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From the virtual classroom – practicing socially distant teaching

If you are anything like me you went from an in-person educator to an online educator overnight. And if you are anything like me, your biggest concern as you transition into this new and unfamiliar role is how you can engage your students in meaningful literacy activities that will move them forward as readers, writers, and learners. Throughout the upcoming weeks or possibly months, I want to avoid miring my students in pointless busy work. So, for these first few days I’ve embraced the “keep it simple” approach by inviting students to spend time each day reading, writing, and participating in learning extension activities. Below are some of the resources I’ve found most helpful as I’ve started to develop our new online approach to learning.

Kelly Gallagher’s Instructional Materials:

As Kelly explains, “The last thing I want to do with my home-bound students is to load them down with brain-numbing packet work. So this lesson plan was designed to honor student choice, student agency, student voice.” One of my favorite things about Kelly’s plan is it invites students to spend time journaling about this developing situation everyday. He not only acknowledges that we are living through history in the making, but he creates space for students to spend time reflecting on and cataloging their histories as they unfold. I am now on day three of engaging in this journal writing approach with my students and have been astounded by some of the observations they are making and sharing (note: my students are invited to share their thoughts with each other and/or me, but not required). One student reflected:

Another wrote about how she’s been coping and shared her song suggestions with the class:

While I’ve invited students to write about whatever is on their mind in any format that feels right for the moment, I’ve also been sharing daily seeds/prompts to help them with their thinking if needed. For example, tomorrow, I plan to share this poem with students and encourage them to write their own poems in response if they feel inspired to do so:

My School Librarian:

If your librarian is anything like mine, first you are very lucky, and second he/she is eager to help you and your students access books throughout the school and library shutdown. Above I linked a document my librarian created and shared with our staff. It provides a wealth of resources for students to access free ebooks and audiobooks, as well as a plethora of suggestions for them to engage in additional literacy activities. If you have not done so yet, contact your school librarian as soon as possible for school-specific resources you can pass along to your students.

While my students all went home with independent reading books, many will finish them in a manner of days. These resources will prove vital in enabling them to continue reading what interests them as we move further into social isolation.

School Library Journal:

Not only is this journal a great way for educators to stay up to date on the latest books to recommend to their students or add to their classroom libraries, but they have been working hard to keep us up on the latest industry news in relation to the shutdown. For instance, one of their recent posts details ways various children’s and YA authors are offering their services as we transition to online learning across the nation.

Common Sense Media:

This linked article from Common Sense Media offers ways we can take our current circumstances and turn them into teachable moments. They also suggest ways we can help our students reduce and manage their stress.


I addition to moving our instruction to an online platform, my district is also asking us to spend time engaged in professional development throughout the week. For this, I turned to NCTE and the collection of resources they curated for virtual learning and online teaching. I have only just begun to skim the surface of the 9 pages of linked materials they suggest. However, I highly recommend checking out the blog post titled “Audiobooks in the Classroom.” This post presents a podcast that discusses the production of and merits for audiobooks. They also play samples from an array of high-interest audiobooks. I plan to share this podcast with my students in the coming weeks in an effort to encourage them to find new books to read and new ways to read them.

How have you been transitioning to online teaching? What are some of your go-to resources?