Wednesday / April 24

5 Tips for Literacy Stations in a Virtual or Hybrid Classroom — Yes, It’s Possible! 

So far 2020 has been a doozy, hasn’t it? I’m so proud of teachers across the US and the world who are adjusting their work to meet constantly changing needs of students and schools.  

When I launched my series Simply Stations in February, I was thrilled to bring you my updated thinking on how to ensure kids are learning in partner practice, to help you set up students and yourself for success during small group and independent learning time. And I’m still excited that the first three Simply Stations books are available – Listening & SpeakingIndependent Reading, and Partner Reading – but I realize that this school year has not been conducive to literacy stations work. To say the least! When kids can’t sit side by side, well, we have so many challenges to overcome.  

I’ve been thinking, though, whether kids can sit side by side or not, the value of well-planned, foundational literacy instruction is unquestionable. In fact, it may be more critical than ever! And while spending the first weeks of the school year facilitating my grandchildren’s at-home online learning, I noticed there really are a lot of pieces in the Simply Stations books that transfer to a virtual or hybrid model.  

That led me create this free, downloadable Simply Virtual guide for teachers who are making the transition to virtual or hybrid instruction. This guide offers a quick-glance guide to setting up your work space, building and maintaining relationships, teaching in whole group and small group, and partnering with parents and caregivers. And, there are many suggestions for adapting literacy stations to a virtual space.  

The most important thing about teaching virtually is to trust what you know about good instruction – and lean into itFocus first on WHAT you want students to learn, WHY you want them to learn it, and HOW you’re going to teach it. Then think about how students can practice their new skills. 

The most important thing is that children are reading and talking about books as often as possible, and eventually writing about their thinking and responses.  

Here are a few tips for making sure students can practice what they’re learning, even if they’re learning remotely:   

  1. Literacy stations aren’t just activities to keep kids busy. Instead, stations should be designed for practice with partners. But what if classmates aren’t available to partner? Invite a parent, caregiver, or a sibling to be the child’s partner for stations time. Or set up individual zoom room time for classmates to practice together.  
  2. Start with Independent Reading during the first few days or weeks. Make anchor charts with your class, model how to talk about pictures (in K-1) or show how to read the title and connect to interests or favorite authors (in grades 2-4). Ensure access to books by arranging for book pick-ups or delivery from school, and work with your librarian and grade-level team to set up a virtual library starting with enough books for the first few weeks of school. Epic! is free and offers many good trade books. 
  3. Build time into your daily schedule for kids to read books they choose on their own. Students can stay online to read if you want to watch what they do as readers. Or have them read, record, and post their reading to Flipgrid or SeeSawAsk children to show and name the book and tell why they chose it and what they learned, just as you’ve modeled.  
  4. Create a community of readers by inviting a few kids to share what they’ve read with everyone during morning meeting.  
  5. In time, introduce Listening and Speaking into your virtual station rotation. Kids can listen to recorded texts online, either professionally recorded or books that you have recorded yourself reading aloud. Post one short piece per day for children to listen to, and include discussion, reflection, and academic vocabulary into the day. Conversation cards can be useful as you get started; model with them in your instruction so children know how to use them in discussion with you, with peers, and with their parents, caregivers, or siblings.  

The intention behind the Simply Stations series was to help you streamline and integrate the work you do with whole group, small group, and stations in a traditional classroom. The center of this work holds true, and now more than ever I encourage you to streamline and simplify as much as possible. You are doing such important work, and the students in your care are going to grow as readers and writers and thinkers. It just looks different this year.  

Written by

Debbie Diller, a national consultant and author, has been an early childhood/elementary educator for over 40 years. Debbie uses her experience as a classroom teacher, Title I reading specialist, and literacy coach to teach others about sensible, realistic ways to meet the differentiated literacy needs of all students in the classroom. She is known for her groundbreaking work on independent learning, small group instruction, and classroom design and has authored many books, videos, and an online course which are widely used in classrooms and universities throughout North America. Debbie’s latest book series, Simply Stations, was inspired by her work in classrooms (and a dream!) to answer the question, “How do I provide meaningful practice for the rest of the class when I’m meeting with a small group?”

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