Currently there are thousands of teachers desperately trying to plan meaningful learning experiences for their students as we begin closing schools due to the COVID-19 epidemic. When I popped over to Instagram to find out how I can help, many teachers asked for some quick tips on how to support reading over the closure. So here we go:
(1) Take a deep breath, and release your teacher guilt.
Regardless of how well we plan, this is going to be an “interruption” to learning. And that’s ok. We need to put things in perspective here. What we are collectively experiencing is unprecedented. Think about that for a second. . . Now take a long, slow breath in. . . And then release it, slooooowly. Good 😉
We are all just doing our best, and I think we can release ourselves of the teacher guilt. Reading, writing and story are highly therapeutic activities that can provide a reprieve from the chaos around us. That is what our students need. To be honest, it’s what we all need right now. Nobody ever said to themselves “I’m super stressed out. I could really use are some chapter questions right now.” Consider the next few weeks of school closure as an opportunity to set your students up for some serious pleasure reading time.
(2) Send. Home. Books.
Like lots of books. Like empty the shelves. Make arrangements with your school library to allow kids to have books to take home over the school closure. The books aren’t going to do anyone any good, sitting on shelves gathering dust in the upcoming weeks. Additionally, I suspect that many parents are going to have their families “unplug” during this time, especially with all of the anxiety that is prevalent online and on Social Media. Books provide a perfect escape for kids and parents alike.
(3) Be on the look out for book droughts.
The reality is, many of our students live in book-less homes. Dig deep, and find a few moments in the hurry of school shut down to connect these students with a pile of good fit books to escape into.
(4) Encourage students to take a variety of texts with them; different genres, and readabilities.
My mental state often determines my reading tastes. Sometimes I want to escape into picture books, other times I’m ready to be distracted by a graphic novel, or binge read a chapter book to the last powerful page. Supply your students with the same variety of texts to support their needs, as a reader, in that moment.
Students should have access to books that are at BOTH their independent and instructional levels. Meaning, they should have books they can read on their own AS WELL AS books that they might need an adult or another independent reader to support them through. Remember, reading aloud can provide escape for kids and adults.
(5) Encourage parents to read with their children DAILY and for ENJOYMENT.
I can’t even begin to count the amount of times I’ve heard the word “isolation” in the last 24 hours. We want to encourage families to create the feeling of connectedness, and reading is the perfect activity to do this. Daily reading can take many forms, and there’s no judgement here. One day parents might just skim the artwork of a picture book and encourage their child to talk about what what they see, another day might be a chapter read aloud from a book. It’s all good.
(6) Leverage your school division’s digital access to books.
While not always equitably accessible to all of our students, the reality is that many of our school divisions and districts pay for online access to books through services like Tumble Books or Epic. Find out the login information, add it to this bookmark template, and shove it inside the books your students are taking home. Please keep in mind that not all students will have devices or internet access, so avoid making accessing online resources mandatory. Also consider that while some students may have online access, their parents may be limiting their time online for reasons mentioned earlier in this post.
(7) Encourage students to reflect on what they’ve read.
Consider having your students use a quick reading “Rate my Read” graph like this one. BUT DO NOT ASSIGN MARKS TO IT!!!!! This is simply a tool for students to reflect on their own habits as a reader. And I repeat. . . THIS IS NOT FOR MARKS!!!
(8) Remember, not all parents self identify as readers.
Parents might need a few tips and tricks about how to read with their children. We don’t have the luxury of time to create a resource from scratch, so I particularly like this document from Ontario’s Ministry of Education. It’s a comprehensive document, and as such might be overwhelming to some parents. You might want to consider cutting and pasting tips into a smaller format (while crediting the original source, of course) or even getting some highlights translated into another language commonly spoken in your school community.
(9) Harness your school’s social media presence.
To combat that sense of isolation, use your school’s social media accounts to encourage conversation around literacy, numeracy and wellness. Post daily, open ended questions about reading, numeracy and wellness that parents can use to have conversations with their children.
And again, real loud, for the people in the back. . .
(10) Send. Home. Books.
In the next post “Quick Tips for Supporting Writing While Schools Are Closed”