Useful Resources for Implementing Literacy Programs in this New Era of Distance Learning
By Dr. Sam Bommarito
The past few months have been challenging for folks in the education world and, more specifically, for folks trying to implement literacy instruction in this age of the new normal. The reality for this fall is that as schools begin to open their doors for the school year, it will be anything but business as usual. Some districts have plans to return to face to face classrooms, with many precautions being taken. Other districts are choosing hybrid models where families are offered their choice of face to face learning or distance learning. Still, others are choosing to begin the school year using only distance learning.
I live in the St. Louis region, which is currently in one of the COVID red zones. Our local news is filled with announcements by some of the area’s largest school districts that they are turning exclusively to that third option. We are currently transitioning from what one distance learning expert called “emergency teaching” to teaching that actually uses authentic distance learning. I thought it would be helpful to report on some resources I have found to be most useful in helping me to be prepared to teach this fall. This report contains highlights. It will have a permanent home on a new distance learning resources page I will be adding to this blog. Let’s get started.
Here is a link to a fantastic goggle site created by Kristin Ziemke and Katie Muhtaris coauthors of the recently released book Read the World: Rethinking Literacy for Empathy and Action in a Digital World.
When you go to this site you will find learning tips for distance learning, an excellent structure to use for a distance learning minilesson, advice on adapting distance learning to workshop teaching, tips for families on helping learners work independently, tips for teachers for empathetic distance learning, and a video of Jennifer Serravallo talking about distance learning. This video includes Jennifer’s thoughts about equity, safety and digital best practices. There are also sections on student’s and teacher’s hyperlinked documents and an extensive list of websites and apps for digital articles and books. When you go to each of these two sections, be sure to scroll down using the pull-down bar on the right so that you see all the things listed. These resources are updated every 5 minutes. If you are looking for one-stop shopping for distance learning ideas and resources, this site as close to that as I’ve been able to find. I highly recommend it.
If you like Kristin and Katie’s website, I think you will love their newest book. These two Chicago based teachers have made quite an impact on the digital world in the past few years. They still teach, but somehow, they also find time to write books and serve as advisors to scores of Chicago area schools. I listened to Kristin during a recent online appearance and I found her to have an in-depth knowledge of how to teach literacy. She then uses this knowledge to inform her distance learning practices. The book is available on the Heinemann site and other book venues online. The book contains hundreds of examples of how to teach effectively using digital resources and it also has links to many of those resources. This book has earned its place among the “go to first” books I keep on my desk. Here is a screen capture of the front cover.
Another book that contains excellent lessons and ideas for distance learning is the recently released- The Distance Learning Playbook: Grades K-12 by Douglas Fisher, Nancey Frey, and John Hattie. It is available on the Corwin website and other book venues online. The authors have written other playbooks. This one lives up to the high standards set by those previous endeavors. It is spiral bound for easy access and is organized in modules that make it easy to use for teachers and administrators trying to put together a distance learning program based on best practices. There is also a kindle version of this book. Here is a screen capture of the book’s front cover:
Another go-to site for me is EricLitwin’s website. He is the author of the four original Pete the Cat books and numerous other books, including a newly released book about the Joy of Reading, his first professional development book for teachers and parents. Here is the link to his website:
When you go there, be sure to check out the free mp3 and video downloads. I also found his information about creating read alouds of his book during the current crisis to be very useful. Included are the guidelines of his major publishers about creating read alouds of any of their books. This has helped me as I create online read alouds. Here is the link to that part of the website:
Speaking of Read-Alouds, Missouri’s own David Harrison (and others) have created read alouds of David’s works that are currently available via a local T.V. station in his hometown of Springfield Mo.” Look on page 9 of the latest issue of the Missouri Reader for links to read alouds of David’s books.
Another rising star here in Missouri is Linda Mitchel, whose YouTube Channel contains interviews of local literacy figures. I suggest that you start with the one about Disney and Marvel’s new Reading Superhero. The description of the video states:” In this video, you will hear from Sidney Keys III, age 14. Sidney started the Books n Bros book club for black boys in St. Louis, Missouri, when he was ten years old. Sidney shares an important message about combatting the stereotypical view that black boys don’t like to read. He also relates how he received the honor of being selected for the Disney+ Marvel’s Hero Project. “The Spectacular Sidney” has the ability to read any book about a superhero and assume that same power.”
Here is a link to Linda’s YouTube channel that contains this interview along with many more:
There are, of course, many other excellent links that can serve as resources for planning and implementing distance learning.
Here is a link for Dr. Jan Burkins with a set of start up lessons for this unique year.
Here is a link from Dr. Nell Duke containing tons of great resources about literacy Instruction.
Here is a link to enable using Microsoft Teams to create free distance learning:
Here is a blog entry about using google classroom in distance learning:
Here is a link to Heinemann on distance learning.
I just found the link from Simon and Shuster on a popular Facebook site for Literacy Coaches:
All the links given in this entry will become part of my new blog page about resources for distance learning. If you have others to suggest, please leave a comment in the blog. I want to keep the page updated with all the latest information.
Until next time, Happy Reading and Writing.
Dr. Sam Bommarito (aka, the distance learning 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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