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Back to (Remote/Hybrid) School

As we head back to school this fall, so many of us are returning in different ways. Some teachers will be meeting a new class through a computer screen, some will meet 50% of our students at a time, and some of us will begin with all of our students. However, you start the school year one thing we can all agree on is that this is a year like no other!

This September, we are a little more prepared for the trials and tribulations that come with teaching virtually. We have learned how to navigate different platforms such as Google Meet, Zoom, or Seesaw. We have experienced the frustrations of what happens when our screen freezes or our internet crashes. We have worked tirelessly to help students show up virtually to class meetings or small groups. This fall, we are definitely in a better place than when schools abruptly closed in March.

Even though I feel more prepared for this year, I have been thinking about how different this year is going to feel for students. I recently attended a Heineman Office Hours with Lucy Calkins, who said that one of our biggest challenges is going to be the drop off in students' level of reading engagement.

So how do I build reading engagement in a virtual world?

One way we can build engagement is to let students know that reading digitally is hard! When I think about myself as a reader, I know that I prefer holding a book rather than reading on a computer screen. I like to read the blurb, see the cover picture, turn back and reread. The things that I love about books are what make reading digitally so hard.

Let's make it easier for our students by teaching them:

  • stop and go back a few sentences to begin rereading instead of turning back pages

  • model reading a little bit and stopping to ask "does this make sense?"

  • make 4 box grid paper to hold student post-its

  • set time goals for the amount of time we are reading (and not the number of pages)

  • read book summaries on Amazon or Goodreads to make predictions

We can support digital reading by giving students access to a variety of places they can access. Students can use sites such as MyOn or Epic to find highly engaging texts. We can also create an online folder that has a class shared reading collection. Our virtual shared reading could include typed copies of songs, poems, or parts of stories. We could use apps such as Screencastify to record our voices reading the shared reading. We can record ourselves reading books aloud. Students will have the opportunity to see the text, hear our expression, and watch us model thinking aloud.

Another way to build engagement is to let students talk. Give them time to share their ideas or connections from books you are reading aloud or books that they are independently reading.

We can do this by:

  • establishing virtual reading partners who can meet on Zoom or Facetime

  • talking to another teacher about planning for virtual reading buddies

  • teaching students how to record a book review on Flipgrid

  • meeting in small groups that allow students to share the jot they like the best

Finally, one of the best things we can do to help with engagement is remind students of the strategies they already know. Students will need support with decoding and fluency.

Some ways we can build excitement might include:

  • sending students an email with a strategy that will help them decode a tricky word

  • mailing a postcard that has a reading reminder

  • mailing a couple of post-its with different strategies

This year is not going to be easy for anyone but if we remember how important it is to keep building reading engagement our teaching (whether virtual or in person) is going to be powerful!

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