Best Virtual Activities to Celebrate Read Across America & National Reading Month

March is National Reading Month. Schools dedicate time for kids to enjoy reading at all age levels by incorporating fun-filled literacy activities. These activities can be used throughout the month, not just during Read Across America week.

Virtual reading activities can still promote the love and joy of reading. In fact, there can be even more creativity to be had in the online environment.

D.E.A.R. (Drop Everything And Read)

This is an oldie, but a goody. D.E.A.R. is one of those activities that can be done at any age, that allows kids to choose whatever they want to read. Whether it’s a graphic novel, or a classic piece of literature, giving students time to just read is always beneficial. However, if you’re looking to take this classic idea up a notch, add in an extra step to increase student engagement. Pose a question for students to answer in the chat, on Padlet or a Google doc so all can see the responses. Some really great prompts include: What kind of reader should choose your book? If you like ____________ then you’ll love this book because…

Themed Reading Days

Similar to D.EA.R, having students participate in themed reading days adds a little bit of fun to reading time. Teachers have more creativity with this chunk of reading time. My personal favorite themes are:

*Camping– when we think about camping, many of us instantly picture a roaring fire, s’mores and the great outdoors.

Some great ideas to make this set up virtual is to have a video of a campfire going on in the background, have kids wear camping clothes, make microwave s’mores using a recipe like this one, and allow kids to choose one of these ghost stories to read during class.

*Beach Day– students should bring their devices on the ground while sitting on a beach towel, wearing shorts and a t-shirt with flip flops, so they can read their favorite book. Personally, I prefer to sit in a beach chair for added comfort :).

*Coffee Shop- with the popularity of Starbucks, many students LOVE coffee shops. Kids should sit in their most comfortable chair with their favorite beverage (hot chocolate, tea, smoothie, etc.) and read some Time for Kids articles.

*Pajama Party– this is by far, my absolute favorite theme. Who doesn’t like to read in their pajamas? Students should wear their pajamas to class and bring a copies of their favorite bedtime stories to read.

Read Aloud Videos

As educators, we know that we are working with the YouTube generation, so why not incorporate videos into the classroom? There are TONS of read aloud videos on YouTube from picture books to chapter books. You can check out my latest read aloud video below.

My personal favorite read aloud channel on YouTube is Storytime Now for picture books.

School Wide Story Time

Now more than ever, schools are really trying to encourage school spirit and socialization in safe ways. Holding a school wide story time is a great opportunity for all students to come together and listen to a story. If the plan is to make this a one time occurrence, I would suggest reading a few picture books, especially for elementary kiddos. If this will be repeated a few times I recommend a short chapter book like Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl, which is one of those books that appeals to grades K-6.

Guest Reader Visits

Sometimes it’s good to change up the readers in the virtual classroom, and one of the easiest ways to do so is to have a guest reader. Having parents or even other teachers in the building read a story adds some extra excitement to reading time. Whether the reading happens live, or a parent/guardian sends a recording of the reading, having difference faces and voices reading goes a long way. If you’re unable to find guest readers, a website, like Storyline Online, is a fantastic option for any elementary classroom. Storyline Online features popular children’s books read aloud by different celebrities.

Student Choice

As educators, we know to try and give students choices as much as possible in the classroom. Why not let kids pick the book the teacher reads? Online platforms Vooks and Epic! are amazing resources for activities like this. For more resources for teaching reading online, check out this post.

Divergent is a great read aloud book for grades 6-12.
Divergent is my all-time favorite read aloud book for grades 6-12.

Teacher Read Aloud

While all of these ideas are great options to celebrate the joy of reading, sometimes just reading to a class is engaging. Whether a teacher reads a book from the curriculum, or changes it up by reading a personal favorite, kids LOVE being read to all the time. For more specific suggestions about virtual read alouds check out Effective Read Alouds in the Virtual Classroom.

It is possible to celebrate National Reading Month in the virtual classroom.

Don’t be afraid to get creative and have fun with reading activities. We always want to show kids that reading is enjoyable, even if it’s being done virtually.

Little Reading Coach is a certified Teacher of English (K-12) and Reading Specialist (P-12) offering online reading,  writing and home-based learning support tutoring services for students in grades 6-12. For more information click here.

Mini Movers and Shakers: Anne Frank Book Review

I will be the first to say that I am not a history person, but there are specific time periods that do interest me. One of those is WWII all because of a young girl named Anne Frank. I was always a fan of the Dear America series as a kid, and in middle school there was just something about Anne Frank’s diary that helped me wrap my head around the historical events.

Anne Frank, written by Mary Nhin and illustrated by Yulia Zolotova, is an insightful picture book about the life of one of the strongest young women in history.

My readers know I am no stranger to Mary Nhin books (How to Win the World Cup in Your Pajamas, Arial the YouTuber, and eNinja to name a few), but when I saw that she was starting a new series called Mini Movers and Shakers and one of my personal favorite figures was to be featured, I instantly added the book to my ‘To Read List’.

Right away readers connect with young Anne because the story is told from her point of view. The writing is simple, yet mature enough for elementary school students to read. Nhin simplifies the events of Anne’s life, but does not water them down, which I really enjoyed. Vocabulary words like ‘invaded’ and ‘confidante’ give this text a more sophisticated feel that I was personally drawn to as a middle and high school teacher.

The illustrations really elaborate and explain the main ideas in the text, helping readers with their comprehension. I especially liked the map of Germany because it provides a visual to those children not familiar with the other side of the world. The Reading Specialist in me got excited that this text provided necessary background information to support reading comprehension.

It’s very clear that Nhin spent time researching her facts, and that she is a mom because she’s able to express these nuggets of information in a kid-friendly way. I even learned some new things about Anne Frank! The tone is friendly, as though Anne is speaking to the reader like a new friend. Kids are also to pick up on themes of perseverance, faith, courage, and family throughout the book.

Personally, I would use this in the classroom as a cross-curricular activity with social studies. It does a phenomenal job of introducing children to the events of WWII and the Holocaust. I would recommend this book for children ages 3-11.

*Be sure to check out more books in the Movers and Shakers series

To purchase the book click here.

Little Reading Coach is a certified Teacher of English (K-12) and Reading Specialist (P-12) offering online reading,  writing and home-based learning support tutoring services for students in grades 6-12. For more information click here.

Love in YA Books Distance Learning Activities for Grades 6-12

YA books are known for having incredible characters who experience intense love. Whether that is friendship love, family love or romantic love, young adult texts show readers the power that love has in our lives.

Valentine’s Day is a day dedicated to love, and as a secondary teacher I still love celebrating holidays with my students. However, it can be hard to find activities that don’t involve writing love notes or the usual reading and answering comprehension questions. So, I decided to use popular YA novels to help me discuss the theme of love in a distance learning bundle.

Love in YA Books PowerPoint Presentation– Young Adult literature is known for focusing on the theme of love. This PowerPoint presentation, created by a certified Teacher of English and Reading Specialist, dives into the specific types of love (family, friends and romantic) in these texts. YA literature and the different types of love are defined. This is a great Valentine’s Day activity for students in grades 6-12, and can easily be adapted for Google classroom assignments.

Love in YA Books Guided Note Sheet- Young Adult literature is known for focusing on the theme of love. This guided note sheet is based on the Love in YA Books PowerPoint presentation, created by a certified Teacher of English and Reading Specialist. ,This is a great Valentine’s Day activity for students in grades 6-12, and can easily be adapted for Google classroom assignments.

Love in YA Books Quote Analysis Activity– Young Adult literature is known for focusing on the theme of love. This quote analysis activity, created by a certified Teacher of English and Reading Specialist, includes quotes from popular YA titles (The Hunger Games, Harry Potter, Twilight, and City of Glass). Part one requires students to label each quote with the type of love being expressed and part two has students write a quote analysis paragraph. This is a great Valentine’s Day activity for students in grades 6-12, and can easily be adapted for Google classroom assignments. An answer key is included.

Love in YA Books Write Your Own YA Love Short Story– Young Adult literature is known for focusing on the theme of love. This short story activity, created by a certified Teacher of English and Reading Specialist, requires students to write their own short story including one type of love. This is a great Valentine’s Day activity for students in grades 6-12, and can easily be adapted for Google classroom assignments. A rubric is included.

Love in YA Books Bundle includes the following activities:

*Love in YA PowerPoint Presentation

*Love in YA Guided Note Sheet

*Love in YA Books Quote Analysis Activity

*Love in YA Books Write Your Own Love Short Story

Little Reading Coach is a certified Teacher of English (K-12) and Reading Specialist (P-12) offering online reading,  writing and home-based learning support tutoring services for students in grades 6-12. For more information click here.

I Can Handle it! Book Review

Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of this book to facilitate this review. As always, all opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way.

I always say that Molly, my four year old, is my mini me. The similarities really come out when she’s being emotional, which happens more frequently the older that she gets. As a parent, I use all the patience I can muster to calm her down and allow her to express her thoughts. As my readers know, I tend to use books for pretty much everything, and I’m happy to report that I have found the perfect book to help my child cope with her emotions.

I Can Handle it!, written by Laurie Wright and illustrated by Ana Santos, is a practical picture book that breaks down emotions and coping strategies for kids to help with mental health.

Readers follow Sebastien, a little boy, as he tackles emotions that he feels based on different events and situations he experiences. Each scenario provides three or four possible solutions for dealing with the issue, some are absolutely meant to be funny, and some are solid suggestions.

I really like that the story is told like a pattern. Readers anticipate what the next emotion will be and look forward to reading the different options Sebastien has for tackling his feelings. The wording and language is clear and concise, making it so even the littlest reader can understand the story. The illustrations do a fabulous job of capturing the facial expressions that all parents and educators will be familiar with when it comes to emotions that kids feel. It makes the character come to life and seem more realistic.

The scenarios mentioned are 100% on point. For instance, my child absolutely gets cranky when she can’t watch her TV show (she will react if you threaten to put on an adult show). Every single reader can relate to Sebastien and his feelings, thus creating trust between the character and reader. This is really important for this picture book because it shows kids different ways to handle situations that they can use in their life. It’s teaching kids in a fun and creative way.

One of my favorite scenes is where Sebastien is feeling bored when he is stuck at home. The suggestions for handling this situation include making slime, building a fort or video calling friends. I really appreciated how trendy and realistic these ideas for combating boredom are as a parent.

I recommend this book for kids ages 2-6. I can see it being used in the classroom as a read aloud activity to connect with social-emotional learning.

To purchase the book, click here.

Little Reading Coach is a certified Teacher of English (K-12) and Reading Specialist (P-12) offering online reading,  writing and home-based learning support tutoring services for students in grades 6-12. For more information click here.

Distance Learning Test Taking Strategies Bundle

Tests are a part of life for many of us. Even once we leave high school, colleges and universities use these types of assessments. Adult tests like GREs, Praxis series, CPA exam, etc. are the norm for those pursuing a career in specific fields.

Learning test taking strategies can help students in navigating any test he or she will take in life. Even as an adult, I still use the same approaches I used back in middle and high school to help me answer questions. The more that students incorporate these strategies into their academic lives, the easier tests will be.

Last week, I spent class time working with students in grades 8-12 learning and practicing some of the most popular strategies that students have used in my classrooms over the years. I created a Distance Learning Test Taking Strategies Bundle for my TpT store to help teachers and parents prepare students for these types of assessments. It includes a 14 slide PowerPoint presentation, guided note sheet that aligns with the presentation, and a five question quick assessment. This can be easily adaptable for online lessons, homework, flipped classroom assignments, etc.

For more information on the bundle click here.

Little Reading Coach is a certified Teacher of English (K-12) and Reading Specialist (P-12) offering online reading,  writing and home-based learning support tutoring services for students in grades 6-12. For more information click here.

Writing Personal Narratives in Grades 4-12

Typically, students engage in essay writing. Teachers are encouraged to have students practice the traditional five paragraph structure, create a strong thesis statement, include textual evidence and incorporate different writing techniques.

We get so caught up in test prep that we forget writing should also be an opportunity for student to reflect on their own lives. Personal narratives provide students with a chance to participate in creative writing, while still practicing appropriate writing mechanics.

Recently, I spent a week with high school special education students writing personal narratives. I created a bunch of materials to help my students grasp the concept, generate topics to write about and create an outline for their final piece.

I broke up the activities over a four day period.:

*Day 1– reviewed the Personal Narrative PowerPoint and had students complete the Brainstorming Sheet

*Day 2– I started by showing students the Personal Narrative Example (written by yours truly). I then checked in with students and based on their completion of the Brainstorming Sheet, I had students fill out the Personal Narrative Outline Sheet

*Day 3 and 4– Students wrote their personal narratives based on pre-writing activities and the example

I learned A LOT about these students through these activities. Some found the writing to be therapeutic, while others had fun with it and wrote about happy memories. They were actively engaged in the activities and all produced personal narratives utilizing the appropriate elements.

To check out the Personal Narrative Writing Bundle I used, click here.

Little Reading Coach is a certified Teacher of English (K-12) and Reading Specialist (P-12) offering online reading,  writing and home-based learning support tutoring services for students in grades 6-12. For more information click here.

How Do I Become an Online Teacher?

I’ve been an online English teacher with Edmentum for the last three years. When I first started looking I was home with a new baby, I had just resigned from my classroom teaching job and I wanted a job working from home. I would literally job hunt all day every day, with my resume ready to be submitted to an employer at a moment’s notice.

Over the years I’ve shared my experiences and knowledge with friends and co-workers who are interested in a part-time job for extra spending money, or who are looking to make a change and leave the brick and mortar classroom.

With so many teachers and parents looking for work from home jobs in today’s world, I wanted to share my journey of what I have learned about getting a job as an online teacher.

  1. Job search engines are AMAZING. My job searches always started with a trip to indeed.com. In truth, since I started using indeed about 5 years ago I was hired for three different jobs using this incredible website. Playing around with the key word searches was also really important since I was looking for very specific positions. ‘Remote teaching jobs’ wasn’t as successful for me as ‘online reading teacher’. Jobs are literally updated all day every day, so I would check my recent searches multiple times a day. The second you see a job that you are seriously interested in, APPLY! Have all of your documents ready to go (references, letters of recommendation, certifications, resume, etc.). Some companies will contact you the same day and others may take a day or two, if you hear from them at all. I also suggest keeping a document listing what job you applied for and the company. When you apply to more than two or three it’s very easy to get them mixed up.
  2. Teaching English to children overseas. Once you find some job listings, it’s important to be aware of the different types of online teaching jobs available. One of the most popular part time jobs is working for companies like GOGOKID and VIPKid. These companies will oftentimes give you the lesson plans and materials, but it’s up to the teacher to incorporate props and engage students. Teachers control their calendar and students sign up for sessions where there are openings. Ratings and teacher feedback are very important for these positions. As a secondary teacher, while I did apply to VIPKids, I never went through the entire process because I knew I wouldn’t be a good fit. I am friends with teachers who work for these companies and see how passionate they are about working with their students. Just a little heads up, these jobs typically happen early in the morning (like 5 am ish).
  3. Online school companies. Back in 2014, I worked in a building with a supervisor who also taught part time for K12. When I started my online job hunt I started with K12. I wasn’t qualified for any of their open positions (more on this in a second), so I started looking at other companies. Along with K12, Edmentum and Connections Academy are other popular online schools. As an employee of Edmentum, I can only speak on their requirements and expectations. I was first hired as a contractor (part time and without benefits), then I switched to full time (with benefits) and I currently work as a contractor again (by choice). During my time as an Edmentor, along with teaching, I have co-hosted a PD session on Accommodating Special Education Students in the Virtual Classroom, attended IEP meetings, participated in curriculum committee meetings, collaborated with sales and marketing, and more.
  4. Making sure you’re qualified. One of the biggest lessons I have learned is the importance of multiple state certifications. Why? Every state is different in their teacher requirements. Edmentum works with schools literally all over the world, and have to follow specific guidelines when hiring teachers. For instance, in order to teach students in Indiana you need an Indiana certification. I was hired by Edmentum to teach New Jersey students, which was the only certification I had at the time. My Instructional Leader had me get my Michigan license so I could work full time with a school there. I was also told to get certifications for Indiana and Illinois because that’s what the company needed me to get. Some states will make you get fingerprinted, even though the job is for an online company, and even CPR certification. It’s also up to you to make sure keep your certifications up to date. As a heads up, some companies require that you live in the state you are teaching in, like K12 (which is why I wasn’t qualified from earlier). So before you fill out a job application make sure you read the job requirements.
  5. Creating your own courses. If you’re looking for a more flexible online teaching job, I would suggest taking a look at Outschool. Teachers create all kinds of classes for all ages. I keep seeing ads for princess Sing-a-long tea parties in my Facebook feed for Outschool. Personally, I have never worked for taken a course through this platform, but I see lots of parents talking about it in Facebook groups.

Little Reading Coach is a certified Teacher of English (K-12) and Reading Specialist (P-12) offering online reading,  writing and home-based learning support tutoring services for students in grades 6-12. For more information click here.

My New Year’s Resolutions as an Online Educator

I’ve been a teacher with EdOptions Academy by Edmentum for three years now, and I can honestly say the last five months have been like nothing I have ever experienced. Truth- I was not the best teacher I could be. Like so many other teachers, I was in survival mode trying to juggle so many new online learners at one time.

As I sit here enjoying my winter break, for the first time I’m able to really reflect on my teaching this year. My ultimate goal is to provide my students and their families with more tools and resources, while also balancing their emotional needs. Below are my personal resolutions for my virtual classroom.

1. Make myself more available for my students. Every week I hold office hours to help students with assignments, but there are times where my students do not take advantage of this extra help. Going forward, I’m going to send out an invite for my students to attend my office hours for a hot chocolate get together just to talk. This will help me build trust with my students and allow me to get to know them on personal level. It will also provide them with a safe space to talk about what they are experiencing, especially since so many of them have been quarantining since August.

2. Provide more resources for my students. When I give my students feedback on their assignments oftentimes I include links to videos to help kids. For instance, if a student struggled with active and passive voice I will send them this video link. Going forward, I want to create a document for my students that includes all of the video links organized by category. I also want to create graphic organizers for some of the writing assignments that students can use to brainstorm their ideas.

3. Create a cheat sheet for parents. Parents receive sooo many emails from online teachers because it’s our main way of communication. It’s very easy to get lost in the sea of emails full of important information, so I created a cheat sheet for parents. The sheet has a place for them to record log in information, teachers, office hours days/times, links for meetings, and also a few important reminders about the courses. Click here to see my cheat sheet. Hopefully, parents will be able to save a few minutes and clicks to access information they use on a daily basis. For more parent information about online learning check out E-Learning: Setting Kids Up for Success and What Parents Should Know About Virtual Learning.

4. Host a monthly read aloud. Read alouds are without a doubt my favorite part of teaching, especially online. I used to host weekly read alouds with my students, and while my calendar doesn’t leave me time for a weekly one, I would like to host a monthly one. A few months ago, I hosted a read aloud for an hour and read Fantastic Mr. Fox to my kids just for fun. I had quite a few participants and many students thanked me for doing it. Going forward, I need to put the read aloud on my calendar and encourage students to attend. For more information on virtual read alouds, check out Effective Read Alouds in the Virtual Classroom and Incorporating Read Alouds for GradesK-12: Tips and Tricks from a Virtual Educator.

My resolutions are realistic for me to tackle as we start to gear up for second semester. While I wasn’t the best teacher first semester, I’m proud of myself for still providing quality feedback to my students and helping them earn credits towards their high school diplomas.

Little Reading Coach is a certified Teacher of English (K-12) and Reading Specialist (P-12) offering online reading,  writing and home-based learning support tutoring services for students in grades 6-12. For more information click here.

New Year’s Activities for Kids

New Year’s is known as a time to reflect on the past year and make goals for the new one. New Year’s resolutions are set and there’s a sense of optimism and hope as we end the holiday season.

Now that Miss Molly is four, I wanted to start explaining the importance of this holiday to her. As always, I start by researching some books and other forms of media to help me with this process. Below are some great activities to help kids learn and celebrate this holiday.

Squirrel’s New Year’s Resolution by Pat Miller. To be honest, I was drawn to this book because Molly always points out squirrels. This picture book does a fantastic job of not only explaining what a New Year’s resolution is, but following the main character Squirrel come up with one. This book is available in paperback, hardcover and ebook on Amazon. There is also a really lovely audio recording of a read aloud on YouTube by Storytime Now! .

Happy New Year Around the World (coloring book) by Sylvia Walker. I’m in love with this book for a couple reasons. First, it introduces young readers to how different cultures around the world ring in the new year. Some countries include: China, Germany, Italy and Mexico. But the absolute best part is this story has pictures for readers to color! So it’s pretty much a 2 in 1! My little reader always needs to be busy, so the fact that we can read AND color this book is fabulous!

Rudolph’s Shiny New Year. I will always have a soft spot in my heart for the classic holiday films from the 70s, even if Eon still freaks me out a little. I love how this movie discusses the passage of time through songs and Rudolph’s journey that help little viewer’s understand the theme. It’s available on DVD and it can also be streamed on Amazon.

Little Reading Coach is a certified Teacher of English (K-12) and Reading Specialist (P-12) offering online reading,  writing and home-based learning support tutoring services for students in grades 6-12. For more information click here.

Distance Learning Winter Writing Activities for Grades 6-12

As students enter middle and high school years, they sometimes forget that writing can be fun because they are constantly writing formal essays, research papers and responses. Creative writing can still happen in an English classroom while students practice using literary skills.

There are new products in my store that encourage creative writing while focusing on characterization, plot elements and point of view.

Winter Writing Characterization Activity– Students will create a character sketch of a snow person in three steps (brainstorming, writing and creating a visual) focusing on direct and indirect characterization. The product includes definitions to make this an independent writing assignment for students to complete on their own. There is a graphic organizer included for brainstorming. This is a great hybrid, remote or in-person activity for students to practice writing skills in a fun way for all students in grades 6-12.

Winter Writing Plot Activity– Students will create a short story about the ultimate snow day in three steps (brainstorming, writing a short story and creating a visual) based on the elements of plot. The product includes definitions to make this an independent writing assignment for students to complete on their own. There is a graphic organizer included for brainstorming. This is a great hybrid, remote or in-person activity for students to practice writing skills in a fun way for all students in grades 6-12.

Winter Writing Point of View Activity- Students will write about a snowstorm from two different points of view in two easy steps (brainstorming and writing) based on point of view. The product includes definitions to make this an independent writing assignment for students to complete on their own. There is a graphic organizer included for brainstorming. This is a great hybrid, remote or in-person activity for students to practice writing skills in a fun way for all students in grades 6-12.

Winter Writing Activities Bundle– This bundle includes three winter writing activities focusing on characterization, plot and point of view. Each activity includes definitions and graphic organizers for brainstorming, making them independent writing activities for students to complete on their own. This is a great hybrid, remote or in-person activity for students to practice writing skills in a fun way for all students in grades 6-12.

Little Reading Coach is a certified Teacher of English (K-12) and Reading Specialist (P-12) offering online reading,  writing and home-based learning support tutoring services for students in grades 6-12. For more information click here.