Big questions loom over my mind: What will school look like in the Fall? How will we re-imagine our Response to Intervention plans to best support students? How might we plan for effective online literacy intervention, if we need to? These questions have been the driving force behind many of my conversations with teachers, coaches and leaders. Last week, I presented a virtual session on the very topic, sharing three ways we might conceptualize shifting literacy intervention online: boosting students’ access to appropriate text, providing targeted digital mini-lessons and conferencing with students to build reading connection and community. Here were some of the ideas and resources I shared:

Increasing Access to Appropriate Text

Access to appropriate books that students can and want to read has always been a critical element in a literacy intervention program and more than ever, we need to ensure students are reading appropriate books at home during COVID-19 closures. There are fantastic sites and apps available to put digital books into the hands of students and I’ve curated some of my favorites into a Padlet wall to share with others. 

My favorites? Unite For Literacy provides access to digital books at the earliest levels and even reads them aloud in multiple languages. Get Epic is a digital collection of books that I would find browsing my favorite book store and even allows teachers to make collections for students so finding the right book is even easier. Finally, I adore Wonderopolis for the high-interest articles that capture students’ attention around questions they are genuinely curious about.

Once we have a collection of texts, we need to give students easy access to them. Enter virtual classroom libraries. If you know my work, then you know I’ve been a fan of Padlet for a long while, so when I saw Clare Landrigan use it to create virtual classroom libraries, I knew I had to try it too. By creating a Padlet bookshelf, we can easily link students to books by creating individual shelves for our groups of students or even individual readers.

Targeted, Digital Mini-Lessons

Given the complexity of the world we live in right now, our attention and focus has likely changed over the last few months. Instruction over and through a screen is much different than personalized instruction in a classroom, but there are digital tools that can help teachers create focused mini-lessons around what matters most. 

I like to begin by taking a clear look at what the students know, are able to already do and need next using instructional trajectories (like Jennifer Serravallo’s (2015) Hierarchy of Reading Goals or Scanlon, Anderson and Sweeney's (2017) Alphabetics Decision Tree) to guide my planning. Once we’ve identified our priority skills and standards, we can create recorded mini-lessons using screencasting software like Zoom or Screencastify to share with students if we are unable to meet live. My top recommendations? 

First, keep the lessons short and focused so students are spending less time watching the screen and more time reading. I like Dr. Gravity Goldberg’s 3-slide method: 
  1. Name the teaching point
  2. Model the work
  3. Offer an invitation to try
Plan out your weeks just as you would if working in the school and create coherent collections of lessons for students. We can even get interactive with Google Slides templates for word work and phonemic awareness thanks to Nell Duke

Conferencing For Connection and Community

Last, but perhaps most important, is building a community of readers online. While we must remain focused on students' academic well-being, we must remember that reading is embedded in a tangle of social relationships. While students may love our digital lessons, they are showing up to connect with us, with their peers and find a sense of normalcy to their new days. More than ever, it’s critical that we maintain these relationships in the digital and virtual world. How? 

We might start with simple phone calls to connect with students and share the books we are reading. If possible, we can connect live through Zoom or Google Meet. 

We can use Padlet to create reading walls where we celebrate our quarantine reading by posting shelfies (a selfie with the book) to share with classmates. 

Flipgrid offers another excellent alternative for connecting with students asynchronously through video. You might create a private grid for each student to share their thoughts after reading at home or listening to recorded mini-lessons. If you prefer to only create one grid, but want to keep their responses private, turn the moderation feature on in your grid so only you have access to the content, making it easy for students to record and send private videos to you. 

This is only a start to my thinking and I plan to continue my own learning all summer long. I’d love to gather a group of interested literacy specialists together to form a think tank on the topic and learn together. If that sounds like something you are interested in, just let me know!

I’m presenting again on what I’ve learned about online literacy intervention at the Learning with Innovative Technology Conference on July 10th. It’s free and you can register here. I hope to see you there to continue the conversation!

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