Book related visits
It's hard to get noticed in the biz. I guess what I mean is even when I tell book stores, schools, and libraries that I'm available for signings and visits they think I'm a nut job. I speak to them on the phone, meet in person and send letters. No luck. It took me 3 months to get a book signing with a major chain. Took 3 months of persistence to get the visit at a library. Which I'm exciting about the library visit. It's a chance to hone my skills at working a crowd. It's also a chance to give back as a volunteer. My local library has provided the majority of my language art tie in w/my Kindergarten curriculum. Children at that age just love to be read to. As long as the book is interesting the kids they listen. Use the silly voices for each character if it's appropriate. The kids like it. Cuts down on behavior problems in the first 10 min. of class.
I've been checking out other children's book illustrators/authors site to see how the handle such events. I got some great insight from some of the blogs I visit. Click on the name to visit their blog.
I've been a K-5 art teacher and I will say that really helps being around kids and teaching art to get a feel for what children like. I'm used to being around children and parents. I still get some butterflies but nothing like prior to my student teaching days. You also get a feel for improvising. Children are all different, and each event is slightly different. Prior to that I would have been hiding under a desk. It's exciting when the kids love what you teach them. Can you beat a standing ovation from a class of kindergartners. Plus shouting "You are an artist!" It warms the heart and soul. With the biz of children's books being so full of rejections it's a nice change of pace.
When working with kids here's something I've learned from being a teacher. Say the group you have is a bit on the rowdy side and you need them to focus. You can always find one child that is doing what you want them to be doing and compliment them. Are they sitting quietly and waiting. "I really like how you are sitting here quietly and waiting for me to start". Do it loud enough that the other kids can here. Majority will get the idea and follow along. No matter the age we all love to be complimented.
If you are teaching kids to draw break things down into steps. Include questions for the kids to respond. Guide the questions if you are trying to get a specific response. Also try and come up with analogies that the kids can understand. They really like food analogies. Oh that's like a shape of an oreo cookie. That's helpful if you need them to draw things a specific size. Kids generally tend to draw things on the small side. Also if you intend the kids to draw save passing out the pencils or crayons for last. It cuts down on pencil twirling and drawing when they should be listening.
You do need to be energetic with young kids. I find that I have a certain style of talking with lower grades. You know the kind that your kindergarten teacher uses. The older kids you don't have too as much. Try to make sure that you don't talk to a 5th grader they way you talk to someone in Kindergarten. When kids are young saying their picture is nice and you like it is usually enough. When they are older be more specific about what you like about their work. Talk about lines, colors, shapes, principles of art. Otherwise they think you are humoring them.
If you aren't sure what kids should be learning at what age check your states Performance Standards for visual arts. All states that have art programs will have some type of standards that will give you an idea about what kids are learning about in the arts. If some concept is too high for them you'll know.
Kids of any age love games. Depending on the audience well known games modified for what you need such as Simon Says can help keep them interested. You can toss a ball to a student for a Q & A about what do they remember from the story or event. It's scientific that if you can coordinate body movement and learning there is better memory retention. I do dance and hand motions with students when they are learning about Mondrian and Broadway Boogie Woogie. I learned the lesson from my teacher while student teaching. A year later they still remember it because of the seeing, hearing, motion, and doing.
It's good to practice what you are doing. Practice makes perfect even if it's just in front of your mirror. Also I try and have a mini outline of what I'm going to do. Just so if I draw a blank I can refocus by just reading a line. Once you've done it a few times things get much smoother. Also really think about what you did that didn't work and correct it for the next time.