Oh boy. The amount of questions I have running through my head right now. I think we’re all mourning the prospect of our upcoming school year being so vastly different. I’m a first grade teacher, and my favorite part of the day is guided reading and literacy stations. How on earth is this going to happen? The majority of teachers everywhere can’t even begin to think about it. Is it even possible to have social distancing literacy stations?
Social Distancing Rules In The Classroom: Small Solutions
If you are back in your classroom, chances are that you are seriously limited in where your students can go and what materials are available to them. If you are virtually learning, you face an even bigger problem, that your students are isolated. Hopefully, these small solutions can help.
Classroom Apps For Social Distancing Literacy Stations
Let’s start with the beginning of your “normal” year. You’re training your students to go to their literacy stations with the goal in mind of taking a small guided reading group while the rest of your students are doing independent work. You are taking students one-on-one to test them on Dibels or to find out their reading level.
Well… what now? Lets look at some free classroom apps that can help you provide a quality activity for your students while you’re working with small groups or testing one-on-one.
I cannot tell you enough good things about this app. The library is huge, and it’s FREE (My favorite price). You add your students to your account, and they either search for books they want to read, or you assign them a specific book for an assignment. There are quizzes others have made, or you can make your own. Epic has videos, which you can turn on or off. I turn it off most of the time, or I heard “Baby Shark” playing OFTEN. I save the videos for a special occasion or a reward and turn them back on.
So use Epic to assign books to your students while you are testing or working with a small group. You’re still differentiating, and you can even make a collection on your account of different books. This way, you can have students working at different levels, or on different skills.
Put your spelling list into your account, and this app automatically generates games and quizzes! It’s free, but the paid account has a lot more bells and whistles. I’m pretty stingy when it comes to paying for classroom accounts and apps, but I went ahead and splurged for this. I think it was only $28 for the year, so it’s worth it. The paid version allows you to generate reports and assign activities to your students. This is how I gave spelling tests while we were at home during quarantine. If your school corporation is limiting the use of paper, give your tests on Spelling City! Super easy!
This site has it all, and it’s sorted by grade level! Before social distancing, I used it as a reward for my kiddos, but if we are in the classroom, I’ll use it for review while I take a small group or test a student one-on-one. The games are really fun, they are the type of activities where your students will forget that they’re learning!
Here are a few things to help you plan if you’re in the classroom and need to set up social distancing literacy stations.
- Have a system in place for your devices. Where are they kept? On the chargers full time? How will you charge them? Will each student need to be responsible for plugging in their own device?
- How will you distribute the devices? Will each student go and get their own? How will they take turns to go to your cart without crowding?
- If students are allowed to move around, Use “sit spots” to mark where you would like your students to sit. Make sure that they are assigned seats, to minimize exposure. Sit spots also eliminate rugs, which would need to be washed. You might need to only include two or three children, but your social distancing literacy stations could still work if you get creative with your classroom layout.
- Use classroom apps like Seesaw or Classkick and use digital resources. This avoids any kind of worksheet or paper they would need to touch.
- What other materials are you allowed to use? Individual dry erase boards instead of worksheets?
This one is the toughest one. As I write this, I don’t know if I’m allowed to have small groups in my classroom. I know that a limited time can be spent at my classroom rug, but my students must be six feet apart. I have a very small room, so I MAYBE can put one kiddo on each corner of my rug. Or I hear rumors of plexiglass boxes (shudder).
And I can’t have them share books. Here’s where Epic comes back in. As much as I’m saddened with social distancing literacy stations that I can’t put a leveled reader in their hand, I know that I can assign my students a book on epic and we can do a small guided reading lesson with four students instead of six. You might not see each student every day, but at least this way you can provide quality one-on-one instruction.
If you’re not finding the right books, focus on the skill! Suddenly, we’re going to get really creative for guided reading lessons. What if you blended interactive readalouds or close reading with a guided reading group?
Literacy Stations At Home
As I write this, our plans have changed since last week, and they’ll keep changing. Many schools have already decided to begin the year with virtual learning. I’m sure more will join them the closer we get to the first day of school. Here’s how you can get started with literacy stations if you’re teaching virtually.
Students should have a device and a charger. It’s so difficult for those that do not. My school corporation did not provide K-2 students a devide this spring. (Don’t get me started.) It would also be very helpful if they had a notebook, some pencils, and crayons if allowed. That way they are still able to write on actual paper. They can take a picture of their work and send it to you. Most platforms have the ability to record, so you’ll be able to see their work.
Classroom Apps At Home
If you are at home, your students can access Epic… but taking a small group might be harder. If possible, schedule a zoom call for just that group, or just that student if you’re doing a reading level test. Share your screen with the text you’d like them to read. Your problem isn’t what will the other students be doing while you’re testing, but rather scheduling your zoom calls to meet their needs. This sounds incredibly time consuming, but when you think about the same amount of time you’d use to test during a “normal” year, I’m willing to bet it’ll be the same amount of time.
Laptop. Obviously. But also a dry erase board and markers. I used mine daily. I kinda had a premonition in March when we were sent home that we weren’t coming back. So I grabbed my school bag and put as many picture books in there that I thought I needed. Every morning, my kiddos got a read aloud video from me, complete with a messy teacher-bun and my dog chasing the cat around the house. We made it work.
And I grabbed my desk organizer. Don’t ask my why I thought to grab it, but teachers are attached to their good pens, and I’m no exception. Having it during e-learning just helped me stay in teacher mode even from my couch.
Some school corporations are having their teachers report to their classrooms to virtually teach. If this is your case with your school corporation, use your document camera to project your books onto the screen for the students to read. It’s FAR from ideal, but it’ll get the job done.
There’s always more…
I’ve found there are always more classroom apps to help you with your class. Sometimes there are too many and you don’t know where to look. This is why I offer the Digital Literacy Stations Membership where you’ll have access to training on the various platforms and classroom apps. You’ll also have a library of quality resources to assign to your students with one click! Join the waiting list to be notified when the membership opens!