Here in Illinois, just like in the rest of the country, school districts have been slowly releasing more details around their back-to-school plans. Administrators have thought about, and imagined every possible scenario and made what has been the hardest decision of their careers. In my area, I thought for sure that all the surrounding districts would have similar plans, but that has not been the case at all. 

Neighboring districts have done an amazing job thinking about the community that they serve and what would be the best decision for them. We have some districts that have chosen strictly remote learning and a few districts that have given parents the option of all in-person learning or all remote learning. Finally, there are districts that have opted to work through the giant logistical task of implementing a hybrid schedule. Overall, our administrators have found themselves making decisions they were never prepared to make.

The truth is school is happening whether we are ready for it or not whether it be a remote, hybrid, or in-person learning scenario. Educators will do what they always do: make it work, with a smile on their face. Whatever version of school you will be facing this fall, one thing remains constant: the importance of getting books in our students’ hands. How are we going to ensure we are promoting reading and providing opportunities for our students to connect with others?

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I’ve thought a lot about how to build a strong culture of reading in a remote or hybrid learning environment. Here are a few ideas to help you plan valuable reading experiences for your students: 

  • Digital platforms like Seesaw or Flipgrid offer amazing opportunities for students to authentically interact with each other in a distance or hybrid learning context. A great way to kick off the school year would be to have students post a video of themselves giving a book commercial or a book talk about something they read over the summer. If you choose to enable the commenting feature, students can then watch each other’s videos and provide their reactions about the book.
  • Another way to create a strong reading culture would be a “One Book, One School” initiative. You could decide on a strong picture book (Monarch award list) and purchase a copy for each classroom teacher. The idea would be that each teacher would read the same chapter or section every week, allowing every student in the building to be hearing the book at the same time. The teacher could provide the reading live on Zoom or Google Meets, or could share a pre-recorded video through YouTube. If you are unable to purchase a book for each teacher, pick the principal or assistant principal (a familiar face for ALL students) to create all the recordings to share out. Each week after the story, I envision a scheduled open Google Meet time where students of different classes and grades could come together to discuss the book and ask questions with each other. These could be facilitated by teacher volunteers. If the “One Book, One School” idea would be too large of a logistical hurdle for your school building (maybe the grade ranges are too large) you could consider implementing a common book for each grade level instead. Maybe the 1st graders are reading one picture book, but the 5th graders are reading a different book. You would still be able to have the Google Meet and open discussions, it would just be with students in the same grade rather than the whole school.
  • Read alouds are another way to help foster a strong reading culture. Teachers, or even students, could volunteer to record themselves reading a picture book. This could get turned into a Bedtime series, where the video gets sent out each night at bedtime for students to hear before they fall asleep.
  • For the older grades, a novel as a read-aloud would work, too. Each teacher could volunteer to read one chapter for a common novel, so the responsibility doesn’t fall on one person’s shoulder. Students could then listen to a chapter or two each day, and write a reaction or response to it to share with the class next time.

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If you have any ideas that have worked well for your school or district please share! Leave a comment on social media and tag us @SavvasLearning today.

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Liz Janusz

Liz Janusz

ELA Instructional Coach

Note: Fresh Ideas for Teaching blog contributors have been compensated for sharing personal teaching experiences on our blog. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer or company.

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