Running Your Own ASK Programs

This page was written by Janine Lim at Berrien RESA, with thanks to Jim Wenzloff who expanded this program in Macomb County and mentored many others in running ASK programs. Now it's time to pass the knowledge to others!

Running the ASK Program

First, review the ASK program overview, steps, and watch the ASK movie (QuickTime). Then, if at all possible, have one of your local classes participate in an ASK program run by TWICE or Berrien RESA or Polycom. Macomb ISD usually doesn't offer their programs outside of their county.

Selecting Books

One of the first things to decide when running your own ASK programs is if you plan to provide the books for your schools or require them to get the books. Macomb ISD and Berrien RESA provide the books for their local schools. But TWICE requires the participating schools to acquire their own copies of the books.
Next, you need to select which books you'll use for your ASK program(s). We (Berrien RESA) started by offering the exact same books that Macomb ISD was offering. TWICE started with Michigan authors, and those authors told other authors about the program and it has grown since then. So to get started, you may begin by trying a few of same books, grade levels, and presenters used for Macomb, Berrien or TWICE ASK programs.
We also tried books suggested by our language arts consultant, with mixed results.
  • In February 2006, we offering the book Harvesting Hope and students interviewed a panel of former migrant workers from ESC 20 in Texas.
  • In March 2006 we tried the book The Bobbin Girl and only one local class signed up. Later we asked our local 5th grade teachers about the book and discovered it isn't as tight a match to the curriculum as we thought. So we aren't offering that book anymore.
  • Another "flop" was the book Roanoke: The Lost Colony. We had students interview a historical impersonator, the colonial craftsman. But the specialist didn't tightly match the book, so we won't be doing that book again.
If you are starting with new books, ask your media specialists and curriculum consultants which grade levels are best for the books. Discussing and planning the ASK program with curriculum and library staff will help you target the grade level and curriculum more effectively.


If you decide to purchase books for your schools, you may wish to create kits with the books or you may decide to have schools provide their own books.
We provide 30 copies of chapter books and 2 copies of picture books. The kits also include additional materials. At a minimum that includes printed copies of the preparation materials:
In addition, the kits may include websites, worksheets, teacher created materials, etc. Your teachers may begin contributing to the kit materials.
Macomb ISD & Berrien RESA keep the kits in the office along with other videos & kits schools can check out from our organization. The staff who help with the REMC van and mailing items to the schools also assist with sending ASK kits. Your distance learning scheduler can help keep track of this as well.
The kits are on loan to the district for the program. Usually you can get two programs in a year with the same kit of books if you schedule enough time for the kits to come back and go out to the next school (at least 3-4 months in between duplicate programs).
You will need to adapt these procedures for your region & districts.

Specialists vs. Authors

While most teachers immediately want to connect to an author, excellent learning can happen with specialist interviews as well. The specialist interview focuses on the content of the book, while the author interview focuses on the writing process.
Our very first book was Monkey Island and students interviewed a panel of people from organizations who offer services to the homeless in Berrien County. These experts didn't charge for the experience and were delighted to participate.
Two other books that we followed Macomb ISD's lead in offering are:
  • Ice Bear and Little Fox. Students connect to the Buffalo Zoo program modified to the ASK format.
  • Stellaluna. Students connect to the Cranbrook Institute of Science for the Bats of the World program modified to the ASK format. They show a bat, then take a round of questions, then show another bat, then another round of questions, until the time runs out.
You can also start by looking for local not-so-well-known authors. Big name authors are very expensive, so it's easier to start with local authors. Macomb, Berrien and TWICE have set a limit of $500/day for authors. If they charge more, we don't use them for ASK programs.


Macomb ISD, Berrien RESA, and TWICE all work on scheduling ASK programs in the spring/summer for the following year. Scheduling ahead of time is crucial because you need at least a month for the classes to sign up, and a month for them to prepare for the videoconference. Here are some tips for scheduling.
  • Usually we schedule 2-4 sessions in a day and each session has 2-3 classes. Three classes is an ideal amount. With less classes, sometimes the students run out of questions before the end. With more classes, less students get a chance to ask questions.
  • 2nd and 3rd grade programs are best for 45 minutes. The others can be scheduled for an hour.
  • If you schedule the same pattern for each ASK day, it's easier to remember what you're doing! i.e. we all like the 9:30-10:30, 10:45-11:45, 12:45-1:45 and 2:00-3:00 pattern.

Email Confirmations

You may wish to use/adapt these sample email confirmation and reminder emails to the teachers.

Training & Advertising

It may take time and education to teach your schools what ASK programs are. Here are some suggestions.
  • Show the ASK video in all your VC trainings.
  • Show the ASK video in media specialist meetings.
  • Offer a 1 or 1.5 hour after school workshop on ASK. Show the video, go over the books you offer, and let them experience the process. For more ideas, read my blog entry about my ASK training in the fall of 2006.
  • You can also play the video for one of our recorded ASK trainings.


On the day of the event, someone needs to facilitate the program. Here's the format we use:
  • Facilitator welcomes the schools participating. In the TWICE sessions we show a map so students can see who is connected & how far apart they are.
  • Presenter gives a 5 min. (or less) introduction.
  • Questions. Facilitator assists in rotating through the three schools participating, taking 3 questions from each group until the last 10 minutes. If necessary, take 1 or 2 questions for the last round.
  • Presenter gives a 5 min. wrap up of final comments.
  • Classes say thank you & say good bye.
In addition, the facilitator should jump in and correct schools that need to be closer to the mic, need to be zoomed in on the students asking the questions, or dealing with other issues that arise during the program.


ASK Programs are time intensive for both the teachers and the coordinator, but the emphasis on reading and writing skills fits the curriculum tightly. We believe these high quality programs are an excellent use of videoconferencing and an ideal way to serve our schools.