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  • Dana Clark

With Books and Community

Distance learning is uncharted territory for many of us and can leave us feeling lost and tempted to plan out routes that would never match the roads we’d take in our classrooms. We are thinking about access, support, best practices, AND the fact that we will not be physically present for any of this! These realities may have us thinking that, for now, we can go to worksheets, passages, and book reports. But let’s take a step back and remember that in order to grow as readers, our students only need two things… books and community. The resources that are easily available may not match our beliefs about learning. We don’t have to choose those options. Instead, here are some thoughts on how readers can access books and continue to lean into their classroom communities from afar.

Accessing Books

While the feel of a book in hand is certainly preferable to many readers, the beauty of the book doesn’t change with its format. There are tons of resources that will allow children to access real books, and most of them are free!

  • Invite students to use their library cards from home! There are millions of texts available as ebooks and audiobooks through apps like Libby and Hoopla.

  • Utilize online libraries like Get Epic and Rivet for books and NewsELA for authentic news articles.

  • Reach out to a local bookseller. The Curious Reader, one of my family’s favorite bookstores located in Glen Rock, NJ, is offering free deliveries for books ordered online!

Online Communities

Love, support, and community are daily parts of classroom life. Our students engage in partnerships, book clubs, peer feedback groups, and conferences. They recommend books to each other, appreciate each other’s work, and act as an audience for all different types of work and writing. Our communities are already thriving, all we need to do is find ways for students to keep on connecting.

  • Online Book Recommendations: There are tons of options for this type of work. Students can choose to upload videos of themselves sharing book commercials, write reviews in google classroom or on a message board, or blog about favorite books or authors. To support and guide these efforts, we can offer ideas on what to include in their recommendations like: naming target audience and genre, offering a brief summary (enough for just a taste), and sharing the reasons why the book was given a specific rating.

  • Virtual Book Clubs: Tools like Google Hangouts, Zoom, and Facetime can allow students to continue their live book talks. These face-to-face experiences will help students continue to feel connected to each other, and they can do all of the same deep thinking and sharing work that they’d do when in our classrooms. If you’re looking for ways to help students organize, try out google forms or book club logs. If virtual facetime is not an option, consider opening message boards or simply a google document so that students can engage in conversation around a common text they’ve chosen.

  • Gallery Views: Invite students to post a favorite reading entry, book review, or piece of writing to your classroom. Then, set up a time when students can go on a virtual gallery walk and jot little notes of appreciation to encourage and celebrate each other.

  • Partnership Feedback: Have writing partners create a schedule for online feedback. They can post questions to each other, ask each other for specific types of feedback, and offer each other encouragement and support. You might suggest 2 online check-ins per week.

  • Online Tips: Encourage students to teach each other throughout this time at home. Create a space in your google classrooms for students to upload strategies that they are trying out and tips for their work.

Our educational community is strong. Not only do I believe that we can meet the challenges we’re facing with distance learning, I believe that we will come out on the other side of this understanding even more about our field and ways to support students. We can do this… with books and with each other.

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