Flexibility. This is the word of the year for teachers and administrators alike. Our district has been preparing us for a new model of classroom education. I’m at a middle school, grades 6-8, and I’ve taught Core (language arts and social studies) for 20 plus years. This year, our sixth grade is returning to self-contained model, which our new incoming sixth graders are leaving behind in their k-2, 3-5 models.
It’s been decades since I’ve taught self-contained, and I’m actually kind of excited to teach math and science again. My biggest concern, however, is reading materials.
We’ve been asked to pack up our classroom libraries to reduce potential exposure, so kids won’t have access to books from school. And our ELA teachers decided last year to forgo adopting a new textbook and put together our own curriculum. Now, with a dismal financial reality looming for schools, what am I to do? I’ve spent many years working up a great classroom library to have it put into boxes and go unused!
I bet a lot of us are asking this question.
Since March, I’ve taught myself Google Classroom, Kamy, Screencastify, converting pdfs to digital, and a whole host of new programs to continue to offer an educational setting from a distance. I’ll continue to learn and be flexible. (It’s a good thing I enjoy learning new things because I just know those opportunities will keep coming!)
Our district has informed us that our model next year will have 1/2 the kids at school for two days, the other 1/2 for two other days, and one day for cleaning and distance learning work. This poses problems that I’m sure I haven’t even considered, but I won’t get myself all wrapped up in that until it’s August. Still, offering students reading material is a constant worry.
Here’s my plan for teaching reading:
For Classroom Reading:
I will use our old ELA textbook.
I am thankful that I didn’t toss this series from the year 2000. I know I’ll be dipping back into this resource, and I am hopeful that we have enough copies to go around. I know the text, and having this familiarity will reduce my stress in a time that calls for low stress and flexibility. Thankfully, good literature remains good literature, no matter the decade. For more on structuring your independent reading in your classroom, see this blog post about teaching reading in the upper elementary and middle school classroom.
I know I’ll be copying pages from the text to meet the needs of kiddos and families who choose to continue full-time distance learning. Also, this is how I’ll make up the copies of stories I may need. So, there’s one problem solved. At one time we purchased a license for each student, so I think I’m covered there.
I’ll be creating more reading passages (find some here) that can be printed and/or used in Google Classroom. If we don’t have enough copies of our social studies textbook, I’ll be typing up or duplicating the section and using it in this manner.
For my two class novels, I’ll be trying to secure more copies as I need one for each student. So instead of making 70 copies work for 130 student, I’ll need to actually have 130 copies. I’ll also be looking through our old novel sets that sit on shelves in or behind cupboards. There was a time when we purchased 100+ copies of novels. This could help solve a problem. But no sharing. Period. I haven’t quite wrapped my mind around all that this means yet.
For Independent Reading
This is my true concern. I may end up assigning or having students pick novels for the entire year at the very beginning of the year (if administration will allow). So only one student touches a book, and the book stays in their backpack or at home. There’s no returning it until it’s deemed safe to do so. Read more thoughts on this below.
I am looking into E-Books through local libraries and other sites. Here’s a list of links to free E-Books sites. I hope it helps you.
I’m also going to try to hit up Donor’s Choose for purchasing more novel sets.
I will continue to order through Scholastic. In this way, students can get books they want to read. I am wondering if Scholastic is considering sending books directly to students’ homes. I don’t know. I know our local bookstore has a plan in place for doing so. It’s just that darn money thing!
I will probably read more books aloud so students maintain exposure to text, but I have to admit that with only half the classroom time allotted, I don’t know if this will work. Still, I’m keeping it as an option. You might enjoy this blog post focused on the importance of a great read aloud.
Ask my administration this question:
What if during the first three weeks of school, I set out a certain number of my classroom library books each day for students to consider taking home for the year? Students aren’t allowed to touch them. I’d turn them over so they may read the back. I may even give short book talks on some of my classroom library books. Students who are interested could check the book out for the entire year. I wouldn’t see it again until the last day of school. It may be that a student checks out 10-15 books for the entire year so that we won’t have the books in the classrooms for more than 3-4 weeks, but the books would remain boxed up until I pull them out for the Year-Long Book Selection. I don’t know if it will work, but I’m asking my principal.
Use of Book Clubs for Classroom Reading
We may be doing virtual book clubs. I do have sets of novels I keep in a safe spot. If I assign a books to groups of 4-6 students, they take them home for the year, and we continue with book clubs either via Google Classroom or in the classroom setting (at a distance, of course). But when thinking about multi-group discussions in the classroom, it may get too loud because of distancing. So it may end up a Google Classroom book club meeting. I’ve created what I consider the Ultimate Book Club Student Packet. You’ll see a digital version of this resource soon. Find the pdf version here.
Holding independent reading accountable
In April, I created a set of 20 Reading Graphic Organizers with both digital and pdf options. I am so relieved to have this done and at my fingertips to use for either Google Classroom or distance learning packets. I’ll continue to add to this resource, but for now it’s one component of my reading program that’s completed.
Find them here.
After the initial shock of my new teaching reality come August, I gave it some thought. And I have to say that I felt a sense of relief. I do have resources to help me survive and my students flourish in our new classroom setting. My advice?
- Don’t forget to look at what you already have that could be used again.
- Consider what you’ve used in the past that could easily fit in with our new normal.
- And don’t forget that there’s lots of help out there and that teachers love helping other teachers.
- And, oh yeah…flexibility…I’m sure things will change again.