The changes to the way we deliver instruction this year required a lot of new technologies and tools for keeping students engaged. My two passions are having fun while learning and reading every day. I always made it a goal to read at least 1 quality picture book and 1 chapter from a book aloud each day. While I still think that should most definitely be a goal to strive for, the challenges of this school year means getting creative with how students can be exposed to new literature and have access to quality read alouds.
Virtual classrooms and libraries became a solution for organization and sharing links and tools with students and families in a visually friendly way. I made my first virtual library for back to school. It was such a hit, I decided to make one for each month. I love hearing how much your students enjoy listening to the books for each month. I thought I would share some different ideas for how you can utilize these virtual libraries in your classroom–online or in person.
- Daily book discussion: The virtual library format makes it a great independent activity. But, it could also be a collaborative time each day to listen to a book and have a discussion. Search free book discussion prompts to plan questions in advance. You may begin with some pre-reading questions or sharing a few prompts you will discuss afterwards to students can prepare. Listen to the book of the day as a class by projecting on a screen or interactive whiteboard or sharing your screen on Zoom or Meets. Then, lead your discussion. Establish a system for sharing responses whether that be allowing students to type in the chat or use hand signals to agree, disagree or add more to a classmates’ response. This can be such a rich literacy activity filled with opportunities for vocabulary, questioning, and deeper thinking.
- Book Poll: At the beginning of each month, you can introduce the virtual library and allow students to explore without opening any books. Ask them questions about the topics and themes they notice. Do they recognize any familiar authors? Characters? After taking a couple of minutes to gaze, use a Google form, a poll (see how to do this in Zoom) or a silent vote to gauge interest in the books. You could decide on just two or three to ask students to vote on. Or, include all of the titles to choose from. This will allow you to get an idea of their interest and incorporate their choice into the daily read aloud.
- Independent Listening Center: If you are looking for the perfect independent center to include during literacy rotations, virtual libraries are it! Students can listen to one or two books each day and complete the listening response page which is included with the library. This helps hold students accountable while also acting as a quick comprehension check.
- Pair with Directed Drawings: Directed drawings are a great follow-up to any read aloud! You can find a directed drawing for pretty much any topic. Search Pinterest or TpT for lots of free ones. Or, challenge one of your class artists to create one specific to one of the books! After we listen to the book and complete the drawing, I often ask students to add one more element like a sentence about the story or words that describe the character.
- Partner/Small Group: This might be the most difficult way to use this year but still could be worth a try. If you are teaching online and need solutions for virtual guided reading, the virtual library could work. Using 2 devices, put students in a breakout room and pull up the virtual library. Share your screen and play one of the stories for them. Now, in the main room you could teach a guided reading lesson using your other device. It takes a little practice to manage it all but it’s totally possible! If you are in person, students could set up a device to watch/listen together (safely distanced and masked, of course.)
- Book Talk: This is one of my favorites! After students have had the opportunity to listen to a book, invite individual students to share a quick commercial-like response about the story without giving too much away. You could show some examples from a Reading Rainbow episode and go over guidelines on how to do a short but intriguing book talk. Book talks are perfect to help activate interest in a particular book.
- Compare and Contrast: Using two texts from the virtual library to compare and contrast is perfect since there are always at least two texts with the same topic/theme. Use with a graphic organizer or Jamboard template. You can find the graphic organizer below and more here.
- Incorporate a mini-lesson: Connect one of the virtual library books into the phonics or comprehension skill you are currently working on. For example, I always love to use Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch to teach character traits. I pair it with my Comprehension Kit for Understanding Characters. For more lesson ideas, check out this blog post.
- Author Exploration: Have students build on their interest in a particular book by learning more about the author. See if the author has a website and check out other books they have written. Students could even create a picture library filled with read alouds by that author.
- Listen for Enjoyment: Last but certainly not least, allow students to just enjoy listening to one of the stories–no strings attached! We do not need to make every read aloud “educational”. Listening to stories is educational in itself. And we need to be mindful about passing along the ability to read and listen to books for enjoyment.
If you’d like to receive my virtual libraries, click here.