How to Best Prepare Now for Next Year

5:00 AM

Teachers everywhere have been staggering away from their home offices after the last school year.

  • Remote learning
  • Remote teaching 
  • Distance learning 
  • Distance education  
It doesn't matter what we called it, it was hard to get quality resources up and running every day and a challenge to keep all of our students engaged.  Every day.

Take a look at what you planned for your students in the first week of distance-learning.  Now, look five or six weeks later.  Notice a change?  I thought so!  Knowing what we know now, what are the tips we need in place to best prepare us for next year, normal or not?

Here are two very useful books and sites that this ELA teacher depended on this year.  Take a look at them and see if they can help you too.
picture of The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller; mentoringinthemiddle
There probably is no book that has impacted my teaching career like this one.  It gave me direction. In a nutshell, it's this:
  • Let students choose their own books and give them time to read them.  
  • Every day.
That's it!  Show your students that reading for 20 or 30 minutes doesn't have to be done all at once.  It can be five minutes here, 10-15 minutes there.  Before you know it, your students will be grabbing minutes wherever they can!  And they can do this from home, too.

How Do I Make This Work?
  1. If you're in school, give your students choices from your classroom or school library.  
  2. Let this independent reading lead your planning, not be an afterthought.
  3. If you're not in school, teach your students to search for books on Epic or SORA or other sites that have e-books.
  4. Once they are reading, have your students respond to journal prompts like these.  My students and I would have conversations back and forth in their journals when we were in school.  I would schedule one group to respond every Monday, another every Tuesday, and so on.  That way I wasn't overwhelmed by needing to read 55 journals all at once.
  5. If you're not in school, have students respond to prompts by video. I loved listening to my students and watching their faces get animated as they talked out their books!  And you can respond to their videos.
  6. Or have them create videos on Flipgrid or some other platform so that they can be shared with their classmates.
picture of Ditch that Text by Matt Miller; mentoringinthemiddle
Have you been to Matt Miller's website?  It is chock-full of engaging, technology-using ideas to keep kids learning.  He's not against paper copies nor textbooks.  What he is opposed to is textbooks driving our instruction, rather than the other way around.

His website is filled with all kinds of templates and great ideas.  There are tons of free tools for you to use.

One that I particularly loved is #booksnaps, which your students can post on a discussion board on your learning platform so others can see them.

How Do I Make This Work?

1.  Have your students take a picture of a page in their book that resonates with them.
2.  Using the picture tools, they can annotate it, insert emojis or pictures to show what they visualize, and add their comments.
3.  You know what they're reading and how they feel about it.

These are just two ideas that can get you thinking about next year!

by Mentoring in the Middle

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  1. Thanks for the suggestions. I loved The Book Whisperer, and I was thinking that focusing more on independent reading engagement should be a focus if we end up doing distance learning again this year. Last year I assigned it, but I didn't PROMOTE it enough. I'll be glad when things get back to normal!
    Laughter and Consistency

    1. Oh, I agree! I love being able to give my kids choice, and it was easy for them to respond to weekly prompts based on the book they were reading. With 55 kids, I assigned about 11 kids a day - that was just as easy to do digitally as in their journals.


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