Suddenly find yourself teaching reading online? 

This is uncharted territory and perhaps you're overwhelmed. Who has time to learn a new methodology?

There is good news! Flexibility is the hallmark of strong teachers!

Join us for a video series where we unpack a streamlined, manageable plan for teaching reading online. This is Video #1 in the series (and if you scroll further down you will see a video of an example of a first time tutoring session on Zoom).

Let’s do this!

Streamlined Plan for Teaching Reading Online

[2:34] - Our objective: To support teachers with reading instruction.
[5:36] - But first!... Principles to go by:
  1.  Keep it Simple, Sister (KISS).
  2. Do your best and forget the rest.
  3. Model it. Learning never ends.
  4. Think outside the box.
[7:40] - Level 1 Read Aloud: Available tools for a virtual read aloud.
[13:09] - Level 2 Small Group Instruction: Three component plan for differentiated small group instruction.

[16:23] - Level 3 Writing: Writing mini lesson ideas.

[If you'd rather read the transcript from the above video, here ya go...]

How to Teach Reading Online

Who expected for the schools to close just a few days ago or even a week ago? None of us, right? So we are in uncharted territory, but the good news is that flexibility is the hallmark of a good teacher and we are really going to be using that flexibility muscle in the weeks ahead. Hi, I'm Dr. Marnie Ginsberg of Reading Simplified and we have created a system that's streamlined for teaching anyone how to read, whether a beginner or struggler. And this system is streamlined and efficient and also accelerates students' reading achievement rapidly. So there's no better time than zeroing in on a streamlined and highly efficient system than now because we have so much uncertainty.

I'm excited to join with you together in a temporary group and a training series called Let's Do This, Teaching Reading Beyond the Classroom. And let me get that started with you. We'll be going live for five days with short videos, like this one is day one, and we're going to be collaborating with you in a Facebook group. So let's do this, shall we? See if my slide will come. Love technology. First of all, I want to tell you where this all came from. First of all, I also need to say thank you. I emailed the Reading Simplified community and said, "What do you need?" This is all so unexpected and I didn't know how every school and school district and state would react and we got an overwhelming amount of responses from you to a survey we had over 1300 people answer and here is just an example of a word cloud of some of your comments.

So it was super helpful to get your responses and based on your responses, we are going to be creating this first five days of video training and the support in the Facebook group. So this is priceless to me. I was so moved by how many people responded because it shows that this is really needed and we need to come together and I hope that I can be a part of helping you through that. We are going to be focusing on the top three things that you guys requested, how to teach reading online, how to find resources for your students online, and how to find printable resources for your students. So in brief, our objective with this special event is to support teachers in their support of children and parents with reading instruction during sudden school closures.

Parents who are in our community may also benefit, but our main ministry first will be to the teachers. And what I'm committing to is to 15 minute videos each day that will be loaded up in the private Facebook group, Let's Do This, Teaching Reading Beyond the Classroom and also going live to expand on those videos to hear from you, hear what's working already for you, what your doubts are and how we can create some solutions in a Facebook live. So you'll have two ways to consume it that way within Facebook. Also, we will take these videos and put them on the day after they go live. So that's an option for those of you who are not interested in Facebook.

Here is our agenda for the first five days. We may go beyond that based on what you need, but at least now this is the agenda for the next five days based on the feedback you gave me in the survey of 1300 responses. Today we're going to focus on realistic streamlined plan for teaching reading online. This is not how to do all the bells and whistles and not how to do the whole nine yards. It's just to give you a vision, maybe get you started and help you take step one. Wednesday we'll talk about how to use my top three tools for online learning, so that'll pair well with Tuesday. Thursday we'll talk about outside of the box ways to reach your students from afar, particularly if they don't have internet or computers.

Friday we'll talk about resources for parents including how to help your child practice reading. And Saturday and day in our fifth video, we'll talk about hitting the mark, serving student diagnostic reading instruction, because now's a great opportunity. If we haven't been differentiating before, we can certainly do it now. And I promise a $50 gift card to Amazon or Teachers Pay Teachers for one of the survey respondents. That will be in the Facebook group, Let's Do This, Teaching Beyond the Classroom after this video. So look forward to that. The other thing I want you to see inside that Facebook group is there is this PDF, this is day one's PDF, that is the freebie to go along with today's content.

I'm going to go through these categories that are on this PDF, in this video, but then once you have watched the video, you can snag the PDF inside the Facebook group and the PDF has hyperlinks so you can go directly to the websites I'm going to refer. So most days we will have a PDF like that. So make sure you get inside the Facebook group. Let's Do This, Teaching Reading Beyond the Classroom. So these are some of the guideposts that I'm thinking about. I'm hearing from a lot of you and I think you're thinking the same thing. Number one, keep it simple, sister. Keep it simple for you, keep it simple for the students, and keep it simple for their parents. This is so overwhelming to many people. There are so many remarkably hard challenges that some people are facing at home that we can't expect at all the homework be comparable to what was going on at school.

That's one principle about keeping it simple. The KISS principle. Another perspective is that you will be inundated with lots of possibilities, but I'm going to help you reign it in and focus on the biggest movers, the biggest rock, so to speak, that you can get the biggest bang for your buck from. And also in the same vein, let's not dump too much technology on ourselves or our teachers, so we're going to keep it simple in all things, how much curriculum we expect, how much technology we expect, and the communication mechanisms we expect. That's my recommendation. Along the way, you may be trying new technology and you may be trying it with students and you may feel awkward. Just do your best and forget the rest. We are all in this together.

Everyone knows we don't have the training for these things. So all the little baby steps we make are going to benefit us in the long run. And we'll be here to help you with it. Relatedly, number three, model your confusion or your doubts or your learning. Show the students that learning never ends if you make a mistake because you click the wrong thing in a Zoom classroom, don't worry about it. It's not anything to be embarrassed about. It's an opportunity for you to say, "I'm going to learn something here." This is how life is. We're always learning and if you quit learning, you're going to lose out in life. And then finally, let's think outside the box because this is... we're not in a school anymore. Everything's going to have to be radically different.

Reading Instruction Online: Implementation

We may come up with things that are even better than traditional schooling this way. So I'm excited about the opportunities. So let's get into the topic for today, a realistic plan. What I'm going to recommend to you for reading instruction online is a three part level of implementation. So maybe some of you or many of you can only aim for level one implementation maybe now or forever. Or some of you may be able to do level one implementation and then next week or the following week add level two implementation. And then in another week if we go that long, level three implementation. So this is a suggestion based on what is most important for reading achievement and also based on what's most feasible given all the dynamics that we have.

Today we're talking about teaching online. We will expand this into other ways you can teach online or teach at a distance that's not necessarily based all online, but today let's assume that you can do some teaching online. First thing that I think most of us can aim for in some form or fashion is to have a virtual read aloud where you get your whole class or as many who can onto a Zoom call. Zoom is a free, now free web conferencing software that is being used all over the world by a lot of people. It is fairly easy to use and they've expanded the opportunities for educators to use it for more than just 40 minutes. It's free even during regular life. If Zoom doesn't work for you, Google Hangouts Meet might work. They have also opened up access if you are a Google Suite member or maybe your school has that type of access, then you might prefer to use Google Hangouts Meet.

So all of your students can get on a Zoom call together, see you and you can see them, they can hear you and you can also hear them. And then you give a read aloud, make it interactive, stop for questions, ask them what they think. Certainly ask them how they feel about doing this online, but also just get to as many emotional responses, especially in these early days because we want to really nurture them. So the read aloud is a great way to build background knowledge to build their knowledge of sophisticated written language and also to stay more connected to your students. You could read aloud fiction, but also nonfiction. It could be on the topic of the coronavirus. It could be something completely different from that and maybe more positive.

The nice thing about Zoom is that it automatic... well, you can set it to automatically record and then send that link. So if your students are not able to be there because of technological difficulties or because somehow they're busy at that time, you can send them that email and you could also attach this recording into some sort of electronic hub that you might be building, maybe a Google classroom hub or some Dropbox folders, whatever place you're going to decide to create as a hub for your students. And so let's do the read aloud. It'll build community and help you stay in touch with your kids in a fun way that also is developing their language and literacy comprehension.

Now in addition to that or in place of that, there're also online reading aloud options that are available that I want to recommend to you. I've got four of my favorites here. There are so many out there, but I didn't want to overwhelm you or parents. What I recommend is you pick one if you don't already have one, check these out and pick one and communicate to parents with that. Pinna is a podcast collection of children's resources and it is free for the next 60 days because of these extraordinary times. Vooks is a new storybook read aloud program. It's always free, at least this first year it's free. They have a growing collection. And many of you know about Epic. They probably have the largest collection and you can get an educator account and then send that information to your parents so that you can monitor what your students are reading.

Raz-Kids is not free right now, but it is something that many people have. So I just didn't want you to forget about that. And that all of these will read aloud texts or stories to the student. And Raz-Kids also allows the student to... it's not allows, they all allow the student to read it, but it has a more natural transition to having the student read. And then of course don't forget whatever district resources you already have. If your district has paid for TumbleBooks for instance, another online reading program, make sure you're using that. So this is level one implementation, and you say, "What is Zoom?"

Don't worry, I got you covered. That's what day two is going to be about, how to use Zoom among other things. So that's level one implementation, a whole group read aloud, but that's probably not going to get your kids reading themselves and giving them the coaching on their reading. So the next step might be in another week or in a couple of weeks, maybe you can... or maybe tomorrow you could ramp up to doing small group reading instruction that is differentiated. So in this way we might be better off than we were in the classroom because you can meet with three to four kids at the same time via Zoom, see their faces, they can see the same texts that you see and then you can listen to them read, they could take turns reading.

They could read chorally and you can tailor your instruction to them and you don't have the rest of the class to distract you. So you could set up a set schedule. Maybe you do the read aloud at 8:30 and at 9:15 you start group one and at 9:45 you start group two and you just move on. Make sure you put build in breaks between those two groups. And again, these can be recorded and sent to other students. By the way, Zoom is also functional on mobile. So the families that don't have computers still could make this work for the child. And I even heard of a kindergarten teacher who just recently did this with Zoom with kindergarteners for the first time. So it's doable.

3 Component Plan for Re-reading Instruction

And if you don't have a system for what the small group reading instruction would look like, this is the one that we recommend here at Reading Simplified. I'm not going to be able to go into all of it because we're keeping this to 15 minutes-ish, but oops, I'm failing on the 15 minutes. Oops, I'm failing on the 15 minutes. The first day is going to go along because there's more housekeeping. Okay, so three component lesson of rereading for fluency. Word work, choosing from usually about one or two activities, usually two. And then guided oral reading of a new text. Many of you are doing something similar like that in small groups. We'd recommend that you maybe take it online. Again, probably with Zoom.

We will give you more information about these activities and these three components in the next few days and weeks if that's interesting to you, and if you don't want to do this and you already have a format, stick with the format you have and make it consistent. I really like the consistency of a three component lesson for the school day, but especially in these uncertain times. These are the core activities, the word work activities that we would choose from. Build It or Switch It, Read it, Sort it and Write it. So those are the four core activities we use at Reading Simplified. A lot of you know some of them or many of you have been testing out switch it before, but if you don't know what they are, you can hang tight.

We will reveal them over the next few days and weeks if we're still learning about this altogether or you can do of course what you have already been doing, but just keep it consistent and keep the routine to something that students can count on when they're coming together with a small group. The reason that we recommend these activities is that the activities are very efficient and they can target into students' specific needs. We call it the most pressing need. Now the next level of implementation might be adding in writing. Maybe you want to give a writing mini lesson, five, 15 minutes over Zoom and then listen to students share their work. They can show their work or you could get their work and show it on the screen. That's probably the easiest. Again, you could record this video and send it to parents if the students were not able to participate.

So that maybe you know weeks ahead of you. Maybe some of you are going to try that tomorrow or next week, but that would be maybe something to look forward to. The level three implementation would be to fold in more writing instruction. If you're not familiar with mini lessons, this is a real fast overview of the idea, but it's in the title. Let's keep it really mini, five to 15 minutes, which is what I'm trying to do here. Model how to use it with a Google doc via Zoom. So it's easy to have the Google doc that maybe you writing some example sentences or showing some example paragraphs on and then the kids can see it via Zoom. So give a quick mini lesson, then ask them to do something with it. If you don't have some specific curriculum right now that you really need to address and you're open ended for writing, I would think that these times are a great thing to be talking about in our writing.

Maybe you can trigger the students to keep a diary. It could be a diary about their own personal experience or it could be a diary of them noting the most important thing from the news. That would be an interesting assignment. Can they get the who, what, when, where, how down into like three or five sentences and keep a collection of the biggest news happenings? That might be interesting. Or if they're not too sick of it or you aren't too sick of it, maybe they could research COVID-19 or some other version of pandemics like the Spanish flu and then they can report about it through writing, through PowerPoints, through video. Maybe you give them the creative options to choose the how.

And then of course let's not forget the accountability of having them produce something and an opportunity to share it with Zoom and everybody's coming together. It builds the community and so they have an opportunity to not feel so isolated. So I highly recommend that. Now this was a rapid fire, but just hopefully giving you some visions for how you might do this. Remember, this was just a streamlined plan for thinking big picture about how to teach reading online. The read aloud is what you would start with most likely and if you can't do it with Zoom or some other virtual technology, maybe you can send students and their parents to a particular site, maybe you can even assign some books or tell them to let you know which books they did listen to.

And here is our agenda for the coming days. It's posted in the Facebook group and in the email. If you have signed up for this, let's do this event. And as we look forward to the next few days, again, these videos will keep coming to you. We are going to be sharing them every day, 4:00 PM Eastern, and we'll have deeper trainings if you want more, more information and curated lists in the Facebook group. And also we'll have this information eventually on a blog post at If you go to most recent, you'll find that. And tomorrow we'll hit 15 minutes. Sorry, I went over today. See you soon.

How to teach reading online - Example 1st Time Tutoring Session on Zoom  

In the below video, I show you how to teach reading online using resources from Reading Simplified. I’ll show you exactly how I tutor kids online, including my lesson plans, reading materials, activities, and so much more.

How to teach reading online

[00:20] – How to prepare to host your first online reading session using Zoom (using Reading Simplified resources)
[03:20] – How to practice re-reading for fluency during your tutoring session
[07:00] – How to use the word work activity ‘Switch It’ in your online reading tutoring sessions
[11:52] – Demonstrating how to use ‘Sort It’ interactively and engagingly
[14:06] – How to use the online Flex It game to teach the /oo/ and /ow/ sounds
[16:33] – How to do guided oral reading effectively with students online

[21:00] – How to work through the fluency and fitness program

What you need to get started

In the video above, you’ll see how I start a tutoring session for the first time with a reader reading around the first-grade reading level. He's got some challenges with learning, but we give it a good try and successfully transition from in-person tutoring to online tutoring.

To get started, you need to prepare your lesson plan, get your texts and resources ready, and start a Zoom call. I use materials from Reading Simplified of course and if you like what you see and want to try them with your students, you can definitely do that too!

So, before I start the online tutoring session, I have my files already pulled up. For instance, I used the book, ‘A Kiss for Little Bear’ for the re-reading portion of the lesson, so I made sure to have that ready and waiting. Having your materials and resources ready in advance helps to save time during the actual tutoring session.

It’s also fun to use mini-games with kids. I choose one from, where the student reads the words. I also used the Reading Simplified materials such as those covering the /ow/ sound. I had the student read /ow/ sound words and type them. Then, we moved to more challenging /ow/ sound passages, such as the "Mouse and Owl."

Here’s an example of my lesson plan for this online tutoring session:

Example lesson plan for online tutoring session

This is a typical Reading Simplified three components format:

  • Re-Reading for Fluency
  • Word Work activities
  • Guided Reading

In addition to the Reading Simplified resources, we also used some games from and focused on the /ow/ sound and its spellings.

So, when I have my materials ready, I’m prepared for the lesson. Having all of these things ready helps me to avoid getting distracted because I can move quickly between the activities. It also ensures that I don't have too many files running that the computer can't handle it because Zoom (or any web conferencing software that you're using) will slow your system down.

So, that's how I prep and make a plan, pull up my documents, pull up the screens, and then invite my student to join over Zoom.

Re-Reading for Fluency

For this part of my tutoring session, we used the book, ‘A Kiss For Little Bear,’ by Else Holmelund Minarik:

‘A Kiss For Little Bear,’ by Else Holmelund Minarik

Now, let’s switch to teacher–student dialog as the student reads pages from the book:

Tutor: Can you read the words for me?

Student: “This picture makes me happy,” said Little Bear.

Tutor: Well done. What do you think? Do you think that picture would make you happy?

Student: No.

Pages from ‘A Kiss For Little Bear,’ by Else Holmelund Minarik

Student: This picture is for Grandmother.

Tutor: Oh, I like how you notice every sound in grandmother.

Student: “Will you take this to her, Hen?” “Yes, I will,” said Hen. Grandmother was happy. “This kiss is for Little Bear,” she said.

Once we reached this stage, we returned to the same page once again to see if the student could read the words with more fluency the second time. I started it off this time to help him out.

Tutor: Grandmother was happy. “This kiss is for Little Bear,” she said. Now you try it, see if it's even smoother now for you that you listened and read to it so many times.

Student: Grandmother was happy. “This kiss is for Little Bear,” she said.

Tutor: Okay, let’s do it together…

Both the tutor and the student repeat the passage: Grandmother was happy. “This kiss is for Little Bear,” she said.

Word Work: Switch It 

When we finished re-reading, we moved onto the word work activity we teach here at Reading Simplified, Switch It. I was able to give the student control of the cursor so they could switch letter tiles to form new words on the screen. It worked very well, and the student had a lot of fun in the process.

We began with nonsense words such as ‘splost’ and I asked him to switch it to words such as ‘splont.’

Example Switch It - nonsense words
Example Switch It - nonsense words

Here’s a sneak peek into the dialog between me (the tutor) and the student while using the Switch It activity online:

Tutor: Okay, can you switch one sound to make ‘splost’ into ‘splont’?

Student: (chooses the incorrect letter)

Tutor: We have ‘splost’ but we need ‘splont’ (with emphasis on the ‘n’ sound)

Student: We take out the S

Tutor: Yes, and what’s the right sound that we need to move in?

Student: N

Tutor: That's right. That one's a hard one. Good job…. Can you tell me each sound separately in ‘splont’?

Student: (correctly recalls each letter-sound with minimal guidance)

Tutor: Now I want you to switch ‘splont’ with ‘plont,’ you’re going to have to take something away.

Student: (removes the ‘S’ letter card, switching ‘splont’ to ‘plont’ accurately)

Tutor: Very good. OK, so now you have ‘plont,’ let’s switch it to ‘slont.’

Student: (Removes ‘P’ and switches it with ‘S’)

Tutor: Very good. Now let’s switch it to ‘slent.’ We have ‘slont’ and we’re going to switch it to ‘slent,’ what should we take out first?

Student: (Removes ‘O’ from the word on the screen and replaces it with ‘E’ to form ‘slent.’)

Word Work: Sort It

After Switch It, we moved onto Sort It. We used a resource from Reading Simplified that focused on the /ow/ sound and the /ou/ sound.

Word Work: Sort It

Tutor: Tell me the sounds as I type it, please.

Student: Sh /ow/ er

Tutor: OK, what's the next word you want to do? You choose the next word that we're going to do.

Student: I want to do the next one.

Tutor: Ok.

Student: S /ou/ nd – sound.

Tutor: Okay, does sound go here (the /ow/ column) or here (the /ou/ column)?

Student: (selects the /ou/ column)

Tutor: Great, now say the sounds as I type.

Student: S /ou/ nd.

Word Work: Sort It

Once we went through more of the list, I asked the student to repeat the sounds of each word with particular focus on the /ow/ and /ou/ sounds we were focusing on for the lesson.

Word Work: Flex It

Next, we played a mini-game where I asked the student to sort words into one of two columns. The first column was for words with the /oo/ sound as in go. The second column was for words with the /ow/ sound as in cow.

Word Work: Flex It

Tutor: Read the word please.

Student: Cow (the student then drags the word ‘cow’ over to the /ow/ column).

We continued like this with the remaining words including brown, know, slow, down, row, town, etc.

Word Work: Flex It

Guided Oral Reading

For the guided oral reading section of our tutoring session, we used the ‘Mouse and Owl’ passage from Reading Simplified. This is a great passage for kids learning the /ow/ sound but of course, we have many more passages and reading resources like this one on other sounds.

‘Mouse and Owl’ passage from Reading Simplified

Tutor: I'm going to read some of it, and you can take your turn. Are you looking at the highlight with me?

Student: Yes.

Tutor: Mouse and Owl…. follow the spotlight. When you’re up, you’re up.

After starting the passage on my own, I asked the student to read along with me. So, I used my highlight cursor to guide him from one word to the next, asking him to read where possible. When he needed some help, I was there to give it to him so that he could finish the sentence or figure out the word he was struggling to read.

For example, when we reached the sentence, “Now, who, who, who does not know about that?” said Owl.” The student paused at the word, ‘know,’ and he needed my help to guide him through it. With my help, the student was able to say the word much better on his own the second time we re-read the sentence.

Guided reading is an excellent activity to try with students when you’re teaching reading online. You can use the mouse cursor as a guide instead of your finger, pen, or ruler, etc. The student can easily follow along with you and read aloud over the Zoom call.

We continued with guided oral reading and moved onto the passage you see below:

guided oral reading

Fluency & Fitness program

Next, we moved onto a fun word challenge where I asked the student to fill in the blank sounds for different words. For example, “H__SE” became “HOUSE” and “SPR__T” became “SPROUT,” and so on.

Example of ou sound word
Fluency and fitness program

We continued with these for a while and I had him repeat the sounds of the words as we went which included words like cow, owl, growl, and so on.

I hope that this helps you if you’re trying to figure out how to teach reading online. As you can see, it is possible to teach reading to kids online, you just need to have the right resources ready and waiting for you!

If you’d like access to 1000+ pages of differentiated student materials like the ones I used during this online reading tutoring session, you can sign-up to join the Reading Simplified Academy!

Would you like future complimentary trainings like this here at Reading Simplified? Then make sure you ring the bell here at YouTube to become a subscriber so that you learn more of our ways of streamlining instruction and accelerating students reading achievement. And you can also find us on Facebook @ReadingSimplified, usually on Tuesday nights, 8:00 PM Eastern standard time we go live with other complimentary trainings and we give away some freebies for teachers and parents. So I hope to see you here again next time on YouTube or even on Facebook. Take care.

Have you suddenly found yourself teaching online or at a distance?

What have you learned? Please comment below for other teachers' benefit.