The concept of how to teach children to read remotely was not even on my radar a couple of weeks ago. As the coronavirus spread and schools began closing across the country, I began thinking about how we can best provide guided reading instruction to our students at home.
There are two very big challenges we as teachers need to overcome: giving at-home students access to high-quality reading materials and finding ways to provide literacy instruction that engages and motivates children to read and write. Here are some solutions to these challenges that will help ensure children continue to progress in their reading and writing skills in these unprecedented times.
You can find all the Pioneer Valley Books resources mentioned at the following links:
Ways to Get High-Quality Reading Materials into Students’ Hands
- Send a collection of 12 to 15 books home with students in a book bag—some at the student’s current reading level and some at the next level up. Of course, you might not get them all back, but I think the gains will be worth the loss.
- Make personalized books for your students at bookbuilderonline.com. Pioneer Valley Books has opened up this subscription-based service to everyone.
- The Read-at-Home collection from Pioneer Valley Books provides very inexpensive leveled books that can be shipped to students’ homes for free. There are 12 books in each set (available for Levels A–N), and each level provides a blueprint of a guided reading lesson that parents can easily use for all 12 books.
- Coming very soon, Pioneer Valley Books will be providing digital access to their books. You can sign up for our newsletter here to be alerted when this is available.
How to Engage and Motivate Your Students Remotely
I have been giving my grandchildren reading lessons via Zoom. I’ve also been busy filming guided reading lessons (with the amazing help of Karen Cangemi) to accompany some of the books in the Read-at-Home sets. You can watch (and use!) the videos we have created so far on our website; they are available to everyone.
I have learned a few things in the process of creating these online lessons that I’d like to share with you here:
- You are now an actor! It is pretty strange to talk to a computer—we can find ourselves wondering, Are students listening? We certainly hope they are nodding and answering our questions! To test my video lesson, I had my son hold his phone up so I could watch via FaceTime as my grandchildren did my online reading lesson. I had to laugh when Harper held up her book to the computer to answer a question. So smile! Ask rhetorical questions. And, yup, answer your own questions after giving the kids some wait time.
- Include a great, big, beautiful book introduction in your virtual lesson. A carefully crafted book introduction can help students successfully read a new book on their own. Since you will not be there to help them as they read the book, the introduction needs to be longer and more detailed.
- Try to get some one-on-one time with students. Can you arrange to teach your slowest progressing students a couple of times a week via Zoom, FaceTime, or a similar platform?
- Be creative in helping students gather together word study materials. Pioneer Valley Books has been experimenting with remote word study lessons (see our Word Study lessons at on the Read-at-Home online resources page), but students do need some word study tools. Pioneer Valley Books has a single student word study kit available (our new Words-at-Home set) and has also created some tools that can be downloaded and printed. But students can also make do with letter tiles from games or even cutout letters.
- Get students writing! It is challenging to support students remotely as they write, but we can help them develop a plan to get them started. For example, have students jot down a key word from the beginning, middle, or end of the story and then use those key words to retell the story in their writing. When they are finished, ask someone at home to take a picture of the completed writing so you can see the results (and encourage completion of the assignment!). Seeing their work can also help you make decisions regarding what to focus on and which skills to address. Try to arrange for students to read and share their writing with other classmates online.
I hope you will find some of these ideas useful. And I bet, like me, you have heard a lot of parents saying they never realized how challenging teaching is!