtual classroom presentation. Good communication with your school contact is key.

  1. Check with your school contact on technical requirements and limitations for the school. Can students access a YouTube recording, Zoom meeting, etc.? Are they prevented from accessing certain platforms?
  2. Check the number of students who will be accessing the materials and the method of access. You will need a student count for your final report.
  3. Are there special access needs for this classroom (e.g., ASL, closed captions, large print materials)?
  4. Keep privacy considerations in mind. No recording or screenshots of students are allowed.
  5. Consult with your school contact to align your materials with the grade level curriculum. If you need additional information, refer to the Ontario Elementary Curriculum and Secondary Curriculum.



  1. Describe the characters in your story.  
  2. Who is the main character? How do you know?
  3. Describe the setting(s) in the story.
  4. Describe the problem in the story.  Explain how the problem gets solved.
  5. What does the story remind you of?  

Junior, Intermediate, Senior

  1. What does the main character want in the beginning of the novel? How does that want change?
  2. What flaw/fault do you see in the main character?
  3. What are the main characters’ obstacles?
  4. How do you think they can overcome this obstacle?
  5. If there is a villain, what good points do you see in them?
  6. How do you see the main character changing by the end of the chapter/book?
  7. Predict the ending.
  8. Change the ending but justify the changes.


Choose from the examples below to complete different types of activities: literary, artistic, or dramatic.


  1. Write a sentence describing your favourite part of the story. 
  2. Create a poem about the scene.
  3. Write an email to the character giving them your advice/instructions on how to solve their problem.
  4. Place the characters in an entirely different setting and change the outcome of the scene. 
  5. For a nonfiction book: Write a set of instructions for something linked to the book.


  1. Illustrate your favourite part of the story.
  2. Create a graphic of your favourite scene. 
  3. Design a new cover, complete with a new title and the author’s name.
  4. For a nonfiction book: Take a photo of one of the subjects in the book.


  1. Imagine you are a person or animal from the story and dance or move the way that character might. Create a dance phrase depicting this character. 
  2. Create a dialogue from a scene in the book ensuring that it shows the relationship between the speakers and contains at least one plot point.  
  3. Write a text exchange that tells a piece of the story.
  4. Create a book trailer for the scene the author read aloud.
  5. For a nonfiction book: Perform and video an experiment.


Lighting. The simplest lighting should be an even, steady lighting directly on your face without side lighting or back lighting that will create distracting shadows or silhouettes. Play with your options in advance to find your most flattering light and be sure to do it at the same time of day as your planned event to account for any natural light.

Consider your video background. Is the camera picking up a pile of books you thought was out of sight? Is there a personal memento behind you that you would rather not share with the world? Keep it simple. Some platforms have the option of a virtual background. Be sure to test them in advance if you choose to use one.  Placement of images combined with your movement can sometimes create unwanted effects.

Camera placement. Camera views that are even with or slightly above your face work best. Avoid a low angle looking up at your chin and nose. 

Sound connection. The use of headphones or earbuds will give you a better sound connection with your platform and eliminate noise from the room. 

Consider your audio background. Be sure to eliminate as much as possible any competing sounds around you. This is a good time to make sure your pet is in another room, household equipment like dishwashers and TVs are not on, and notification sounds on your computer or phone are turned off. Some platforms such as Zoom have a mute microphone function where you can turn off your mic to eliminate ambient noise when you aren’t speaking and then turn it on again when you speak. This can help to quiet competing noises you can’t control.

Clothing. When dressing to look your best consider plain solid colours or simple patterns. Patterns that are too busy can distract, plain white or black can be too stark, and green can turn you into a meme.

Prepare for technical troubles. If you will have a live portion of your presentation, plan ahead to avoid technical troubles. Test your internet connection, sound, and video. Prepare back ups if you have visuals and files for your presentation. Have a dress rehearsal: Invite a few friends to test the event with you, and ask for their feedback.


© The Writers' Union of Canada and Sylvia McNicoll