By the start of the 2020-2021 school year, the majority of schools in the U.S. had switched to long-distance and online teaching. With this dramatic change has come a whole new set of challenges, particularly for educators teaching how to write and read. At a time when in-person contact is on hold or significantly diminished, written communication has become the norm. The world has been steadily shifting to accommodate more online interactions, proving that literacy is one of the most essential skills to have.
For those teaching emergent readers, a little creativity can go a long way. Here are some tips to help teachers who find themselves working remotely under circumstances very different from the face-to-face classroom experience:
- Pick up where you left off
Part of the art of teaching remotely is keeping a sense of normalcy. The first step would be to thoroughly determine the level at which your pupils were reading before the pandemic hit. It should not be surprising if students need some review and reinforcement before advancing in their lessons.
It is also important to keep track of students' running records, a teacher's notes and observations made at regular intervals about each student's accuracy, fluency, prosody and comprehension as they read aloud from a selected text. The blog Mrs. Richardson's Class offers valuable information about running records.
- Set classroom expectations
Even though your students are at home and not at school, it helps to maintain overall focus and reasonable classroom rules. When you move to an online platform, make sure that your students know what you expect from them and what they can expect from you.
It helps to be somewhat flexible, given that the parents or caregivers of children who are "attending" school from home may be working from home.
- Work together with the parents
In the context of remote teaching, parents will become even more important as partners in providing a quality education for your students. Cultivating a system of open communication is crucial. Here are some suggestions.
- Send instructions to parents about how they can better help their children through the process, including class schedules, information on the use of certain applications and instructions for the material you send, for instance. Richardson's Class offers reading kits to download and send to parents.
- Check in with them about how their child is doing outside of lessons and if they have been reading books together.
- Encourage parents to send videos of their student reading so you can see and hear their progress.
- Use fun applications
An unexpected bonus that emerged as remote learning became more necessary is the number of online resources available for teachers worldwide. Using applications and other dynamic technology will not only help your pupils, but also make teaching and learning more fun. Educators for Excellence has a list of helpful apps, online libraries, and other platforms for creative lesson planning.
Remember that two of the most important components of teaching literacy are visualizing and listening, so make sure that your camera, screen sharing, and other chosen technology is functioning and up to date.
- Motivate and engage your students
Sitting in front of a camera, however, is not enough: remote education - especially for the younger ones - requires you to be active. Make lessons as dynamic as possible by letting students interact with both you and their classmates.
If you don't have a reward system in place to acknowledge your students' efforts, initiative and progress, now is the time to create one. Platforms like Reading Rewards help motivate your young charges to find books to enjoy even outside the classroom.
Educators interested in learning more about tech-based teaching strategies may find that a master's C&I degree focused on teaching technology can give them the knowledge and expertise they seek. Northwest Missouri State University's Master of Science in Education in Curriculum & Instruction – Teaching Technology includes a course on Leading in the Digital Age. Completing the course prepares educators to tap the power of technology for classroom use.
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