My Webcam: A gamechanger for my distance learning  literacy lessons By Dr. Sam Bommarito

My Webcam: A gamechanger for my distance learning  literacy lessons

By Dr. Sam Bommarito

Like everyone, when the new normal came into being, I found myself scrambling to try to adjust. One of the things I do is to conduct one-on-one literacy lessons with students. I do this as a volunteer.  Over time my lessons include word work, e.g., making and breaking and the use of Elkoin boxes. They also include having the student read aloud and performing, I.e., reading aloud from passages/poems they have practiced. I routinely use a technique known as language experience. The student tells stories, the teacher writes them down. These stories become future readings for the student.  Of course, we talk about their stories. I supplement what I do with the use of a couple of commercial software programs. All this was usually done with the student in the same room, and often with the parent also attending the session. Enter the new normal. I got a quick lesson in distance learning. This week I will concentrate on the “how” of my lessons- how I accomplish the same things I did before using distance learning. Next week I’ll talk more about the “why” of my lessons, why I teach what I teach.

I tried more than one distance learning program but settled on Zoom. Zoom was ALMOST like being there. However, there were issues. At the very beginning levels (RR 1-8), I ask my students to point to the first letter of each and every word. I even have a chant about that:  “Make it match don’t make it up, that is what to do. Make it match. Don’t make it up, and you’ll read your story true.”  Sometimes when they have finished a sentence or two, I’ll say stop. Then I point to a word and ask, what is this word? These particular teaching moves are designed to make sure the student isn’t just memorizing the whole book.  But in the typical Zoom meeting, I couldn’t really see where the child was pointing. Enter the document camera.

As you can see the doc camera is compact. I found this one on Amazon for about $100. Two of the features I looked for are that the camera was high-resolution and that the camera showed the image instantaneously. Having used older models a while back, I found it is important that there be no lag in the picture being displayed.

BLOG doc camera

Notice in this shot you can see some of the Keep Books I use with my students (go to this link for information on Keep Books LINK. ) Since they are low cost ($ .25 if bought in bulk), I can have a copy with me and the student can also have a copy at home. The students also sometimes write their own books using keep books as inspiration. Here is one that a student wrote using the same patterns as used in the Lunch Box Keep Book:


I can display Keep Books, or books they’ve written inspired by the keep books in real-time.

Finger pointing

I can point using my finger OR by creating an arrow like the one pointing at the lunch box.  I can drag that blue arrow along and use it as a pointer. When I want to use software programs, I can demonstrate how to use them in real-time, while the student is watching. I use both Raz Kids and Headsprout with my students. I can also show them some of the reports from those programs.  Elkonin boxes and Rasinski’s word ladders are also readily displayed.  In sum, adding the doc cam to my teaching tools makes it as close to actually being there as you can possibly be.

As indicated, next week, I’ll take up the why’s of what I do during my distance lessons. In the meantime, I highly recommend you watch this video. In it, Dr. Nell Duke from the University of Michigan describes her distance learning lessons around word work. She talks about doing this in a small group setting. She has many research-based ideas about word work to consider. Use this LINK to see the video.


So until next week, Happy Reading and Writing!

Dr. Sam Bommairto (The doc cameras guy!)

Copyright 2020 by Dr. Sam Bommarito. Views/interpretations expressed here are solely the view of this author and do not necessarily reflect the views of any other person or organization.

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3 thoughts on “My Webcam: A gamechanger for my distance learning  literacy lessons By Dr. Sam Bommarito

  1. Pingback: Most Valued Virtual Resources: Teaching Reading Groups or 1:1 Reading Lessons

  2. Pingback: More about using a doc cam (not webcam!) in distance learning: Dr. Sam’s first video blog by Dr. Sam Bommarito | doctorsam7

  3. Pingback: The Doc Camera Revisited- Still more ways to enhance Your distance learning using this versatile tool. | doctorsam7

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