I'm a picture book author and illustrator with a Primary Teaching Diploma. I've many years’ experience of giving fun,hands-on illustration and writing workshops in Primary Schools and libraries using my stories and pictures to inspire pupils’ own creativity. My workshops can be adapted for all age groups and are ideal for World Book Day or a school Art Week or Book Week. I also give virtual workshops - check out recent testimonials below.
SCHOOL VISITS These can be a whole day (4 one-hour sessions plus an assembly talk or a 30 minute Nursery storytime) or a half day (3 one hour sessions.) If the numbers are large, I'm happy for classes to double up for a power point presentation in the hall before splitting off to their respective classrooms for the writing or drawing exercise. I show original artwork, roughs and drafts and talk about how I edit my texts.
VIRTUAL SCHOOL VISITS I offer 30-45 minute workshops for EYFS and KS1 and a 60 minute workshop for KS2. These can be an Assembly Q&A or workshops with Power Point images and either a quizz or a sketching task. My preferred platforms are Zoom or Google Meet.
This is what I do in my school visits:
EYFS Foundation Stage
- Dog on Wheels is fast paced and fun and will grab the interest of all children with its skateboarding theme. Told in rhyme and with a lot to spot in the pictures, it offers an entertaining way of developing literacy skills and ties in with topics on travel, transport and reading road signs. I have a model dog on wheels, bunting with prepositions of movement written on it and a large roll of frieze paper so that pupils, having heard the adventures of Dubbin Dog on Wheels and seen in the artwork where he goes,can create a new journey for him. And so a new story starts...
- Topics – fantasy. Creating a mysterious character and giving that character a name (year 1). Who lives inside the Warty Tree? In The Little White Sprite a boy goes through through a hole, into the hollow inside a strange tree. Creating a mysterious place where you enter another world, in the tradition of Alice in Wonderland. Here's a video clip, done in conjunction with NAPE, showing a workshop based on The Little White Sprite for year 1 & 2 pupils
- Mythical beasts/ fairy tales. In Selkie a boy makes friends with a seal that can change into a girl and back again into a seal. If you met a creature like that what would you want to know about it? Big questions, open questions, philosophy. I also use Tom Finger and The Little White Sprite in a workshop, 'Mysterious Creatures and Story Openers', to show how a story is constructed, developed and edited (years 3&4)
- Topics -water/ seaside. I use We're Going to Build a Dam and Flood in a workshop that explores these themes both factually and imaginatively. Also, the sea setting of Selkie can be used to inspire pupils to write about a beach they know. Place as a starting point for individual stories, (years 5&6) or story settings (years 3&4)
Here's a video clip, done in conjunction with NAPE, showing a workshop based on Selkie given to year 3&4 pupils
- The magic of transformation inspiring pupils’ own selkie stories. Creating a character and structuring a narrative (years 5&6) Here is a page of a story inspired by a year 6 pupil at West Chiltington Primary School
- Story boards and sea adventures: illustration-led stories inspired by Zoe’s Boat. The pictures in this book are in graphic format and ideal for inspiring pupils to create their own story board narratives, Explorer's Ship's Log (years 5&6) or Land Ahoy binocular frame pictures (years 3&4)
- I can use my picture books as a starting point to inspire children of all ages to write their own. Here is an example of a year 6 pupil inspired by The Little White Sprite to write a story about a door into another imaginary land:
"Gillian captured the children's attention and imagination with her stories and illustrations. Seeing Gillian's original artwork, and hearing about the process of creation, inspired them to create their own images and stories. We had a wonderful day."
Angela Taylor, Sancton Wood School, Cambridge
"We have just had the most wonderful Zoom virtual visit from the author and illustrator Gillian McClure. We were treated to an hour of magical and mesmerising reading from the author's book 'Selkie.' for the older children and 'Dog on Wheels' for the younger ones. The children were transfixed by hearing about the editing process, seeing her drawing live and hearing about where her ideas come from. There then followed a very informative Q & A session where Gillian gave us a real insight into the life of an author and illustrator. The younger children loved the interactive quiz linked to 'Dog on Wheels.'
I never believed that a virtual author visit could be so successful - thank you!"
Julia Clarke, St John’s College School Cambridge
"I can't thank you enough for today. I have had so much positive feedback from both staff and children, my own children included who are in years 3 and 4 at school. They have been telling me all about the drawings they did and how you edit your books. It was lovely to hear them talking so excitedly about it this evening at home. I feel we have been extremely lucky as a school that you were able to do this with us today. One teacher commented that they could have listened to you all day and another said that she thought it had been the best author visit she had been part of.
Thank you for being such a wonderful inspiration to our children at school and for helping us bring our book week to life this week. I hope in the future there will be an opportunity for you to do something with our children again."
Jody Johnson, Monkfield Park Primary School
"We had a wonderful day with you Gillian and we hope to see you again soon. The children loved the day and we hope to inspire them to write more in future months."
Sue Blakeley St Louis Catholic Academy, Newmarket
"Gillian’s visit during our Book Week was a great success. She came with props, puppets and illustrations and the children were truly inspired to use their imaginations, invent situations and solve problems. They were also encouraged to think about the vocabulary they were using and to plan their stories. The follow up activities that Gillian suggested were useful, creative and great fun too." Jacqueline Hewitt, Saint Ronan Pre-Prep School
"I have 2 pieces of feedback from teachers to share with you". Lara Fiddaman, The Willows Primary School
"I thought the session was fantastic and the children were in awe of her drawing skills as well as her story telling. She had a lovely manner and taught the children about how to create a mysterious character. They all enjoyed drawing their character after she left and telling their stories. I would definitely recommend her."
"Really lovely assembly, interactive and engaging, the children were captivated during the acting out of Selkie. Beautiful drawings and the drafts she brought were really interesting."
"Gillian McClure gave a fascinating talk on picturebooks to graduates on masters courses on book illustration and children's literature from both Anglia Ruskin University and Cambridge Faculty of Education. She used delightful examples from her own work to illustrate points she was making about the art of picturebooks. Gillian had an excellent rapport with her audience and took time and trouble to answer their questions. Highly recommended."
Morag Styles, Cambridge Faculty of Education
“Our World Book Day came to life through Gillian McClure’s visit to Pirton School. The children were mesmerised by her extraordinary illustrations in the Assembly. She took the children through active, imaginative, adventure sessions, which highly developed their imaginations. All children were extremely engaged and continued their story telling and writing skills further, after their class workshop. Gillian had a charming way of enchanting all of our pupils and raised the profile of reading and writing throughout our school.”
“The children of Mayfield from year 1 to 6 were inspired by the beautiful story of the Selkie to write their own stories and poems. It was wonderful for them to meet Gillian at the end of Book Week and hear first-hand how the story was written and illustrated. The experience has encouraged our children to write and draw and we have seen some wonderful independent storytelling as a result.”
The whole school had studied my book for a week prior to the visit. Here is a painting by Ruby plus pages from a story written by two year six pupils..
"I really enjoyed the visit. I hope she will write another book. She has really inspired me to become an author and illustrator". Amara Rah – (Form 1)
"I love your stories. I love “Zoe’s Boat” and the cover of “Selkie”. I also have the book “Tom Finger”. Thank you very much for coming to our school."Tioluwani Adedayo (Form 1)
If you are a school within a twenty mile radius of Cambridge you can contact and book me directly or through Authors Aloud. If you would like me to do a virtual school visit find out more here: Authors Aloud online
Worksheets and colouring and activity sheets:
Download in pdf format for easy use in the classroom:
- Selkie worksheet 1
- Selkie worksheet 2
- Selkie worksheet 3
- Dog on Wheels colouring and activity sheet
- Flood colouring and activity sheet 1
- Flood colouring and activity sheet 2
- Flood colouring and activity sheet 3