Find yourself suddenly trying to reach students for distance learning yet they have no reliable internet access or computer?

How is that going to work?

Take a deep breath. We've got your back.

Join us for the third video in our series Let's do this! Teaching Reading Beyond the Classroom where we discuss creative solutions for reaching students during distance learning days.

Creative Solutions for Reaching Students during Distance Learning Days

[3:12] - Principles for Beginning This Season of Distance Learning
  1. Temper your expectations for yourself and your students.
  2. Think outside the box. Be creative.
[5:52] - Idea 1: Send and Receive...  Snail Mail! (yes, it's still a thing)
[7:26] - Idea 2: Call Students and Parents.
[8:28] - Idea 3: Send and Receive Voice Memos.
[10:18] - Idea 4: Send and Receive Videos.
[11:59] - Idea 5: Send and Receive Emails/Texts.
[12:54] - Listen to a Reading Tutor's Experience!

[14:58] - Idea 6: Set Office Hours.

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

Reaching Your Students During Distance Learning Times

Finding yourself needing to suddenly teach students from afar, but you may have students who don't have reliable internet access or may not have a computer? What are you going to do about that? Don't worry. I got you covered. I want to go over some top and creative ways for reaching your students during these distance learning days. So we're going to think outside of the box, not inside the classroom and not classic distance learning, but some other work around so that you may be able to reach your students.

We're in day three of a special series called Let's Do This! Teaching Reading Beyond the Classroom. And we're here just to support you and to brainstorm about the possibilities, offer some trainings and resources so that this doesn't become overwhelming. It really is overwhelming, but we're going to try to keep it tight and give you the support you need. And so take baby steps. And so maybe from the things that I'm going to talk about with you today, maybe you can do one of them this coming week.

Hi, I'm Dr. Marnie Ginsberg from Reading Simplified and it's our mission to streamline reading instruction and accelerate student's reading achievement here at Reading Simplified. So I'm glad you're here. Hopefully you can use some of the Reading Simplified strategies and activities as you reach your students from afar and boost their reading achievement. So let's get going to talk about outside of the box ways to reach your students.

Yeah, here we go. Let's do this. Outside of the box ways for reaching your students during distance learning--even when they have low-tech access. Okay. We are in the midst, as I said earlier of a five day series just suddenly brought upon us by the of COVID-19 but we are working on it together and your survey answers if you are Reading Simplified audience member, your survey answers created this agenda, so let's talk about it. We are on Thursday, Outside of the Box Ways to Reach Your Students from Afar. Tomorrow we will be sharing resources for parents including how to help your child practice reading and then Saturday is hitting the mark, serving students diagnostic reading instruction.

You can see the previous topics. If you miss them, don't worry. They're still available for you. If you joined this Facebook group, Let's Do This! Teaching Reading Beyond the Classroom. If you go to the search bar there and Facebook and type that, you'll find it and ask for access. Then if you go to the Units section, you'll be able to find this video and other videos and other resources. For instance there, we've got day one Streamlined plan for Teaching Reading Online. So you can watch a video about that. Get the free PDF. On day two, in unit two you can learn about how to use our top three tools for teaching online like Zoom. So you'll see what's the benefit of those tools and how to use them. If you go to the units inside the Facebook group. So I hope you can join us there for this temporary group as we collaborate on how to get through this time together.

Principles for Reaching Students at a Distance

To get us kicked off for this topic of how to instruct your hard-to-reach students from a distance. Let's think about a couple of these principles. Number one, let's take a deep breath. Temper your expectations for yourself and for students. You're a classroom teacher, traditional classroom teacher, this is a radical 180, maybe a 360 and a 720, you're just maybe spinning because this is so unexpected and you're not well prepared for it potentially. Most of us aren't. That's why we're here sharing these ideas.

So I might share some ideas and other people might share some other ideas that may overwhelm you. But just take one baby step a day. Don't let yourself get overwhelmed. Maybe if you want to learn one technology to master this week or master, be able to be at least a little comfortable with it that you can start with next week, great. Do what you can and let the rest go. And the same holds true for your students because some of them may have parents who are not really at home, they may have to work, some of them may be taking care of younger siblings. Some of them may not have a computer, or if they have a computer, they have one and their older brother's going to use it for algebra class, when you're also wanting to meet with them.

So there's so many moving pieces. You may have children of your own at home that you're trying to juggle while you're being the teacher. So all of these variables mean that we're going to have to temper our expectations and be reasonable and consider the context. And so when I say maybe you could try this, or maybe you could try that, don't let it make you feel as if it's an expectation that everyone should do that or that's what you should do. These are just possibilities.

But the big principle for how to cope with this situation is to think outside of the box and be creative. So if you have those students who don't have a lot of technology access, these are some pretty easy ways to get started with that. And thinking outside of the box. We don't normally do all these things when we think about how we're teaching students that I'm about to share with you from this PDF, but they can be pretty easy. And as we did for day one, the free before day three, is in the unit three part of the Facebook group. So make sure you go there to snag that. Just keep it as a reference for when you're needing some inspiration if you get stuck.

Reaching Students at a Distance: Idea 1

So number one, send and receive snail mail. Have you done that yet? I have heard about people sending packets home with students. Maybe they're even putting them in the mail. Don't forget about the USPS here in the United States. So here I have some examples from our Reading Simplified O sound materials. So you might just print out, if you're reading, or you're a teacher, might just print out the O sound material. The O sound sorted up here. Some O sound passages like Mary had a little lamb and towed and goat and some O sound games like the matching, the picture matching. You could cut those out. Just put it in the mail. A whole week's worth of O sound reading and activities would be pretty easy if you have this type of resource at your disposal or whatever resources you were already going to use. If they can be interpreted by a parent, then just send them in the mail or maybe add some notes to let them understand how to do that.

You could also just send parents and students letters, letting them know what's going on with you, letting them know things about the class, instructing them. Go old school shall we say, and encourage of course the students to write to you. That could be their writing assignment. Maybe you would become a PenPal with them or you can encourage the students to be PenPals with one another. Also, other great writing assignments are for them to write to the government or write to their grandparents and if nothing else can work, maybe you can drop off lessons at the front door.

Reaching Students at a Distance: Idea 2

Another possibility is just to call them on the phone, go old school with that. You can call your parents to check in and see how homeschooling is going. You could call your students and ask them the same thing. How do they feel? You could call a student and coach him on his reading or his rereading practice. Maybe you sent him the text to read or he's got it from an email or any PDF printed out or looking at it on the screen and you can listen to him and coach him through that. You can call a student and talk to her about her math problem, help her work it out. Or you could leave messages if no one picks up.

And some of you might have students with the ability to do three way calls or more. So you get multiple kids on the phone, read to them, listen to them read, just talk and help them to feel more comfortable about what's going on and feel connected with you and with their peers. So that's an old school technology that most parents do have. So think about that.

Idea 3 for Connecting with Students

Another thing you can do is send and receive voice memos. You can record a message for a parent or students and you can email it or text it. You could record yourself explaining how to use Zoom. Say if they're having trouble, just create a simple voice memo on your phone. Again, email and texts, it's not that hard. Almost all phones these days have that as a built in app. Maybe you can record yourself reading the students text. That's really great to get them to have the time to practice the eyes on print for them, but they hear you read it or maybe you encourage the students to send you a voice memo of them reading. In Reading Simplified, we encourage rereading for fluency every day, building up a passage to mastery almost every day so that we get five passages or short selections of passages mastered so to speak, building up our fluency, motivation, and also a high frequency word knowledge. So the voice memo is a really great tool.

Most people do have smartphones even if they don't have a computer and regular internet access, so that may not take a lot of bandwidth or data for them to download. Here's an example of something that I've done in my phone. I love to use Nate The Great is one of those early chapter books and I just record myself. Looks like it was two minutes and 55 seconds to record all of chapter one. Not too hard. I click the little dots underneath it and I can text it or email a parent.

So if you haven't already found out what types of technology your parents have, now is a great time to get started and do that. Email them and ask them questions. If they don't get back with you, call them, send them an email, and text them until you find out what resources they have. Find out if there is a computer, are they going to need to share it with siblings or with mom who may be working from home.

Idea 4 to Instruct Those Who Are Hard to Reach

Another idea is to send and receive videos. So similarly, the mobile phones today are, as you know, it's really pretty easy to take short videos of yourself and you can email that to students or parents. Again, encouragements of course, but you can also explain new technology. You can explain schedules for the class and you can explain assignments. You could read aloud a great book, and this is a great idea from Terry, one of the Reading Simplified teachers in our community. She's encourages you to consider inviting the parents to record their student read or their child read. And if the parent gives some coaching that's a little bit of a helpful feedback for you. Or how good is that coaching? Is it sending the kid off in a state of confusion? And I'll talk more about that in a minute.

And if you can't get them to be there with you in a Zoom web conference or a Google Meet or Google Hangouts, then maybe you can do a simple mini-lesson via video app on your mobile phone and email it or text it or put it on Google drive or Loom. Most people have the access to get that somehow. Not everyone though, of course. There's some people that will still need to reach even more traditionally with maybe special delivery, it's still probably pretty safe to drive. Probably safer now than ever before to drive because the roads are so empty. So you can drive to someone's house and leave something on their front door and maybe knock and stand back, let them know you're going to stand back for your social distancing.

Idea 5 for Distance Learning in Tough Cases

Another idea, you're probably already doing this. I just wanted to remind you. Don't worry. It doesn't all have to be on fancy new technology like Zoom. You can send and receive emails, send and receive texts. An entire lesson assessment feedback cycle can be done via email. Email can include just text. It can include documents, PDFs, videos, as you know, you can write in the lessons in the email. You could of course attach the documents. Maybe you're just going to encourage your students or your parents with via email more than you might've otherwise you could do that. Don't think of everything as whole group. Some things can be done, small group or individually. If certain children have fewer options for technology, then it makes sense to give them more attention in some old school methods and more individualization that way. Students can also respond via email as their assignment. They could email one another as well and they can email their grandmother.

A Reading Tutor's Experience Teaching from a Distance

So here's what Terry found just recently. She said last week I asked one of the parents to video the first reading and the re-read her student did. I had her permission to use it for training purposes. She's done it twice for me. Video isn't great and he's very wiggly. However, it was really instructional for me. I could watch what he does and whenever he got stuck, he immediately looked up to her to fill it in. This is so classic, isn't it? For a struggling or a beginning reader.

And Terry goes on and sometimes the mother did fill in and other times she would say, what else could that say? Or that's a two letter Phonogram. To have that when he came again was really helpful. So Terry gave feedback directly to the student while the mom was there, but this could be the feedback now that you're going to give via some sort of video message or voice memo.

So Terry addressed her student directly. She said, "I actually pulled up the video and showed in the part where he kept looking up at her instead of looking at the words waiting for his mom to fill in. So I was able to talk to him about it. The mom being present also got the feedback. So implicitly she realized that she's probably going to not need to provide as many answers for him as she had been." So today, Terry said she encouraged him to let his mom take another video of him with him practicing being still while he read. Maybe he could curl up in a chair, put a blanket on his feet, get cozy.

What she's driving at here with these ideas is a maybe a quick phone record. How am I holding my phone? For teachers, tutors, parents with a simple thing like rereading could be pretty powerful. It helps us see what's happening and helps conversations happen and I can gently encourage students in specific areas. So that's just a great example of how being forced to leave the school building may serve as a benefit to us if we get more back and forth with what's going on in the home for that reading practice.

Reaching Students at a Distance: Idea 6

A final suggestion for you is to set office hours. If you already haven't done that, maybe you're going to set them two days a week, maybe five days a week for an hour, and let your students and your parents know that you'll be available for calls, texts, Zoom, FaceTime. You could just turn on Zoom and everyone who has that link can come on whenever they want or they could call you the old fashioned way. This is good for all of us, whether we have students with or without technology, right? I think we all would benefit from routine. And also you want to make sure that parents know that you're very available to them.

And so you can be like a university professor sending your office hours and if no one calls during that time, reach out to at least one student. Of course, you can do some lesson prep, figure out more technology if that's how you're feeling it. But it's also more opportunities to reach out to kids.

So there you have it, outside the box ways to reach your students from afar. Tomorrow let's talk more about how can we conserve the parents themselves and give them resources. And as always, we're going to be going live on ... As always for this series, I should say. We're going live at 4:00 PM Eastern and we're going to have more information, resources for you in our Facebook group, Let's Do This and also on an upcoming blog posts from Reading Simplified. So if this is just enough to whet your appetite and you want more, make sure you check out what we've got there. Here's to making good readers hang in there you guys.

Would you like future of 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 at Reading Simplified. 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 instructing students at a distance and need ​ideas for reaching them?

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