My 3 Favorite Virtual Reading Activities

Teaching reading and writing online is definitely a change from in person lessons. We know that kids need to be engaged in the learning process, and we need to be introducing them to different activities to help keep their focus.

As a virtual teacher, I’ve experimented with a few different ways to engage my students when it comes to literacy. I want my students to have fun and appreciate the joy that reading can bring. I use Zoom with my students, and will record my sessions to pass along to those who couldn’t make the session, or who want to re-watch it. Here are three my three favorite virtual literacy activities I’ve used with my students.

Virtual author visits– I was fortunate to have an author, Brenda Felber, reach out to me a year and a half ago about doing a virtual author visit. She found me on social media and we arranged to have her Zoom with my students.  She shared her research and writing process and more (click here to read about her visit). Brenda writes mystery chapter books (click here to check out my review of her novel)

I also had another author visit with Christine Reynebau a few weeks after Brenda. Christine writes and publishes picture books (Celebrate, PB&J, Guts, Rescue, and Lost) and did a read aloud during her visit along with a discussion of how she made her dreams of being a children’s book author come true.

I typically network with a lot of indie authors for my book reviews, and it’s truly incredible when I can introduce my students to quality texts.

Read alouds- if you’ve been a follower for a while, you know this is my jam. Read alouds are my thing. I LOVE being able to make great stories come to life for my students and be able to discuss the works together. I’ve been able to create a community of readers through an online platform which makes my heart so happy.

When I first started doing virtual read alouds, I used texts that were part of the curriculum. For sixth grade I read The Hunger Games, seventh grade was A Wrinkle in Time and eighth grade was The Giver. My students loved being able to throw their ideas into the chat box and discuss with their peers while I facilitated. At the time, my kiddos preferred the chat box because they didn’t feel comfortable being on camera.

The last read aloud I did with grades 6-12 was Divergent, and it was pure magic! My regular group would join me once a week and we had the best time. They even created hashtags that would pop up during our discussions. For more specific information on virtual read alouds click here.

This summer I taught kindergarten, and I spent our morning meeting time with a read aloud. I chose a different picture book every day and we practiced pre-reading strategies, reading comprehension, and making inference skills during our time together. My kiddos loved knowing we would read something new every day, and they were engaged while practicing new skills.

For kindergarten, I used e-book versions of text and shared my screen while I read. I got my daily books from Kindle Unlimited (a truly amazing service) and introduced my readers to a lot of indie authors.

Scavenger hunts– I actually got this idea from my elementary supervisor this summer during a meeting about student engagement. She encouraged us to get the kids moving and grooving as much as possible, since they were sitting in classes with us for 45 minutes at a time.

When we were working on phonics and letters, I would tell my students to grab objects  in their house that started with a specific letter. For instance, they had to grab objects that started with the letter ‘w’ and kids came back with walnuts, a dollhouse (she pointed to the window) and a wallet. Not only did it get them up and moving, it was seriously entertaining to see what they came up with.

For older students, I would use the idea of a scavenger hunt to help with teaching symbolism. I would tell students to find an object in their room that represents (symbolizes) them. Once students returned we would all discuss the object and how it symbolized the student.

 

Literacy activities don’t always have to be an online game or writing activity. By adding in some different activities, we can keep our students engaged and also have fun.

 

Little Reading Coach is a certified Teacher of English (K-12) and Reading Specialist (P-12) offering online reading and writing tutoring services for students in grades 3-12. For more information click here.

 

PB & J Book Review

Six months ago when I decided to dive back into blogging, I was fortunate to connect with some amazing authors. Not only did I review their books, two of them even did virtual visits with me for my EdOptions Academy kids. We continue to follow and support one another on social media, and have developed a really awesome friendship. Christine Reynebau was one of my first author friends, and she continues to be an absolute inspiration. I reviewed her picture book Celebrate back in June (click here to see my review for Celebrate), and I’m super excited to share another one of her works.

PB& J, by Christine Reynebau, is a sweet story about perseverance and support.

The main character is an adorable little girl who wants to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but she can’t open the jelly jar. She tries a few ways to open the jar on her own, but she is unsuccessful. She decides to do what all girls do when the going gets tough… she asks her parents for help.

Both of her parents gently say they will not open the jar because they believe that she can open the jar on her own. At first I was surprised when her dad told her this, because dad’s usually do anything to help their daughters. But the fact that the dad encourages her to keep trying is heartwarming. I love that by not helping his daughter open the jar her dad is teaching her an important life lesson of perseverance. And when her mom also tells her daughter to keep trying it reiterates the life lesson.

The little girl spends the rest of the picture book trying creative ways to open the jar. I love that she ties the jar to the back of her bike and when that doesn’t work pitches the jar to her brother Mike. She really does try anything she can think of to get the lid off.

Spoiler alert: After all of her creative attempts, the little girl is successful by opening the jar with one hand. She is so incredibly proud of herself, as she should be, and celebrates with encouraging words from her parents and a PB & J sandwich.

This adorable picture book would be great with little ones in preschool through second grade.

To purchase the book click here.

Celebrate Book Review

It’s wedding season!! My social media accounts have pictures and posts at least once a week of a wedding. It’s that time of year where love is definitely being celebrated.

Celebrate by Christine Reynebeau, and illustrated by Kimberly Wix, is a delightful story about honoring a couple getting married.

A few months ago I had the pleasure of doing a virtual author visit with Christine. She is an absolutely amazing woman who is filled with determination and energy. She totally inspired me to push through my slump I was in, and I will always be grateful for that.Christine Author Visit

Usually stories about weddings focus on dramatic emergencies or details about the dress and flowers, but Celebrate takes a different approach. The story really explores how meaningful marriage is and highlights the importance of a wedding as a new beginning instead of just a big party. For instance, when discussing the bridal party, the author writes, “The wedding party is filled with people who are important to the pair, asked to stand at the altar, as people who have always been there.” Instead of merely just saying friends and family stand with the bride and groom, Reynebeau dives into the deeper meaning and significance.

I was also a HUGE fan of the illustrations for this book. There is something about it looking like a child drew the pictures that adds a warm and fuzzy feeling. Personally, I think that it definitely helps the appeal for younger audiences. I also love how the illustrations incorporate diversity.

The structure of the text is simple. There is a sentence on each page with simple vocabulary words and a smidge of rhyming. It’s perfect for toddlers to beginner readers. It’s an ideal book to use when discussing weddings with children, especially if they are in the wedding.

 

 

 

Virtual Author Visit with Brenda Felber

Yesterday was without a doubt one of my favorite days as a virtual teacher. I had the absolute pleasure of chatting with author Brenda Felber using Zoom.

I use Zoom every week for my read alouds, but this was the first time I used the video chatting platform to host a guest. Zoom allows users to share their screens, so Brenda was able to share a fabulous PowerPoint presentation. Using the Gallery view, we were able to see one another while the Powerpoint was being shared. This was a great aspect because we were able to have a “face to face” conversation while Brenda went through her presentation.

In my eight years of teaching, I have never had the opportunity to have an author visit with my students. Usually at the middle school level students are limited with their experiences because there is so much pressure on getting class time in. In the brick and mortar schools that I have worked in, students were allowed one or two field trips a year and that was it outside of usual class activities.

Teaching in the virtual classroom allows me to give my students more learning opportunities. Not only do I do my weekly read alouds, but I can now bring my students author visits.

As a teacher, one of my favorite aspects of Brenda’s presentation was how she uses the writing process for all of her novels. She showed us a picture of her word map, one of the ways she brainstorms, and explained how detailed her editing process is. She also shared specific programs that she uses to bring the novel together. The teacher in me was ecstatic because students are able to see that the writing process is used for more than just a five paragraph essay.

As a reader, my favorite part was when Brenda discussed the different components of her books. In my book review on Twisted Games (Twisted Games: Pameroy Mystery Series Book 5 Review), I mention how Brenda combines mystery, history and fantasy. During our author visit, Brenda referred to all three of those ideas and why she uses them in her writing. This validated my reading skills and interpretations and also added to our conversation.

I made sure to record the Zoom session and I included it in my weekly newsletter for my students to watch when they have time. It was a truly fantastic experience and I am so glad to have connected with such a talented author.

Twisted Games: Pameroy Mystery Series Book 5 Review

As I’ve mentioned in other posts, I tend to have a love/hate relationship with social media. Currently, I’m all about the love! Through Facebook, I was able to connect with an amazing author, Brenda Felber, and she is going to do an author visit with my virtual students tomorrow using Zoom!

In preparation for our author visit, I read one of the books in the Pameroy Mystery series. I chose to read the fifth book, Twisted Games, because there was just something about the description that said “read me”.

In the book, Lillia and her Grandaunt Nora take a trip to the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina, and get involved in a 100 year old cold case. Along the way our main character makes new friends (real and imagined).

One of my favorite aspects about the book, and the series, is that it is unlike anything else that I have read. I’ve always been a reader, and I can usually make text to text connections, but for the life of me I can’t think of any other series or novel that is similar to this one. Felber combines mystery, fantasy, and history all into one text that engages all different types of readers. The dialogue between the characters is realistic and captures kid language perfectly. I also LOVE how each book takes place in a different state. I can’t wait to read the Jersey one :).

I was also a huge fan of the way the mystery unfolded. Usually I do a pretty good job at predicting what is going to happen. I tend to sense when a twist is coming. However, the writing of Twisted Games made it so my mind wasn’t focusing on just the mystery. This welcome distraction actually allowed me to go on the adventure with Lillia. The shifting back and forth from Lillia’s imaginings to the mystery held my engagement and prevented me from jumping ahead in the mystery, which was a first for me as a reader.

This is a fabulous book for readers in grades 4-6. I’m so excited for my author visit with Brenda Felber!

For more information about this fabulous author check out her website: https://brendafelber.com/