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  • Sharon Sommer

Growing My Teaching Practice Through Professional Learning-- Social Distancing Style!

Along with all of the challenges of social distancing, I found one unexpected and exciting benefit: the appearance of new, virtual professional learning opportunities for educators. The first virtual workshop that I attended as a newly-minted distance educator was the Gravity Goldberg LLC Virtual Coaching Co-op on March 25th. By that time, I had settled into online teaching, as my school, Ben Porat Yosef, in Paramus, NJ, had switched to remote learning in the second week of March. During this time of upheaval, attending a coaching co-op session was a welcome opportunity to connect and re-connect with colleagues from across the country.

At the Virtual Coaching Co-op, Dana Clark presented about using choice boards as a way to incorporate playfulness and choice into remote learning. The idea immediately resonated with me, as it reflects so many of my values about teaching, such as differentiation and responsiveness. As the ideas percolated in my head, I attended Gravity Goldberg LLC virtual office hours with Shanna Anderson two days later, where Shanna referenced the value of using choice boards and suggested how including hyperlinks in choice boards can create more learning experiences. Shanna also shared some sample choice boards for inspiration. I was sold on the idea as a way to honor the individuality of my students and provide them with opportunities for choice and play.

I set to work with Tamar Feman, my colleague at Ben Porat Yosef, to create a choice board for reading responses for a current first grade reading unit, Researching Across Genres. Using the examples Shanna shared with me as mentor texts, we made sure to include a range of options for students that reflected a variety of learning styles, different families’ access to and interest in using technology for learning, and multiple opportunities for playfulness. To see what we came up with, click here. We’ve already seen samples of our students’ work that show their creativity and enthusiasm. And of course, the reflection of the children’s learning, engagement, and joy fuels our work in the uncertain days ahead.

Sharon Sommer is a teacher and literacy coach at Ben Porat Yosef, a private school in Paramus, NJ. She can be found on Twitter at @SharonSomm and reached at

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