Incorporating Virtual Read Alouds for Grades K-12: Tips and Tricks from a Virtual Educator

Read alouds are a time when students of all ages can get immersed in different worlds, make new friends, and go on amazing adventures. As teachers, we constantly read aloud in our brick and mortar classrooms, and this can still be a possibility in virtual classrooms.

I’m a strong believer in the power of read alouds for students in grades P-12. About two years ago I shared how I conducted read alouds in the virtual world via Zoom (click here). Since then I have experimented with a few different ways of incorporating read alouds for one-on-one and classes with students in grades K-12. I share my screen via Zoom and use e-books with students, or I read aloud from a paper based novel depending on the lesson.

Read Alouds for Grades K-5

When: I dedicated my morning meeting time to a read a book of the day. Typically this time is about 15 minutes, which is just enough time to read and touch on some reading comprehension questions. However, this can also be done as a mini-lesson. Read alouds can also take place during snack time and while transitioning subjects in the virtual world.

What: For early elementary read alouds, or beginner readers, I get picture books from Kindle Unlimited since I have a subscription, but some other options include Vooks and Epic!. Since I’m also a book reviewer, I love to use books I’ve reviewed with my students as well (check out one of my favorite authors below). This activity can also be done with nonfiction texts if you’re looking to include more in the curriculum.

What is the title of the book? Rescue. What is the picture? Three dogs. What do you think this story will be about? Dogs helping people.

How: I structure my read aloud with pre-reading, during reading and after reading sections. These can be super quick, or extended a few minutes depending on the text. Pre-reading– We always start by discussing the cover a book. Where is the author’s name? What is the title of the story? What is the picture? What do we think this book will be about based on the picture? I pose these types of questions and have students verbally respond, since typing would take them too long. During reading– Every few pages I stop and ask questions about the character, plot, text to self connections, setting, etc. Some are purely comprehension based and others are geared more towards making inferences. Who is the main character? What is the problem? My questions can usually be answered by using the pictures and the text, so all of my readers are able to participate, regardless of their reading ability.

What is Phoebe’s problem? She can’t find her favorite tennis ball. How does she feel about this? She’s surprised.

After reading– Similar to pre and during reading, I pose questions to my students about theme, rating the book, explaining their thoughts on the book, etc. Students can verbally answer this or use a white board/piece of paper to rate the book. If you’re looking for a more extended after reading activity, have students draw a picture and write a sentence or two related to the book. For instance, if the book is about pets, have students draw a picture of their pet (or their dream pet) and write a sentence with the pet’s name.

Read Alouds Grades for Grades 6-12

When: I would include a read aloud during language arts time, or at the start of a language arts class. If I’m reading aloud at the beginning of every class period, I dedicate 10 minutes for me reading and 5 minutes for students to respond to the reading. If I’m doing a live lesson for my virtual students, my read alouds last between 45 minutes to an hour about once a week.

What: For daily read alouds, I prefer to use a novel with students. Over the years I’ve used the following texts: City of Ember, The Face on the Milk Carton series, Among the Hidden, Divergent (censoring certain parts), The Hunger Games, The Giver, A Wrinkle in Time and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

How: My focus is to have students enjoy the story, so I do pre and after reading activities. My pre-reading consists of either me giving a recap from the previous days’ reading or having a student do it, and a brief “heads up” about the day’s chapter(s). I will also tell students what the after reading question is before I start reading to give them ideas to focus on during the read aloud. After reading activities can look a little different depending on how long my lesson is. One option is to have students respond to the reading question. This question can be answered in Padlet, Poll Everywhere, Google form, etc. In the past, I’ve used Padlet and I usually use one or two student examples or have a student pick their favorite response, one they disagree with, etc. to review the question. For an extended read aloud (45 minute to 1 hour) check out how I utilize chat to generate discussions here .

New Tricks

Since March, I’ve tweaked some of my instructional practices to provide additional support for reading comprehension.

*Discussions include more quote analysis to help with making inferences, drawing conclusions and other higher order thinking skills. Students are also encouraged to use to keep an eye/ear out for quotes that catch their attention.

*Audiobooks have been life savers. As an online teacher I teach English and English-based electives for grades 6-12, which includes A LOT of novels. I can’t read them all to my students, so by providing audio versions (thank you YouTube) my students can get the support they need. Also, during small groups or one-on-one sessions, I will use an audio version depending on the text. No one can read Harry Potter more perfectly than Jim Dale.

*Incorporating more connections for my students has also helped their reading comprehensions. For instance, in Divergent when Tris starts wearing eye liner and black clothing, I share a text to media connection I have with the movie Mulan. Both scenes show the girls stuck between two different identities of themselves and both help students understand the theme of identity.

To check out Rescue 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 3-12. For more information click here.

My Hair Went On Vacation Book Review

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

Being a book reviewer for the last few years has allowed me to connect with incredible people. The love and passion that my author friends put into their books is evident to all readers, and today’s book is one of those that truly tugged at my heart strings.

My Hair Went on Vacation, by Paula Quinn and illustrated by Chirara Civati, is a heartfelt picture book about a little girl’s journey with alopecia.

One day, Rosie wakes up with her hair missing from her head. She tells readers that her hair is on vacation and we see her navigate the real world with a bald head. Rosie endures mean comments from kids at school, and her family gives her strength. Rosie loves to paint, and her parents get a head scarf designed for her based on one of her pieces! Rosie then proceeds to send paint to kids near and far, so they can design headscarves for themselves.

I have to be completely honest, my mom read this book before I did. She saw it sitting on the counter and dived right in. After reading, she had tears in her eyes and we had a discussion about the strength of kids (and parents) in this world. When I read this book, I also started to tear up and felt a surge of admiration for this family.

The writing style is fabulous! The rhyming gives the text a great flow, without feeling too juvenile. The sentence structure is a mixture of simple and complex, so that it can appeal to a wide range of readers. The illustrations are fun, especially with the color theme used. The pictures enhance reading comprehension and gives a visual life to the story.

There are a few clear themes in this picture book- pride, strength and making a difference. The themes are clear enough for even younger readers to identify, which will make for great discussions.

As always, my teacher heart gets super happy when author’s include bonus features in their books. This text includes a kid-friendly glossary and a teacher’s guide. The guide has a self portrait idea and discussion questions, with an accommodation for older students (which I LOVE).

This picture book would work well for students in grades P-4 to help discuss character education topics and alopecia.

To purchase the book click here.

*100% of the proceeds of this book go to supporting the Coming Up Rosie’s mission to restore confidence, happiness and pride to anyone struggling with low self-esteem during their medical journey, especially bald children.*

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 3-12. For more information click here.

Lizzie Loftus and the Messy Mums Book Review : A Science Method Mystery

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

A few months ago I connected with a new children’s book author, Dr. Ruth Propper, through Facebook and I shared a review for her first book, Lizzie Loftus and the Missing Peanut Butter Cookies. Just as I was hoping, the second book is finally available!

Lizzie Loftus and the Messy Mums: A Science Method Mystery, written by Ruth E. Propper, Ph.D., and illustrated by Tanja Vacelija, is a great easy to read science chapter book that enforces the importance of experiments to young scientists.

Our fantastic trio is back (Lizzie, Joule and Robert) and they have another mystery that needs to be solved. Robert’s mom accuses him of playing basketball in the front yard and ruining the mums that were just planted. Unless Robert can come up with an alternate hypothesis before dinner he will be unable to go to the big basketball game.

Joule guides Lizzie and Robert through the scientific method to create Robert’s alternate hypothesis. She really makes it a point to follow the process in order and readers see first hand why Joule is right. The situation gets even more complicated when Daniel, the 7th grade neighbor, stops by and gives his own thoughts, which Joule believes instantly.

One new aspect of the this story that really stuck out to me was the underlying theme of seeing is believing. The theme first emerges during a conversation between Joule and her mom. Joule is trying to convince her mom that wind, moles, and sticks had a hand in the messy mums, but her mom points out many holes in the story.

“Just because someone older, or more mature, or even someone you respect, tells you something, it doesn’t make it true. When in doubt, believe what you see, not what someone says. You have to think critically, kids. That means trying to figure out why something might not be true” (46).

Mom’s words can be applied to so many situations involving peer pressure, science experiments, etc. I LOVE this quote and the point that mom is trying to make to the three scientists.

As with the first book, the characterization in this story is spot on. The attitude that Joule has is just enough sass to make readers roll their eyes, but not dislike her. Robert is truly an eight year old boy in how he acts and speaks. Propper really captures the essence of little boys with Robert in the very beginning of the story. Lizzie is still a sweetheart that truly wants to help her friends.

As a reader, I am always looking for clues and moments of foreshadowing. There was a smidge of foreshadowing in the book, but the plot events did surprise me, which I enjoyed. The creativity of what really happened is realistic and will make readers smile.

And in true Lizzie Loftus books fashion, there are bonus sections! The author includes a glossary of terms with reading comprehension questions to help readers explore the scientific concepts in more detail using the text. There is also a hands-on activity that includes a recipe for spaghetti and meatballs. The teachermom gets excited that readers can go beyond the text in fun and educational ways.

I recommend this book for readers/scientists ages 5-12 for a home or classroom library. It is also a great text for a science teacher or homeschool parent to use when teaching the scientific method or looking for STEM activities.

To purchase the book click here.

 

 

 

 

Questions for Parents to Ask Their Readers in Grades 3-8

For some, getting kids to read is a battle. Last week I shared 5 Effective Tips to Help Kids Read More. But, once we start to get kids reading, what should parents do next?

One of the easiest and most effective ways to help readers of all ages understand and engage with a text is to talk about it with them. Depending on the child, this is easier said than done.

For those students who may need some prompting, asking questions is a great strategy for parents to use. “What did you learn?” ” What was your favorite part?” These are examples of great starter questions, but in order to engage in meaningful dialogue about the text, try to ask more specific questions.

Little Reading Coach has created a FREE resource with different types of fiction reading questions for readers in grades 3-8. The questions are broken into categories (general, reading comprehension, character, setting, conflict, and higher order thinking questions). Click here to access the free resource.

Parents can pick and choose which questions to ask their reading, depending on age, type of text being read, etc. They can just be discussed verbally, or students can write or type responses.

To check out more products from Little Reading Coach, click here

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.

Distance Learning Parts of Speech Series for Grades 3-8

In today’s world of emails, text messages, and social media postings, writing is truly a life skill. However, in order to write clear and effective sentences and paragraphs, it’s imperative that kids know the parts of speech.

Little Reading Coach has created products to help students in grades 3-8 define and practice using the parts of speech correctly.

The Parts of Speech Series include:

  1. Parts of Speech (overview)
  2. Nouns 
  3. Possessive Nouns
  4. Pronouns
  5. Verbs 
  6. Principal Parts of Verbs
  7. Adjectives
  8. Adverbs 
  9. Adverbs & Adjectives
  10. Prepositions
  11. Conjunctions
  12. Interjections 
  13. Ultimate Parts of Speech Bundle 

Each distance learning bundle was created by a certified Teacher of English (K-12) Reading Specialist (P-12), and includes a video lesson, PowerPoint Presentation, guided note sheet (fill in the blank notes) for the PowerPoint, and questions based on the lesson. These bundles can be used for distance and/or blended learning.

To check out more products from Little Reading Coach, click here

 

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.

 

 

 

Summer Family Bookish Guide Review

Summer reading is a pretty popular term. Schools encourage young child to participate in reading contests, high school students usually have to read a book and complete an activity. However, many families are unsure how to structure summer reading at home because there are so many different options.

But, what if I told you there is an all inclusive guide available for families to use right away?

One of my amazing book friends, and my Usborne Books & More consultant, Lis Moriarty has created an absolutely incredible Summer Family Bookish Guide.

This guide can be followed exactly like it’s outlined, or parents can pick and choose which parts to use. The guide includes a table of contents to help direct users and is super user friendly.

One of my favorite pages is the Daily Summer Themes. This is a fabulous option for those who have kids home all summer long and want to provide some structure. Each day has a theme, such as Make it Monday, and includes a handful of ideas that can be done with the whole family. Some of the ideas includes: virtual field trips, trying a new recipe, and go on a scavenger hunt.

If you’re a planner, this guide has printable templates that can be filled out in as much detail as you like. You can literally plan your entire day and week in a manner of minutes. Post your schedules on the fridge so kids can see what’s coming up.

As a Reading Specialist, I get excited when I come across materials I can share with families that encourage kids to talk about what they’re reading. This fantastic guide includes so many conversation starters for parents to have with kids of all ages. Also, for those who love to read aloud, there are ideas for how to keep kids engaged during this precious reading time.

This guide puts a TON of emphasis on making reading fun! Summer Book Bingo provides some great opportunities to read different texts in some different ways and places. I really like the square to read with a flashlight.

Finally, this guide provides printouts to record books to read and books read. Book tracking forms helps provide kids with a visual to see how much they have really read over the summer months. It also includes so great book suggestion lists that literally has something for every kid.

For more information about this incredible summer guide click here.

Lizzie Loftus and the Missing Peanut Butter Cookies: A Science Method Mystery Book Review

Literacy in the content areas is a topic I’ve been interested in since college when I had to take a class on it (with one of my favorite professors). I love coming across books that will spark the interest of a reader who has a love of science, math or history.

Lizzie Loftus and the Missing Peanut Butter Cookies: A Science Method Mystery, by Ruth E. Propper, Ph.D., and illustrated by Tanja Varcelija, is a delightful story about using the scientific method to solve a real life mystery.

Lizzie’s mom just baked a batch of delicious peanut butter cookies, but unfortunately a bunch have gone missing. Lizzie asked to have a cookie, but she listened to her mom and did not take one. She went outside to play with her neighbors, Robert and Joule. Lizzie’s mom thinks Lizzie ate the cookies, and has given her daughter an hour to explain what happened to them. Robert, Joule and Lizzie use the scientific method to create a hypothesis and design an experiment to show Mrs. Loftus what really happened to the cookies.

The format of this book is fabulous! Each chapter is a few pages long, which are filled with dialogue allowing the story to flow really well for young readers. The conversations are extremely realistic and allow readers to truly get to know the characters. The illustrations are adorable and can be used to help aid readers with comprehending the text.

Two of my favorite components of this story are the characters and the explanation of the scientific methods.

The three main characters are Lizzie, Robert and Joule. Robert and Lizzie are in second grade, and Robert’s older sister Joule is in fifth grade. Even though the story is about Lizzie’s situation, Joule’s character definitely steals the show! Joule is a know-it-all, with a big personality. She likes to remind Lizzie and Robert that she learned all about science and experiments “last year in fourth grade”. She is the driving force behind Lizzie finding out the truth about the missing peanut butter cookies, and truly moves the plot along.

For the record, science was in no way one of my best subjects growing up. I remember learning about the scientific method and having to use it in class, all while thanking my lab partner for getting me through.

This book not only does a marvelous job explaining and defining the different parts of an experiment (hypothesis, designing an experiment) it also provides clear examples in a real life situation. Joule spends lots of time teaching Robert and Lizzie about science in this short text, but her explanations are kid-friendly while using the proper scientific terminology, which I loved. There is no watering down of ideas and concepts, but rather a dialogue between characters that helps readers comprehend the ideas. For instance, Joule spends lots of time discussing hypothesis with the two other kids. She corrects them and explains why their ideas are incorrect, and provides guidance to the right way of thinking.

There were also some nice little surprises at the end of the story. The teacher in me always gets excited when an author includes extra educational activities that correlate with the story, and this author definitely got me excited!

Not only did she include a glossary of the scientific terms mentioned in the story, she included comprehension questions based on each term and the story! Truthfully, I have never seen it done this way, and I think it’s great! It adds an extra layer of skill building in a way that doesn’t feel overwhelming for young readers.

And in true saving the best for last fashion, there is a recipe for peanut butter cookies! The illustrations of the ingredients make the recipe very kid-friendly, and the references to the story in the directions just add that little bit of extra.

I recommend this book for ages 5-12. It would work really well as a cross curricular activity with science and reading for students in grades 2-5. It is a must have for any kid who likes science or mysteries.

To purchase this book click here.

 

Reading Comprehension at Home: 5 Things Parents Can Do

Whenever I chat with parents, they always express concern with their child’s reading comprehension. They worry that their child struggles with reading because they don’t understand what they are reading. While every child learns differently, there are some general tips and tricks that parents can do to help their learners at home. Below are some of my favorite, easy to incorporate ideas that I share with my families:

  1. Background information. This is HUGE! The more background students have about a topic or idea before reading about it, the more their brain is prepared to learn new information. Take a look at the passage or book your learner is reading and provide them with some information about the topic. For instance, if your student is going to read Anne Frank, find a Youtube video about WWII. Videos and movies are a great resource for background information, especially since kids will be reading in the near future.
  2. Predictions. This strategy works really well with elementary students, who seem to really enjoy it. Stop periodically and ask your learner what they think will happen next, where will the character go, will the problem get worse? Always try to keep the questions opened-ended so kids can explain their answers fully using examples from the text. Feel free to ask follow up questions, such as why or how to get your student to expand on their prediction.
  3. Stop and check. Kids need to learn to check in with themselves while they’re reading. No one wants to sit and waste 20 minutes reading a short story to realize none of it makes sense. Help your child figure out when is an appropriate time for them to stop in their reading and do a quick reading comprehension self check. Maybe have younger students stop after every paragraph or page and see if they can summarize what they just read to you. For older students, maybe have them stop and give a summary or main idea every 10 pages or chapter. If your child got all the big ideas then keep reading. If he or she missed some big concepts go back and re-read.
  4. Re-read. This is by far the best reading comprehension strategy for kids to use, in my opinion. Once a student realizes they are lost or confused, re-reading can usually help them get back on track. We all zone out sometimes when we read, or get mixed up at a particular part, so re-reading is a great, quick way to clarify any confusion and continue reading. Sometimes just re-reading a sentence or two does the trick, but if a student needs to re-read a few paragraphs or a page let them.
  5. Visualizing. I knew I was a strong reader as a kid when I could read a novel with no pictures and have a movie playing in my head. Elementary students rely on pictures in books to help them visualize when they are learning to read, but as kids get older and the texts become more complex, usually there aren’t any pictures to help students. That is where visualizing comes in. Usually a novel will provide readers with a great description of a setting or character. Stop and have kids draw what the description is using colors. For those that don’t like to draw (like myself) show kids some pictures. For instance, in Divergent readers are introduced to the city of Chicago, so show students pictures of the city to help them visualize.

 

Does your learner in grades 3-12 need additional support with reading comprehension? Check out https://www.littlereadingcoachllc.com/ for details about online reading and writing tutoring.

E-Learning: Setting Kids Up for Success

I spent five years in middle school classrooms and one year as a literacy coach before making the transition to being a virtual teacher. I’m currently in my third year as an online English teacher with EdOptions Academy by Edmentum, and also an online tutor with Little Reading Coach.

Making the transition from a brick and mortar classroom to a virtual one can be overwhelming in the beginning, but once a student gets the hang of things life gets much easier.

Below are ways for helping kids of all ages make the transition to e-learning environments.

Know what platforms are being used. Kids use multiple learning sites, platforms and textbooks every day in a brick and mortar school, and the same applies to the online environment. For each class, make a list of all websites, textbooks, etc. with log in information (usually a username and password). This will automatically turn into a handy cheat sheet so you can avoid the stress of looking for important information (like trying to remember 600 different passwords). Feel free to use my version here.

Make a schedule. Learning at home means a very different routine for some kids, which in itself can be stressful. If your school doesn’t have a specific schedule for your child to follow, create your own. Here are some suggestions I have given my virtual families over the last few years:

Focus on one subject a day. This works well for kids who feel very overwhelmed or struggle to work well independently without a teacher standing in front of them.

Spend 1 hour on each subject. This schedule works for kids who just need a routine in place. It helps to keep the schedule the same every day. Have it written down on a white board or piece of paper so it’s within sight while a student is working. I also suggest having the student set an alarm on their phone or computer to let them know when 1 hour is up. (I say 1 hour because it will take kids longer to do work at home depending on the subject).

Have an alternating schedule. I like this one best for elementary and early middle school kids. Mondays and Wednesdays could be Language Arts and Social Studies, Tuesdays and Thursdays could be Math and Science and Friday’s could be specials/electives.

Have a learning area. Designate a place where a student will be doing their work. This could be at a kitchen table, desk, etc. Make sure all materials are in this area (chargers, paper, pencils, books, etc.).

Make a to do list. This is by far my favorite piece of advice. Before your student starts working every day, have him or her make a to do list of all the tasks that need to be accomplished. Make it as specific as you can and encourage your learner to check things off as they go. For instance, if your student needs to watch 2 videos, answer questions and write a response, write the title of each video on the to do list. This breaks down the tasks for kids and even though it may seem like a lot, encourage them to take their time.

Communicate with teachers. Star this. Write it on the schedule you create. This is by far the the number 1 best way to be successful with online learning. If your learner has a question, email the teacher. If your student is confused about instructions, email the teacher. If your learner is falling behind on the work, email the teacher. Communication is the ultimate tool to help kids. Don’t be afraid to be the annoying parent/guardian because once your student gets into the groove they will feel more confident and capable of learning from home and the emails will lessen.

Take breaks. If you’re creating your own schedule factor in break times. Staring at a screen is physically and mentally draining. Make sure your learner is walking away from the screen frequently. Take a bathroom, drink or snack break. 

Be an actively engaged in your learner’s education. As a parent/guardian, you may need to be a more involved in the day to day assignments, depending on the age of the learner. Be in the know about what is going on with expectations from the school. I strongly suggest joining local Facebook groups, or creating a group text with other class moms to help one another stay up to date.

Breathe. The first few days are always the hardest. As an online educator, I promise things do get easier. Just remember you can always reach out to the teacher or school for any help.

 

Little Reading Coach offers online reading and writing tutoring for students in grades 3-12. For more information click here.

 

The Elf Who Couldn’t Read Book Review

Two weeks ago I shared a post about the 15 Best Children’s Books for Christmas and I wanted to share some of my personal faves from the list. I’ve already shared Arial the Secret Santa and A Christmas Cookie Exchange , and today I’m sharing my current favorite.

The Elf Who Couldn’t Read, by Sonica Ellis, takes a look at the realities of reading struggles in a fun, festive way that encourages readers to not give up.

I’ve been teaching reading for ten years. I have seen kids struggle to read aloud in front of their peers and how difficult it can be. We know these situations exist, but we often don’t see it in movies or books.

This story starts with Santa needing some help reading his list, after all the man is pretty old. Jingles, the elf, is asked by Santa to read the list to the other elves, and Jingles has a very difficult time reading the words. I LOVE how Ellis makes it a point for Santa to express that Jingles knows all his letters and sounds, but he needs time to practice and to take his time when reading.

Santa encourages and supports Jingles in his practice by working with him. With Santa’s assistance, Jingles gains confidence in his reading to feel comfortable reading in front of the other elves. When he gets stuck, he has no problem taking his time to sound out each word.

The story concludes with Jingles accompanying Santa on his Christmas Eve ride. Jingles is responsible for telling Santa where to go by reading the names on the list. Readers can see how Jingles sounds out the various names, and that even though he has gotten better, he is still working on improving his reading skills.

There are so many things I love about this book. I love the positive approach the author took about the challenges struggling readers face. I love how Santa is so supportive. We typically think of Santa as generous, but this shows a whole new side of Santa that really embodies the Christmas spirit. I love that the story teaches kids to not give up when a task is hard. I love that readers come away knowing that reading can be fun.

I was a struggling reader when I was in kindergarten, which is why I repeated. I think a book like this would have truly spoken to me as a kid because I could relate to Jingles. This book would be ideal for a class read aloud in for preschool through second grade.

To purchase the book click here.