Online learning…it’s here for many of us as we head back to school in 2020. We all know it’s not the most ideal way for young children to learn. But, when life gives you lemons…we make lemonade! At Growing Book by Book, I’m always here to help you navigate the early literacy journey. So, let’s explore engaging online meeting literacy activities.
Engaging Online Literacy Activities
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The Cult of Pedagogy has a post called 9 Ways Online Learning Should be Different From Face to Face. It’s a great read for helping us wrap our head around online learning. I especially like that number one is all about creating community and working on basic technology workings at the beginning.
Now, let’s take a look at some specific engaging online activities we can do with young children to build literacy skills.
We know how important it is to read-aloud and that can continue even if we are delivering content online.
Many publishers have relaxed their copyright permissions during school closures. Always, check a publisher’s guidelines before recording. Here is a helpful resource for accessing publisher guidelines.—>See it here.
I’ve put together a whole resource guide for making online reading successful.—>Reading Aloud-Tips and Strategies
Finally, try adding sound effects to your read-aloud with the free Novel Effect app. It plays in the background as you read.
Noticing is an important skill for readers. We have to notice letters, words, illustrations, etc. Practice the skill of noticing within the environment on your screen.
If you sit in the same location each day for your online meeting, change one thing about your environment each day such as adding or deleting an item from the scene. See if the students can spot the difference.
Spot the Letter
A variation of the activity above would be to try “spot the letter.” Display a letter (paper, magnetic, foam, etc.) somewhere in the background of your virtual call or have a student place a letter somewhere in their background. Students then have to try and spot the letter of the day.
Give clues to your read-aloud to build anticipation with our Book Mail idea.—>You’ve Got Book Mail
Have a special visitor such as a puppet, stuffed animal, or your own pet who makes an appearance during your session. This special visitor might bring a joke or a special message to share with the children.
Paula W. a Growing Book by Book readers says, “We also have a stuffed dog that is our class mascot. He “wrote” letters to the kids and I would read it during the Zoom calls.”
Singing is a great way to engage children. We’ve got lots of literacy building songs to sing with the students with our Circle Time Songs and Chants to Build Literacy Skills Vol.1 and Month by Month Circle Time Songs and Chants Vol. 2.
Syllable Clapping or Drumming
Make sure everyone is muted. Then, say a word and have the students clap or drum the word parts to build phonological awareness. For example, cat gets one clap and calculator gets four claps.
Students who are learning virtually are probably missing people they see in the school from the principal to the custodian. Invite school workers to do recorded or do live virtual read-alouds with the students.
Scavenger Hunts are great ways to get kids up and moving. Invite the students to find objects in their house that begin with different letter sounds. They can run and get an item and bring it back to the screen to show.
Variations can include ending sounds, color words, or rhyming words.
Hannah S. from the Growing Book by Book community says, “My students enjoyed mystery bag activities during video calls. I put some items in a brown paper bag, and the students would try to guess what object I had pulled out based on clues I gave them. I was more focused on vocabulary and concept development, so my clues were mostly about what the object looks like, feels like, is used for, etc. However, you could also use clues like “rhymes with ___” or “starts with the ___ sound” to work on phonological awareness skills.”
Play a round of Simon Says with a literacy twist.
Simon says put your finger on your nose if pond begins with /p/.
Simon says jump up and down if bug and rug rhyme.
Bingo and Cover All Games
Playing an alphabet bingo game or cover all game is a fun way to get everyone participating. Each student will just need a printable sheet and they can use a handful of cereal or other small items they have at home to cover their board as you call out clues. Check out our bingo and cover all resources.
Goldilocks and the Three Bears Cover All (works on vocabulary and beginning sounds)
Birthday Book Basket
Celebrate birthdays virtually with a literacy twist. Our Birthday Book Basket can easily go virtual. Just create a Google Slide of the birthday books you have. Share it on the screen. Let the birthday child pick the read-aloud for the day and then you can read the book aloud. Pull out the birthday slide every time it is someone’s birthday.—>Get the Birthday Slide Template Here
Occasionally, have a laughing lunch bunch. Invite a small group of students to get their lunch and spread out on a blanket on the floor. Then, they can join you virtually for lunch and you can each share jokes with each other. This is a fun way to spend time together, relax, and get to know each other. Plus, the students will be building oral communication skills.
If you are doing a hybrid schedule, this could be a fun way for students who are at school to communicate with those students who are virtually learning that day.
Celebrate Bookish Holidays
From International Dot Day inspired by The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds to Jumpstart’s Read for the Record Day, there are lots of themed reading celebrations we can do online. Make sure you are a Growing Book by Book newsletter subscriber because each month this year, I share a calendar of book events, fun & wacky holidays, and author/illustrator birthdays to make your planning easier. Subscribe to Growing Book by Book.
Useful Tools for Online Literacy LearningTabletop Pocket Chart
A tabletop pocket chart is great for modeling sorting and matching activities. This one is small enough that you and the pocket chart can fit in the frame of the screen.
Model letter work with magnetic letters and/or write letters and words with this dual-purpose board. Make sure your magnetic letters are large enough for students to see. My favorites are the Educational Insights Jumbo Magnetic Letters.
Grab a class puppet to add a little novelty to your sessions. I’m a bit partial to this sock puppet.
If you are concerned with uneven lighting when trying to do online readings or teaching, you might want to consider a ring light. I usually record in my basement, and use it every time.
I’ve really been thinking about getting a document camera so that I can show books on the screen and to model making words, etc.
Have you tried something that has worked well with your students online? Please share about in the comments.