Oklahoma Reader Fall 2020, Volume 56, Issue 2

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ISSN 2640-1649 (online) ISSN 0030-1833 (print) VOLUME NO. 56 // ISSUE NO. 2 // FALL 2020



Finding Inspiration through reading and writing

What do We Do When the Bridge is Out? Teaching During a National Shut Down




Shawna Hight Union Public Scholls


Editors’ Overview and Insights


Letter from the OKLA Chair


Teacher to Teacher


Children’s Picture Book Reviews


Policy and Advocacy

The Mask I Wear


Research Summary


Tech Talk

Ashley Valencia-Pate Stillwater High School


Prof. Development: Off the Shelf


Call for Proposals / Guidelines


Conference Flyer


Back Matter

11 Virtual Teaching: The Good, the Bad, and the Inequitable

On the Cover: As we looked toward a summer fighting the pandemic, the cover photo for the Spring 2020 issue appropriately featured a man wearing a mask reading a newspaper. The lobby of the Idabel Public Library contains a sculpture of two children sharing a book; library employees had already provided masks for them. Thinking about how COVID-19 has impacted our teaching, we outfitted the children with an iPad to represent the pervasiveness of virtual teaching during this year. (Photo by Barbara McClanahan)


Mollie Kasper Forney Independent School District

Online Teaching in 2020: Tips for Finding Balance as a Secondary Reading Teacher


Dr. Chelsea K. Bradley Assistant Professor of Reading University of Arkansas-Little Rock

Overview & Insights FROM THE EDITORS

What a year! The word "unprecedented" has been overused, and we think that term has too much positivity implied in it to connote the stress that the year’s events have visited upon those of us in education. Anticipating that we would not be approaching anything close to “normal” by the time this issue was published, we as new editors coordinated with the outgoing editors to announce a call for a special issue related to teaching during the pandemic. Four of the articles in this issue are the result of that call. We should explain that none of these four articles can be considered “research” in any classic sense. They are rather the experiences of four individual teachers as they navigated the murky COVID-filled waters of Spring and early Fall 2020. Most of the reviewers of these articles were confused when no research citations filled the pages. In deference to their concerns, we went back to the authors, most of whom are not academics, and asked them to do their best to situate their experiences in known research. They took up the challenge, and we feel the results are commendable. Shawna Hight, sixth-grade teacher at Union Public Schools in Oklahoma, begins the set of articles by using the metaphor of a bridge being out to explain how she realized that students under stress still needed connection to engaging texts. Then Ashley Valencia-Pate, high-school teacher at Stillwater High School in Oklahoma, describes how putting on a mask symbolized the feeling of loss of control of her teaching and how she used action research with her students to find direction. Next up, Mollie Kasper, of the Forney (Texas) Independent School District provides a view from elementary special education; she walks us through the good and bad effects of her move to virtual teaching and the heartbreaking inequities for her students, finally coming to the realization that it’s still all about relationships between and among teachers and students. Lastly, Dr. Chelsea Bradley, Assistant Professor of Reading at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, explains in detail some of the tips she shared with secondary teachers she knew through her previous position as an instructional learning coach, who reached out to her for guidance as they realized virtual teaching might continue indefinitely.


These articles offer a range of perspectives on what we’ve all experienced, and we believe you will find them all insightful. In the Teacher-to-Teacher category, Dr. H. Brian Thompson, fourth-grade teacher at Limestone Elementary in Sand Springs, Oklahoma, and adjunct at Oklahoma State, shares his action research in which parents of his fourth graders served as reviewers of their own children’s writing. This was an effort to help his students understand the importance of clear and effective writing beyond pleasing the teacher. Additionally, all of the familiar columns are represented by their customary authors. Dr. Sue Parsons presents a delightful review of engaging and timely picture books to inspire us. In keeping with the theme of this issue, Dr. Julie Collins discusses the legal and policy issues that parents, students, administrators, and state officials are faced with during the pandemic. In the same vein, Dr. Linda McElroy offers a summation with applications of a recent research article that describes how adolescents read in the Digital Age. Finally, Shelley Martin-Young offers the first installment of a two-part series on teaching digitally, chock full of practical suggestions. With this issue, we are inaugurating what we hope will become an ongoing feature, a column for reviews of books that can be useful to reading teachers at various levels. We are calling it Professional Development: Off the Shelf. Dr. Barbara McClanahan offers the first review for this column of Becoming a Metacognitive Teacher: A Guide for Early and Preservice Teachers by Scales, Wolsey, and Parsons (2019). We hope others will inundate us with reviews of good books you have read for sharing with your colleagues. As the new editors of The Oklahoma Reader, we express sincere gratitude to the outgoing team of editors (Julie and Donita) for their thorough and enthusiastic support as we made the transition. We had every intention of producing our first issue in a timely manner, well within the range of the issue’s “Fall 2020” designation, but COVID! Embarking on this new venture was a learning curve in and of itself, but while we were doing this as professors at a university impacted as others are by the worldwide virus, we found ourselves juggling many unexpected new pandemic-related responsibilities. We offer this explanation of our tardiness as an apology and a commitment that we do not intend to be this late in producing an issue again.

Barbara McClanahan, Maribeth Nottingham, & Susan Morrison 4

Letter from Sylvia Hurst Chair, Oklahoma Literacy Association

Greetings from the Oklahoma Literacy Association! I am honored to serve as chair for the 2020-2021 school year. Even with the unusual circumstances we are all facing, OKLA’s mission remains focused on promoting literacy and a love of reading all across Oklahoma.

What does that look like this school year? It is certainly different from every school year I have witnessed. Our teachers are working to help students in countless ways using a wide variety of methods: virtual, face-to-face, videos, phone calls, texts, or socially distant conversations using paper and/or digital formats. Teaching has always been a complex, challenging calling; now we are required every single day to find new ways to help our students. Just like there is no one way to teach reading, there’s not one specific approach for our education systems and their families. Some of these methods will endure and others may be less successful. Whatever your approach, it is gratifying to see the commitment, patience, creativity, and leadership of our teachers, students, parents, and other support personnel.

Since we began this school year, I have been very proud of how our educators have worked to adjust and adapt so learning can continue. OKLA wants to remain a source of support and encouragement as you negotiate this school year. A famous quote from Mr. Rogers advises children to look for the helpers in challenging times. Thank you to all these helpers who are working diligently to keep literacy alive and well in Oklahoma. OKLA hopes to be a valuable resource and support for you.


Shawna Kathleen Hight What Do We Do When the Bridge is Out? Teaching During a National Shut Down March 13, 2020, will remain a day that I remember with pangs of guilt and dread. A hurried rush at my administration’s suggestion to gather as many of my teaching supplies as possible, the day was filled with grabbing instructional books, guides, plans, and notes. I filled my wagon and car with as many teacher resources as possible. I gathered writing and dialogue journals left behind by students rushing out the door. I collected read-aloud books that could be made into virtual story times for what I believed would be anxious early middle school students. I hoped to help calm their fears, give them community, and retain some sense of normality in a far from normal situation. Before I left, a teary-eyed 6th grader came to me and announced that she had only 30 pages left of her book. The next book in the series was on my shelf, and she asked if she could get it. I gave her the whole series. A week after what should have marked the return to school for my always energetic, always questioning sixth graders began a series of virtual meetings between teachers and administration to plan distance learning. Quickly, teachers across the state were meeting to learn practical ways to deliver learning online while attempting to minimize stress to parents and students. In our efforts to keep things as calm as possible, student lessons and assignments quickly fell into short activities with limited text and even more limited personal connection. Personal connection required bandwidth, time, and scheduling and was eliminated in the name of ease. Administration, department coordinators, and state leaders suggested grade level choice boards and simplistic activities to serve as a review of the year. New learning was halted, and activities could only be assessed if they raised a student’s average in the course. These menu offerings of intellectual junk food were presented to students as the answer to distance learning, the new normal that would complete their school year with opportunities to “raise grades” and “keep them busy.” Four days. It took four days for my students to start complaining. Where are our stories? Where are our lenses? What happened to the character we were reading about and why on earth do I have to fill out another plot diagram? My students were hungry, and I was sadly ill-prepared, underequipped, and highly constrained. My own children, who attend a nearby district, were equally as starved for text, connection, and discussion. Most of their distance learning could be completed in under 30 minutes total, for all subjects. Engagement with peers and instructors was often limited to once a week or less. Collaboration and connection were sacrificed for simplicity and ease. The term distance learning and virtual learning are often synonymous in literature, both referring to a mode of learning that occurs entirely online in the absence of physical presence between student and teacher. Blended learning typically refers to online, asynchronous learning elements combined with synchronous in-person or video-conference style elements. Blended learning does not imply a particular balancing of asynchronous and synchronous events, nor is there a consistent guideline to how activities, events, or collaborations are to occur between the types of interaction (Fleck, 2012; Gemin & Pape, 2017; Harting & Erthal, 2005; Watson & Murin, 2012).


Distance and virtual learning in the K-12 space began in the 1990s as a transformation from early mail-in correspondence schools as an opportunity for credit recovery, advanced placement courses, and specific skill development (Gemin & Pape, 2017; Watson & Murin, 2012). These followed the advancements occurring in the higher education space, particularly as online audio and visual technologies improved (Harting & Erthal, 2005). In 2010, the WebBased Education Commission published The Power of the Internet for Learning, encouraging the federal government to eliminate laws and barriers to educational innovation and accepting elearning as an essential part of federal education policy (Kerrey & Isakson, 2000; Rice, 2014). At the time of that publication, most distance learning offerings were provided by online charter schools and state-level virtual schools, yet full-time online education options had not reached the public district level (Watson & Murin, 2012). Students in state and charter programs enrolled as full-time, asynchronous online learners receiving video or textual presentation of materials with little to no interaction with peers or instructors. Additionally, these programs were targeted specifically to high school students, with some middle school offerings and few elementary opportunities (Watson & Murin, 2014). According to the Digital Learning Collaborative, by 2019, the fastest growing area of digital learning was in K-12 public school districts and statelevel charter schools. As distance learning continues to grow for high school and university settings, the emergence of distance learning in early childhood and elementary settings brings questions of developmental appropriateness. The lack of face-to-face interaction with students and peers limits the amount of social learning that occurs in a traditional classroom. Vygotsky (1978) describes the intangible area where learning takes place through the interaction with a more knowledgeable other, yet the time and attention necessary for interactions is often limited in distance learning (Bryceson, 2007). Further investigation reveals the developmental consideration of online learning. Students in preschool or elementary school are in the preoperational stage of development, according to Piaget (1966/1969). Students in this stage are self-concerned and egocentric and lack the logic to combine or separate ideas (Piaget, 1951/1995). These characteristics don’t often fit a vigorous, highly structured environment of full-day online learning environments. Even students in Piaget’s concrete operational stage, starting in the second or third grade, struggle with digital learning’s abstract nature (Cooper, 2005). Additionally, distance learning exposes the differences in the use of and access to technology between all learners. One type of digital divide differentiates those who have access to technology devices and those who do not. This not only includes access to tablets or computers but also access to stable internet connections (Goedhart, et al., 2019; Huerta, et al.,2019). The second type of digital divide involves those who have access to technology but who do not or cannot fully utilize it, often due to a lack of technological knowledge. This includes students and parents unfamiliar with physical devices, operating systems, software, or learning management systems (Goedhart, et al., 2019; Watkins, et al., 2018). The digital divide disproportionately impacts students in low income, racial and cultural minority, rural, and low education households and increases the likelihood of dropout and failure (C. De La Varre, et al., 2014; Huerta, et al., 2019) Most of my students do not own their own devices, while many lacked stable internet connections with substantial enough bandwidth to allow for online learning. My district worked hard to supply tablets and laptops to families, but many younger students had never used them for tasks other than testing and word processing. Finding text in online spaces and falling in love


with digital options was not an arrow in their quiver. They were thrust into a world of distance learning and felt more isolated and distant than ever. By week two, I was scouring my sons’ bookshelves. Thankfully, they have such a diverse love of literature that there were a few options I could share with students, but how could I reach the rest? I quickly realized that so much of what I love and what my students grew to appreciate and crave sat on the shelves in my classroom. With libraries closed, internet connections unstable, and my own collection unavailable, I felt useless to my students in their need. We made one tremendous assumption that put our students’ love of reading at risk. We assumed that because of the oncoming shutdown and pandemic, students would be under too much duress. We believed that their stress levels would be so tremendous that rather than add to their emotional burden, we took out the bridge and left them unable to cross over to the place they found the most comfort: engaging texts. Through story and adventure, through intrigue and dialogue, our students learn to navigate the swirling tornado of life around them. Instead of making their learning simpler, we should have offered them more text, more personal connection, more chances to find knowledge, community, and adventure. I attempted to lighten their burden without listening to them, only to learn that the absence of our culture of reading was adding to their discomfort. I quickly worked to make sure that my students had city library accounts. I worked to teach those with access to find and download books and stories to feed their hunger. I delivered books to doorsteps and arranged trades between students below the radar of our unsuspecting librarian. I worked to make sure that students had access to the critically important way they both escape from and make sense of the world. Sadly, there are students who were never reached. They never heard the ending of the story or connected with that next amazing text. For those students, I hold tremendous guilt that I simply could not do enough. This year, I plan to be more prepared. At the first sign of a shutdown, my trusty Subaru will become loaded with the contents of my classroom library rather than teaching materials. No longer will my friends found in story and tale be locked in my classroom when students need adventure. As a class, we will begin the year learning to find and download books from local libraries and websites. We will race to be the first to find a story about a horse or an adventure using magic. Hopefully, students will find that even if libraries are closed and schools are shuttered, they can find books and texts and continue their journey through story. If we are to improve on distance learning, we must take these four steps. First, we must avoid assuming that low-level activities and a lack of rigorous engagement are what students need to fulfill their psychological and social needs. District plans and third-party learning vendors need to be evaluated on their merit based on theoretically sound practices. Second, we must assist students and parents in finding alternate methods to access story and text when physical books and journals are limited or unavailable, including opportunities for parent education on digital platforms and library access. Third, we must remove the social and economic barriers that keep some students away from access to technology. Stable, affordable internet service should be a right of all families, and the state needs to make infrastructure and social changes to ensure that adequate bandwidth is offered statewide. Finally, we must address the developmental aspect of technology use for early childhood and elementary students. Students will continue to lack equitable access to quality literacy learning during this critical time if issues of quality teaching, text access, technology accessibility, and developmental needs are not addressed. These are not issues only present during the time of


medical crisis but were magnified diseases that have hampered equity within our education system for decades. Covid-19 exposed, more than ever, the tremendous gap that exists between demographics, but maybe it also exposed a possibility to heal.

Shawna Hight is a Language Arts teacher at Union Public Schools, completing her eighth year as a classroom teacher. She is a doctoral student at Oklahoma State University and has earned a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and a Master’s Degree in Literacy. She may be reached at shawnakhight@gmail.com or shawna.hight@okstate.edu.

References Bryceson, K. (2007). The online learning environment—A new model using social constructivism and the concept of ‘Ba’ as a theoretical framework. Learning Environments Research. http://doi.org/10.1007/s10984-007-9028-x Cooper, L. (2005). Developmentally appropriate digital environments for young children. Library Trends, 54(2), 286–302. https://doi.org/10.1353/lib.2006.0014 De La Varre, C., Irvin, M.J., Jordan, A.W., Hannum, W.H., & Farmer, T.W. (2014). Reasons for student dropout in an online course in a rural K–12 setting. Distance Education. http://doi:10.1080/01587919.2015.955259 Digital Learning Collaborative. (2019). Snapshot 2019: A review of K-12 online, blended, and digital learning. https://www.digitallearningcollab.com. Fleck, J. (2012). Blended learning and learning communities: Opportunities and challenges. The Journal of Management Development, 31(4), 398-411. http://dx.doi.org.argo.library.okstate.edu/10.1108/02621711211219059 Gemin, B., & Pape, L. (2017). Keeping Pace with K-12 Online Learning, 2016. Evergreen Education Group. Goedhart, N. S., Broerse, J. E., Kattouw, R., & Dedding, C. (2019). ‘Just having a computer doesn’t make sense’: The digital divide from the perspective of mothers with a low socioeconomic position. New Media & Society. http://doi.org/10.1177/1461444819846059 Harting, K., & Erthal, M. J. (2005). History of distance learning. Information Technology, Learning, and Performance Journal, 23(1), 35-44. http://argo.library.okstate.edu/login?url=https://www-proquestcom.argo.library.okstate.edu/docview/219815808?accountid=4117 Huerta, J., Winkel, M., & Eisenman, R. (2019). Access to the internet by Hispanic college students: Some findings from a college with a high rate of student poverty. Journal of Information Ethics, 28(2), 66-86. https://www-proquestcom.argo.library.okstate.edu/docview/2317012522?accountid=4117 Kerrey, R., & Isakson, J. (2000). The power of the internet for learning: Moving from promise to practice: Report of the web-based education commission. DIANE Publishing.


Piaget, J. (1995). Egocentric and sociocentric thought. In L. Smith (Ed.), Sociological studies (pp. 276-285). Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203714065 (Original work published 1951). Piaget, J. and Inhelder, B. (1969). The psychology of the child. Basic Books. (Original work published 1966). Rice, K. (2014). Research and history of policies in K-12 online and blended learning. In Handbook of Research on K-12 Online and Blended Learning (pp. 51–81): ETC Press. Watson, J., & Murin, A. (2012). Blended Learning in Rural Colorado: Status and Strategies for Expansion. http://hdl.handle.net/11629/co:21160_ed22b612012internet.pdf Watson, J., & Murin, A. (2014). A history of K-12 online and blended instruction in the United States. In K. Kennedy, & R. E. Ferdig, (Eds.), Handbook of Research on K-12 Online and Blended Learning (pp. 1-23). ETC Press. Watkins, S., Lombana-Bermudez, A., Cho, A., Shaw, V., Vickery, J., & Weinzimmer, L. (2018). The Digital Edge: How Black and Latino Youth Navigate Digital Inequality. NYU Press. Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Harvard University Press.

We made one tremendous assumption that put our students’ love of reading at risk. We assumed that because of the oncoming shutdown and pandemic, students would be under too much duress. We believed that their stress levels would be so tremendous that rather than add to their emotional burden, we took out the bridge and left them unable to cross over to the place they found the most comfort: engaging texts.


Ashley Valencia-Pate The Mask I Wear We will return to school in the Fall. Everyone will be in masks. Does the Center of Disease Control not realize I put a mask on in March? The Oklahoma Department of Education’s hands were tied, and they most likely realized so many others stood by me hiding uncertainty through a smile over an online meeting platform. Teachers everywhere with varying degrees of experience with online management systems had to become subject matter experts while also quelling student fears in a time of epic uncertainty and discomfort. Through this experience, I have learned about myself as an educator, found new ways to embrace technology, and solidified the need I have for teaching. Before COVID-19, I had embraced my school’s use of Google Classroom. I enjoyed the instant gratification of viewing students’ work and providing notes along the journey. I had already played with some educational technology tools such as Quizlet and Kahoot!. For vocabulary lessons, I used the collaborative game Quizlet Live. The game had a unique code that students entered to join, were divided into teams, then raced against one another to correctly identify terms (“Quizlet live classroom and learning game,” n.d.). Kahoot! (“Kahoot! for schools,” n.d.) is a similar quiz-based competitive tool designed to review content or teach interactive lessons, but neither tool would work for me during distance learning since students had various schedules and a quiz-based tool did not seem to fit my purposes. I chose to use the podcast tool I learned about while participating in the Oklahoma State University Writing Project. Dr. Will Fassbender, English Education Professor at Montana State University, shared how to use podcasting in the classroom using a tool named Anchor.fm. Students in my classroom had used the tool to create podcasts and record literature circles, but it was not originally designed for educators. Anchor is a user-friendly way to create podcasts and even monetize them using their partnership with Spotify (“Anchor FAQs—The complete list,” n.d.). The tool allowed me to—under the rights of Fair Use—record the pages of the unit novel for my students. Since I recorded the text and included background knowledge on the historical references, students whose independent reading levels were below the level of the text could experience the book as a shared reading instead of an independent reading. When examining the reading process, Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell, (2017) have shown giving independent reading assignments with texts above a student’s independent level can frustrate students. Reading with and to my students is one of the highlights of my teaching day. I needed it just as much as they did. During and since COVID-19, I have been exploring how tools can become versatile and aid us in distance learning. Enacting Rosenblatt’s Transactional Theory became the greatest experiment and necessity in my classroom because the only way for the assignments to have any positive impact on my students required me to look at everything as a partnership where my students had a unique lens to approach the content. Rosenblatt (1978) took Schema Theory, which explores how learners add pieces of knowledge into a system of understanding, and added a facet that readers have unique experiences when exposed to literature (as cited in Tracey &


Morrow, 2017, p. 60). Leaning on this theory occurred after I tried using CommonLit (“CommonLit About,” n.d.) a tool designed to allow students to read a text and answer multiplechoice questions. After reviewing the answers, I could tell my students were either disengaged or not understanding the questions because even my highest performing students’ scores were low. Even though I did not realize it at the time, I had started a process of action research (Ferrence, 2000). Upon reflection, I identified the problem; I sent out a student survey, and the results showed they hated CommonLit. The data I gathered regarding the specific question about CommonLit showed out of the thirty-two respondents, 56% said the tool did not help them (Appendix A). I was pleased they felt comfortable enough to tell me. I concluded that the questions did not allow students to make meaning from the text or express their own views on the subject matter. Instead, they had to decide what the program wanted them to believe the author’s purpose was—even if they had no proof. Another question on the same student survey showed 81% of the students favored another tool I tried called Nearpod (“Nearpod,” n.d.). I am so grateful for those who chose to participate; the student surveys allowed me to focus my action research and redirect the students according to their needs. I am a type-A teacher if there ever was one, and I planned everything at the beginning of the year on a hyperlinked scope and sequence calendar. I had to let go of my plans since my students' needs did not align with what I thought would work for them during distance learning. I had to adapt my lesson plans and ideas almost every week. However, remembering Rosenblatt’s (1978) perspective and placing readers as the meaning-makers made the experience worthy of their time amidst an incredibly difficult and life-altering event. After the survey, the tool I used the most was Nearpod because I had to honor the partnership and the survey results. Teacher-student relationships have an incredible effect on student learning, and I needed to preserve our relationship even though we were physically separated (Fisher et al. 2016). I could narrate the content, provide articles, embed websites or videos, create fill-in-the-blanks, allow students to draw or annotate documents, collaborate with others, or compete in a Nearpod game platform called “Time to climb,” and the most critical function: I could set the lesson as live or student-paced, so students could work at any time. During distance learning, I did not have a chance to use them all, but I did use the narration tools to read directions and the fill-in-the-blank tool for grammar exercises. Since then, I have now realized I can embed Google Slides and have students work on all tasks, even documents or slides without leaving the Nearpod lesson. I had never explored these functions before the pandemic because I had not felt a need for it. In my teaching, I had the luxury of ninety-minute classes with students who would participate in Socratic seminars or discussions daily. COVID-19 did not allow me those luxuries. Besides the technology crash course, one of the most surprising facets of the sudden switch to crisis learning during COVID-19 was that it forced me to let go of the control I felt comforted by and reevaluate how I create a sense of community. Normally my sarcasm, love for my subject, and genuine interest in the achievement of my students create a positive close-knit environment, but would I/could I engage kids online? My attitude varied from excited and optimistic to depressed. I felt incredibly broken without seeing my students and being able to teach at full capacity. I was not alone; teachers all over the country felt broken and spent countless hours glued to their computers trying to shift lessons, communicate with families, and become technology experts (Gewertz, 2020). The absent or disconnected students made the pits of our stomachs clench with anxiety. The students who responded to my feedback or engaged with content I created for them became a weighted blanket during a state of constant anxiety. My students inspired me to grow as an educator because if they showed up and completed the work,


then they were still in it with me, and I had to answer their call. They knew they would not earn a grade lower than their term three grade, but they showed up. They amazed me with powerful poetry, satirical letters to the future, and participation in surveys I created, so I could adapt the next week’s lesson according to their needs. Towards the beginning of July, I finally had permission to reenter my classroom. I recently moved into a different room, and as I began to put things away, I felt something click inside me that had felt off for months. I had scheduled time in my classroom to put things away and conduct a tutoring session via Zoom with an elementary student. The summer air blew through the window and tried to assuage the heat that rose to my second story classroom. My standing desk allowed me the pleasure of swaying back and forth on my feet, and I felt it. During the weeks I had been tutoring, I had experienced a feeling of joy from working with a student again, but the power of standing in my classroom is something of a magnetic force. The feeling that washes over me as I walk around my room and engage with students or as I stand at my computer drafting boring sentences for my students to grow into something incredible—those are pieces of myself I did not feel during crisis learning. My tutee would enter sixth grade the following year, and my lessons incorporated what I now knew about Nearpod, Google Slides, and Google Drawings. I learned elementary students can work well with Nearpod because it is formatted as an interactive slideshow. The students can navigate to the next slide once they have completed the task and all links are contained within one document. By the end of the summer, my student completed word sorts to build on his phonemic and phonological awareness, created a choose-your-own-adventure story through Google Slides, and explored texts through Epic Books, an online company that gave free access to their library of leveled books to teachers during the pandemic (“Educator Resources,” n.d.) With the threat of COVID-19 hanging in the air above us, it is scary to go back to school. However, if I have to wear a mask, scrubs, gloves, or goggles, I will answer the call. My students did not choose distance learning for this life, and I did not choose distance learning as my teaching setting, but teaching chose me a long time ago, and I could never let them go into this arena alone. I will proudly wear my mask. Ashley Valencia-Pate teaches English at Stillwater High School, Stillwater, Oklahoma. She is also a graduate student at Oklahoma State University working towards a M.S. in Reading and Literacy to become a reading specialist. She can be reached at amvalen92@gmail.com.

References Anchor FAQs—The complete list. (n.d.). Anchor. https://help.anchor.fm/hc/en-us/articles/360040656392-Anchor-FAQs-The-Complete-List Common Lit About. (n.d.). CommonLit. https://www.commonlit.org/en/about Educator Resources. (n.d.). Epic! Books for Kids. https://www.getepic.com/educatorresources. Ferrance, E. (2000). Action Research. Brown University. https://www.brown.edu/academics/educationalliance/sites/brown.edu.academics.education-alliance/files/publications/act_research.pdf.


Fisher, D., Frey, N., & Hattie, J. (2016). Visible learning for literacy, grades K-12: Implementing the practices that work best to accelerate student learning. Corwin. Fountas, I.C., & Pinnell, G.S. (2017). Guided reading: Responsive teaching across the grades. (2nd edition). Heinemann. Gewertz, C. (2020, April 16). Exhausted and grieving: Teaching during the coronavirus crisis. Education Week. https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2020/04/16/exhausted-and-grieving-teaching-duringthe-coronavirus.html Kahoot! for schools. (2020, March 4). Kahoot!. https://kahoot.com/schools/ Nearpod. (n.d.). What is Nearpod? Vimeo. https://vimeo.com/444560128 Quizlet live classroom and learning game. (n.d.). Quizlet. https://quizlet.com/features/live Tracey, D. H., & Morrow, L. M. (2017). Lenses on reading: An introduction to theories and models (3rd ed.). Guilford Publications. Appendix A Relevant Questions and Results from Initial Student Survey


Mollie Kasper Virtual Teaching—The Good, the Bad, and the Inequitable On the Friday before spring break of 2020, I waved goodbye to my special education students and breathed a sigh of relief. It had been a rough year, and my fellow teachers and I were all exhausted. We looked forward to a much-needed week of rest and rejuvenation. We never dreamed that Friday would be the last time we saw our students in person. Over the week beginning March 8 , the global coronavirus pandemic exploded. Each day brought reports of the expanding number of cases and deaths, and like much of the United States, during that week, my district made the abrupt switch to online instruction. Even when virtual instruction began, we had no idea it would continue for the rest of the school year. At noon on Friday, March 13 , the last day of spring break, our administration sent out a notification that the district would “launch virtual learning for students early next week.” At that time, they only committed to one week of virtual learning, with an evaluation to be conducted on March 20 . Students were granted an additional day of spring break, which was a planning day for teachers. We were expected to call parents with an instructional plan on Tuesday. Instruction began Wednesday, March 18 . We had not yet begun instruction when the district announced that virtual learning would be extended, “with a possible return on Monday, April 6.” Before that date passed, the state governor announced that schools would remain closed statewide until May 4 . By April 17 , the governor extended the school closing until the end of the school year (See the timeline in Figure 1.) Teachers struggled to accommodate these Figure 1. head-spinning changes, initially writing virtual learning Virtual Instruction Timeline plans as a one-week stopgap measure, then for three weeks, then a month, and finally ending up with a ten-week plan which had morphed multiple times over. Expectations changed daily, and we responded quickly to those changes, all while learning to teach over conferencing apps and finding ways to digitize lessons that were originally designed to be hands-on and cooperative. This crisis teaching in a virtual environment produced good, bad, and inequitable student outcomes. th






The Good As mentioned above, the 2019-20 school year had been a rough one from the beginning. Our campus was transforming from a K-6 to a K-4 model, which meant that we both gained and lost more than the usual number of students and teachers. Our social networks and school culture were shattered. Behaviors that we had rarely seen on our campus before, such as tantrums and leaving the classroom without permission, or elopement, became daily occurrences. Many, though not all, of the students displaying these behaviors were in special education, and my campus administrators chose to delegate much of the


daily incident management to me and the other special education teacher. My co-teacher and I were frequently called away from the classroom to handle student meltdowns. Responding to these crises, we were often physically abused: besides pulling our hair and throwing items at us, students punched, kicked, bit, and spit on us. We attended training from Crisis Prevention Institute to help us learn best practices in working with students with behavior problems, and consulted with district behavior specialists to write and implement Behavior Intervention Plans. Unfortunately, we were unable to obtain widespread buy-in of the strategies across the school, so we experienced only limited success in curtailing the problem behaviors. The behavior crises did not just affect my own physical and emotional well-being; they affected the learning of my resource students. Each time I was called to a tantrum situation, I had to send my resource students back to their general education classrooms. Their resource time was cut short, and there was no time to make it up. “Again?” my students began to sigh when I asked them to return to their class early. Because I was unavailable to teach them consistently, they were not making the academic progress they should have been. The physical separation that occurred when we switched to a virtual environment had two benefits. First, I felt less stressed in my work environment (which was now my home). Second, I could teach my resource students without daily interruptions. Even though the pandemic brought its own particular brand of stress, with the implementation of virtual teaching, I actually felt a net decrease of stress. I felt safe and secure, and could no longer be harmed by out-of-control children. Since there were no non-academic duties, such as bus line or cafeteria duty, and I had no commute, I actually had more free time. I was able to do some of the self-care that teachers are often told to do (Fisher, Frey, & Hattie, 2020), but that we never have time for, such as drink a cup of tea or go for a walk. Virtual teaching gave me a pause from the physical and mental onslaught which had become my daily life. It rejuvenated me and helped me re-focus on my students’ academic needs. Ironically, one of the students who had near-daily tantrums and frequently eloped from the classroom showed behavioral improvement during distance learning. I was able to provide one-on-one instruction to her, and although there were a few days when she was clearly not fully engaged, I did not witness a single tantrum during our virtual classes. I do not know if her behavior improved because of the one-on-one instruction, because she was more comfortable in her own home, or because her mother was nearby, but virtual instruction was the first time during the school year that I observed her consistently focusing on her lessons and learning. Prior to virtual learning, I employed the Really Great Reading (2015) program, which I chose because it has a strong phonological awareness component, excellent assessments, and an effective method for teaching reading of multisyllabic words. Since it has an online component, I was able to continue using it during the pandemic. I shared my screen with her, and we practiced determining initial sounds, blending, and segmenting of words. She made excellent progress in phonological awareness. Since she was a kindergarten student with a short attention span, I limited the Really Great Reading (2015) lessons to fifteen minutes, and usually sandwiched a read-aloud between two lessons. In this way, I was able to hold her attention for the scheduled 45-minute session on most days. The second benefit I found in virtual learning was the ability to teach my resource students uninterrupted. DiPietro et al. (2008) offer a framework of best practices for virtual teaching. Some of the “pedagogical practices” the authors recommend which motivate students by making the content meaningful are: • Use strategies to connect with students


Engage students in conversations about content and non-content related topics to form a relationship with each student • Encourage and support communication between students (DiPietro et al., 2008, pp. 23– 24) These practices refer to relationship-building, both teacher-to-student and between students. Building relationships in an online environment can be difficult. The screen often feels like a barrier, and the internet can be fickle. It is difficult to carry on a conversation when the video freezes or the audio cuts in and out. In this regard, however, I was lucky. I had worked with these students for a minimum of four months, and some had been my students for over two years. We had built strong relationships within our classroom prior to Spring Break, and these relationships supported us as we made the switch to online learning. The students already knew me and each other and were excited to see their friends in real time, even if only on a computer screen. Our district offered us two options for live meetings: Zoom and Canvas’ Big Blue Button. Since I was already familiar with the Zoom platform and feeling too overwhelmed to try another new technology, I used it for class meetings. After a couple of initial minor glitches, I was able to send out one meeting notice to all my students and then re-use it at the appropriate time and day for each class. With parental permission, I also recorded the Zoom sessions and emailed a link of the recording to absent students. It was exciting to finally be able to teach my students consistently, and I decided to focus on reading comprehension with my third and fourth grade classes. We spent the first three quarters of the year on phonics and decoding skills (using a higher level of the Really Great Reading (2015) program), with a smattering of comprehension instruction here and there. Prior to Spring Break, I realized I needed to focus more on comprehension strategies, but given all the distractions, I was struggling to fit them in. I had recently learned about a set of free lessons by the National Ranching Heritage Center created collaboratively with John R. Erickson, author of the Hank the Cowdog Ranch Life Series (National Ranching Heritage Center, 2020). Our district is located in a rapidly-growing suburban town which consisted, until recently, of primarily farm and ranch land. Since our school and the surrounding neighborhood were built on what had been ranch land in the not-so-distant past, I thought the lessons would not only be interesting to the students but give them a sense of the history of the land beneath their feet and an idea of where their food comes from. I was planning on using them when we returned from Spring Break, but now I had to figure out how to use them in an online environment. The first hurdle was to get the books for my students. Prior to Spring Break, they had been pen pals with the elderly population of a church in New Jersey, but at this point in the pandemic, health officials were unsure of how the virus was spread, and I was leery of sending letters that might potentially infect the recipients. Fortunately, the pen pals still wanted to be involved with my students and offered to buy the books we needed for the project. After receiving the books, I made color copies of the materials and dropped everything off on the students’ front porches in a contactless manner. This initial investment paid off in their interest and motivation. They were very excited about the activities. Finally, I set up a classroom on Canvas, the learning management system used by our district. I had received training in Canvas several years earlier but had used it infrequently since taking the special education position. I brushed off my Canvas skills and created comprehension quizzes, including an audible recording of the questions and answer choices. I posted videos related to the Ranch Life Series (National Ranching Heritage Center, 2020), such as interviews with the author and illustrator, for students to watch. With Canvas, I was also able to create daily writing prompts in the form of discussion •


questions, which replaced the handwritten journals we had been writing previously and still allowed students to comment on each other’s entries. Many of the activities in the Ranch Life Series (National Ranching Heritage Center, 2020) materials are intended to be cooperative work, and the class managed to work together on Zoom meetings. I read each chapter aloud while they followed along in their books. Then we had a group discussion using the questions provided by the National Ranching Heritage Center. We played Cattle Breed Bingo over Zoom and compared and contrasted the life cycles of various ranch animals. We compared breeds of cattle and discussed why certain breeds might be better suited to particular environments. Each student made a poster of their favorite breed, recorded themselves explaining it, and posted it in Canvas. After about two weeks of using these lessons, I was comfortable enough to add a few minutes of phonics back into the daily routine, while still keeping the main focus on comprehension. The Bad Although there were many pros associated with virtual learning, there were some cons as well. First, it was harder than ever to keep the attention of my students. Since they were in their homes, I was competing with everything that was happening in several different homes at once, including younger siblings who wanted to see what big brother or big sister was doing, televisions blaring in the background, and once, a family member off camera dropping an “Fbomb” in the middle of class. I made quick use of the mute button, but it was too late. There is also a lack of environmental control associated with online learning. In a classroom, I can hand out materials, instruct the students to cut out, color and glue something, and then allow a few minutes to complete the tasks. Not wanting to take our limited instructional time to complete these tasks, I tried assigning them for homework. It was rarely completed. In addition, my more disorganized students lost their materials or forgot to bring them to class, so we had frequent logistical delays and loss of instructional time. These types of issues are typical in a special education classroom, and in a face-to-face environment, can be easily managed. In a virtual environment, however, it is more difficult to help students overcome logistical difficulties. It is harder for students to see the teacher modeling a task and it is harder for the teacher to assess if the students are following along. Another issue with virtual instruction was attendance. About half of my students attended daily, but the rest only attended sporadically, if at all. Since I was teaching a unit where each lesson built on the one before, it was almost impossible for students who missed multiple lessons to understand what the class was doing. I did send out recorded Zoom sessions, but I am relatively certain that they were not watched. I received an email when anyone attempted to access the file, and I only received two such emails, despite the high number of absences. Finally, in online instruction it is very difficult to determine—actually, to prove—who is really doing the work. I frequently received submissions which included language that simply did not match the quality of work I had observed from the student prior to distance learning. The Inequitable The most troubling aspect of distance learning was its inherent inequity. One of my students, whose parents both worked, went to daycare during school hours. He missed hours and hours of small-group instruction which would have been extremely beneficial to him. I have no idea what, if any, instruction was provided in daycare.


Some students had excellent Wi-Fi, while other students had limited or no access to the internet (Office of Educational Technology, 2017). At the beginning of online instruction, some internet carriers offered free access, but that was not available in the neighborhood surrounding our school. The district made efforts to get devices into the hands of all who needed them, but I am certain that some students were missed. There were hotspots set up in the parking lots of the schools, but many parents could not drive to the school each day and sit in the parking lot while their children completed their assignments. Some students had parents or other caregivers at home to make sure they were able to get online and attend class, but others had no one who could help them. Families with working parents may or may not have someone at home to help children with online learning. Those children without someone there to help them were often the ones who did not attend or did not have materials ready. Most heartbreakingly, there were the students who simply disappeared. Phone calls and emails to the parents went unanswered, and they never attended a single Zoom class or turned in any work. I do not know where they were, but they were not in school. NWEA, the developers of the MAP tests, investigated results from the fall 2020 administration of the tests, and discovered a large swath of missing scores—students who had taken the test in 2019-20, but did not take the fall 2020 administration. The data is alarming. “Across subjects and grades, the same pattern was observed: a larger fraction of attritors were ethnic/racial minority students, students with lower achievement in fall 2019, and students in schools with higher concentrations of socioeconomically-disadvantaged students� (Kuhfeld et al., 2020, p. 8). These students, already at risk, may have lost the most during the coronavirus pandemic. Implications for the Future I entered the 2020-21 school year with much trepidation. Our district offered two options for elementary students: virtual or face-to-face. Originally, the minute details of returning to the school building seemed overwhelming, but we are learning to manage. We devised an entire set of procedures centered around coronavirus issues. Teachers were initially expected to take their own temperature and complete a health questionnaire daily upon entry into the building, but that regulation has been somewhat relaxed. There is a red, orange, and yellow chart explaining the actions we should take if exposed to coronavirus. Students must wear a mask into the building but may take it off at their desk if they are six feet from other students. They have been issued face shields which they can wear instead of a mask. I have installed hooks on the side of their desks where they may hang their masks. All breakfast is eaten in the classrooms; some students eat lunch there as well. Most classrooms are self-contained; for departmentalized grades, teachers change classrooms instead of students. My classroom is one of the few that receives students from multiple homerooms, so I have a strict sanitize-in/sanitize-out policy, and each student cleans their desk before leaving. All these procedures are exhausting. This school year, I switched from a position in special education to one as a dyslexia teacher. I requested virtual teaching, but as the only dyslexia teacher on campus, I am teaching both face-to-face and virtual students, sometimes simultaneously. Some of the good, bad and inequitable aspects have been mitigated, while some have remained the same. I am back at the same school, and there are the same behavioral issues; however, it is no longer my job to control them. I can teach class without interruptions. With one exception (a student who returned to face-to-face instruction at the beginning of the second quarter) my online students are attending regularly. We still struggle with internet access,


sometimes having connectivity issues on the teacher side, sometimes on the student side. There are still students whose parents are heavily involved, and students whose parents take a more hands-off approach. I have observed that my virtual students are predominantly persons of color (80%), whereas only 56% of my face-to-face students are persons of color. This disparity reflects the findings of a national survey performed last July (Talev, 2020) which indicated that 89% of Black parents and 80% of Hispanic parents felt that returning to school was a “large or moderate risk,” while only 64% of White parents felt similarly. It can be anticipated that well-documented racial achievement gaps may be exacerbated by the inequities of virtual instruction. After some initial anxiety, I have settled into a routine—for now. The situation changes frequently, and I have had to be very flexible, giving grace to both myself and others. I have found that despite all the new coronavirus procedures, I am actually enjoying the face-to-face instruction more than virtual instruction. I do not have the same energy and enthusiasm for my current virtual classes as I do for my in-person classes, or as I did for my springtime virtual classes. After some reflection, I believe the main reason to be the presence or absence of relationships. During the initial crisis virtual teaching, I was able to springboard off of my preexisting relationships with my students. We shared the fear, adventure, and excitement of the new learning platform together. Because I am in a new position this fall, my students are new to me, and I have had no prior opportunity to get to know them. I have been better able to establish relationships with my face-to-face students than with my virtual students. Although we have a brief sharing time at the beginning of every class, whether virtual or face-to-face, in the virtual environment it has not been enough to develop the deep, caring relationship that is critical to student success (Birch & Ladd, 1997). These online students are less likely to speak during share time or during instructional time. The curriculum my district uses for dyslexia is highly structured, and as a teacher new to the program, I have felt obliged to follow it to the letter. The lessons are jam-packed, and I frequently struggle to make it through all of the scripted activities during a class period. Taking some of our precious class time for non-academic matters has seemed impractical, but perhaps I need to re-think my strategy. My students and I need to get to know each other better, find out each other’s likes, dislikes, hobbies, favorite TV shows and YouTubers. I need to be more open with my virtual students and let them see me as a person, not just as a teacher on a screen. If we are able to build a relationship with each other, both the students and I will be more energized and engaged in the virtual course. Perhaps a step backward to build relationships would lessen some of the inequities of virtual instruction and even result in an academic leap forward.

Mollie Kasper has six years’ experience teaching special education at the elementary level but is currently teaching the MTA program for dyslexics at Forney Independent School District in Forney, Texas. She is a certified reading specialist with a master’s degree from Texas A&M-Commerce. She can be reached at molliemc24@gmail.com.


References Birch, S.H. & Ladd, G.W. (1997). The teacher-child relationship and children’s early school adjustment. Journal of School Psychology, 35(1), 61–79. DiPietro, M., Ferdig, R.E., Black, E.W., & Preston, M. (2008). Best practices in teaching K-12 online: Lessons learned from Michigan Virtual School teachers. Journal of Interactive Online Learning 7(1), 10–35. http://www.ncolr.org/issues/jiol/v7/n1/best-practices-in-teaching-k-12-online-lessonslearned-from-michigan-virtual-school-teachers.html Fisher, D., Frey, N., Hattie, J. (2020). The distance learning playbook: Grades k-12. Corwin. Kuhfeld, M., Tarasawa, B., Johnson, A., Ruzek, E., & Lewis, K. (2020). Learning during COVID-19: Initial findings on students’ reading and math achievement and growth. NWEA Research. https://www.nwea.org/content/uploads/2020/11/Collaborative-brief-Learning-duringCOVID-19.NOV2020.pdf National Ranching Heritage Center. (2020). http://www.depts.ttu.edu/nrhc/Learn/ranchlife.php Office of Educational Technology. (2017). Reimagining the role of technology in education: 2017 National Education Technology Plan Update. U.S. Department of Education. http://tech.ed.gov Really Great Reading. (2015). https://www.reallygreatreading.com Talev, M., (2020, July 14). Axios-Ipsos poll: Americans fear return to school. Axios. https://www.axios.com/axios-ipsos-coronavirus-index-poll-parents-schools-riskccf95453-9f99-4e3a-a4cc-eb0188bf6da3.html

In a virtual environment, however, it is more difficult to help students overcome logistical difficulties. It is harder for students to see the teacher modeling a task and it is harder for the teacher to assess if the students are following along.


Chelsea K. Bradley Online Teaching in 2020: Tips for Finding Balance and Success as a Secondary Reading Teacher As the 2020 school year approached spring break, educators faced countless unknowns. Would teachers and students return to school after the time off? Would the COVID-19 pandemic continue to worsen? Would learning become 100% online? How would districts combat these unknowns? Many of the secondary reading teachers I worked with in my previous role as an instructional learning coach came to me with questions such as these. At the time, I did not have a clear answer for them. As the days continued, it became clear that educators would not return to school in their brick-and-mortar buildings; rather, teaching and learning were undergoing massive conversions in mere days to fit within online spaces. As districts scrambled to adjust and modify curriculum to fit within these new online learning spaces, many teachers began to panic. Regularly, teachers mentioned the same concern – online teaching was hard. It was taking up much more time than their already busy teaching load, and they were finding it difficult to find a balance. How could they continue to teach and support students as they did before, while also leaving room for themselves and their own families? While COVID-19 forced changes to occur more rapidly than educators would have encountered during a pandemic-free timeframe, online teaching is continuing to gain popularity (Allen & Seaman, 2010; Allen et al., 2016; Yuan & Kim, 2014). While not everyone who is currently teaching and learning online will continue to do so once the pandemic is over, online learning has a definite place in education. As I continued to virtually coach secondary reading teachers throughout the end of the 2020 school year, I engaged in conversations with them about how to find balance. As these conversations unfolded, it became clear that the concepts and insights from those conversations may prove helpful to others also thrust into online teaching. Before securing my current position as an assistant professor of reading, I worked part-time as an adjunct instructor for two universities for many years. During that time, my courses were mainly online, which proved to be beneficial as I assisted teachers in navigating their new roles within online learning spaces. As the teachers and I discussed the extensive fluidity of online teaching avenues, various tips and tricks were shared that had proved to be beneficial for me as an online instructor. The secondary reading teachers indicated at the time how helpful these tips were, and this seemed to merit sharing them with fellow educators. While at the time, the focus was on assisting secondary teachers of reading, these tips are applicable to teachers of all content areas and many age groups. The main tips shared with reading teachers regarding online teaching fall into four categories: planning, building, connecting, and grading. Planning Teachers may experience struggles with how to plan for an entire unit or quarter. Within online spaces, teachers might worry about whether they are requiring too much or too little, providing students with enough time to complete their assignments, and creating a space where collaboration could occur. Some of those characteristics differ based on the current students in one’s classroom, but the following tips may be helpful as educators begin to teach online.


One helpful planning tool is the backward planning design (Daughtery, 2006; Davidovitch, 2013; Ziegenfuss, 2019). By constructing courses and units using a backward planning design, teachers must focus on what students are expected to have learned at the end of the course or unit. “Backward course design forces instructors to move the focus of course design from course contents to outcomes” (Davidovitch, 2013, p. 332). Using this design provides answers to students regarding the following questions: "Why are we doing this assignment? What is its purpose, and will I ever use it in real life?" (Daugherty, 2006). This process helps ensure that teachers are truly teaching and assessing the learning outcomes that have been established. (Ziegenfuss, 2019, p. 108). When using the backward planning design, each teacher begins planning his or her unit, quarter, or course with the end goal in mind. Once teachers know where they want students to end up, they can more readily design assignments, choose and chunk texts, create projects, generate discussion boards, etc. to help students meet that end goal. Figure 1 is an example of a backward planning template for a unit. When implementing the backward planning technique, teachers determine what the final summative project will be, then typically build out each week, starting with the last and ending with the first, introductory week. The backward planning template can be copied front and back, since the two support one another. The first page of the template provides a space to plan out the overall unit, whereas the second page provides space for details outlining each individual lesson. The second page can be reproduced as many times as needed since some units may require more than six lessons to complete the summative assignment or activity. An additional helpful planning tip is to know in advance the various technological tools a teacher would like to use within his or her unit. It is beneficial to know how to access the tool, how it works, how one wants to incorporate it, and how the tool will support the curriculum, the text being used, one’s own teaching, and students’ learning. As teachers become cognizant about those areas, choosing tools to implement can seem less daunting, and teachers are better able to find tools that will ensure the focus remains on the learning of curriculum. Building In building courses, units, or lessons, one of the most valuable tips for constructing each is to be as detailed as possible. Being explicit and providing rich description is necessary in the classroom, but these concepts serve a fundamental purpose in an online learning space. There is no such thing as over explaining in an online classroom. Typically, I draft directions for a portion of the week, then add to it at least two additional times. Teachers should practice writing all directions for any item within a unit or course thorough enough that someone not in the class could complete that assignment, project, or presentation. Another helpful tip for building a successful unit or course incorporates the incredible technological tools that are available. There is an abundance of tools that support literacy development which can be effortlessly intertwined into our online learning spaces. When choosing tools to use within an online learning space, it is important for each teacher to be familiar with how the tool works and have a plan for how it might be used within his or her classroom. A few online tools that support literacy development consist of blogs, Wikis, Voicethread, discussion boards, and e-Books. Each of these tools can be implemented in a variety of ways across content areas as well. Blogs, Wikis, and discussion boards can all be used fairly interchangeably, but by relying on a variety of tools, educators can better engage students by providing an assortment of tools to use. Blogs, Wikis, and discussion boards offer students


Figure 1 Backward Planning Template


*Note. Please contact the author for an electronic copy of this template if desired.


spaces to communicate and learn from one another. These three tools allow students to post an original thread and comment on peers’ work. Students are able to read comments on their own work, which can be helpful in building knowledge, writing to a specific audience, and in getting answers to questions. Teachers are able to see all of the activity that occurs within these spaces, which allows them to assess learning and better plan for next steps. Voicethread is a website that contains an interactive tool which can be used to present information and engage in discussions. With Voicethread, students are able to record both video and audio, and upload images to share with classmates. In addition to recording original work, students can also record comments to peers. There is also the option to type responses within Voicethread, too. Voicethread offers a lot of choice for students, which assists in engagement. Lastly, e-Books can serve as an alternative to paper books, especially right now when paper books may be nearly impossible to obtain. Many e-Books allow students to take notes in the margins and highlight sections, which is helpful as they make meaning. While these concepts are geared more toward secondary-aged students, they can easily be used equally well in elementary grades, high school, and higher education. Connecting Once a course or unit is planned and built in its entirety, the focus shifts to implementation and connecting with students. One aspect of teaching, whether seated, blended, or online that plays an important role is community formation. Community is essential in any learning space (Jeong & Hmeol-Silver, 2016; Kozlov & Große, 2016; O’Donnell & O’Kelly, 1994; Springer, Stanne, & Donovan, 1999), but explicit community formation is even more important in online learning. Building relationships and connecting to teachers and classmates assists in the formation of community. One way to connect to others and build community in an online course is through the use of synchronous chats. Whether teachers use Zoom, Skype, Blackboard Collaborate, Canvas Conferences, or any other tool that affords video-conferencing, the ability to see classmates’ faces and speak with them in real time is central to feelings of successful community in an online course. Synchronous chats, even implemented as little as once a week, can assist students in feeling connected and finding success in their online learning spaces. In addition to synchronous chats, educators can share pictures and personal insights about their daily lives with students. Simply by sharing various pictures of family happenings, funny things a pet did, a delicious meal, or anything else interesting going on in the educator’s life can help students feel more connected to him or her as a person. In sharing pictures and stories, educators can encourage students to do the same, which supports feelings of connectedness and engagement. These pictures and stories can be shared alongside announcements or embedded within various parts of a lesson or unit. This type of community building and connecting is beneficial at any grade-level. Grading No matter the grade-level or learning platform, feedback and grades are incredibly important. The longer I teach in an online setting, the more I realize how essential immediate, authentic feedback is for my students. Since assignments are so detailed, students know the scrupulous requirements they must fulfill as they complete various projects. Secondary reading teachers often have in-depth, lengthy assignments which require a significant amount of time to grade. Rubrics assist this process and allow teachers to focus on main concepts within a lengthy assignment. Figure 2 is an example of a generic rubric I use for a variety of assignments. The


more consistent teachers can be, the more prepared they are to provide beneficial feedback to students, and the better prepared students are to turn in high-quality work. The rubric in Figure 2 is used to grade an assignment as a whole; then teachers can provide two to three specific points of feedback for each student. This rubric can be modified to fit a wide variety of activities, assignments, and grade-levels. Figure 2 Assessment Rubric

Depth of Reflection 70%

Language Use 20%

Conventions 10%






Demonstrates a conscious and thorough understanding of the writing prompt and the subject matter. This reflection can be used as a model for other students.

Demonstrates a thoughtful understanding of the writing prompt and the subject matter.

Demonstrates a basic understanding of the writing prompt and the subject matter.

Demonstrates a limited understanding of the writing prompt and the subject matter. This reflection requires revision.

Demonstrates little or no understanding of the writing prompt and subject matter. This reflection requires revision.

Uses stylistically sophisticated language that is precise and engaging, with notable sense of voice, awareness of audience and purpose, and varied sentence structure.

Uses language that is fluent and original, with an evident sense of voice, awareness of audience and purpose, and the ability to vary sentence structure.

Uses basic but appropriate language with a basic sense of voice, some awareness of audience and purpose, and some attempts to vary sentence structure.

Uses language that is vague or imprecise for the audience or purpose, with little sense of voice, and a limited awareness of how to vary sentence structure.

Uses language that is unsuitable for the audience and purpose with little or no awareness of sentence structure.

Demonstrates control of the conventions with essentially no errors, even with sophisticated language.

Demonstrates control of the conventions, exhibiting occasional errors only when using sophisticated language.

Demonstrates partial control of the conventions, exhibiting occasional errors that do not hinder comprehension.

Demonstrates limited control of the conventions, exhibiting frequent errors that make comprehension difficult.

Demonstrates little or no control of the conventions, making comprehension almost impossible.


Conclusion There are a lot of unknowns surrounding education right now. Many educators are unsure about how teaching will occur in the 2020-2021 school year. As districts turn to online learning, administrators and teachers must be prepared to support students in building learning communities as well as acquiring the knowledge needed to participate in literacies of the future. Whether teaching online, seated, or blended, the tips and tricks offered in this article are applicable and can assist in course and unit development. In implementing the above tips and tricks from this article, educators can better find a balance as they navigate teaching in online spaces. While many teachers long for the normalcy they were used to, online teaching has continued well into the fall semester, with no current indication of slowing down. The tips and tricks addressed in this article can not only help educators find balance between the demands of online teaching and everyday life but can also assist educators in feeling prepared to be successful in online teaching. Dr. Chelsea K. Bradley is Assistant Professor of Reading at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. She completed her doctorate in Reading Education at the University of Missouri-Columbia and previously served as a middle-school classroom teacher, reading specialist, and instructional coach for Springfield schools. She can be reached at ckbradley@ualr.edu.

References Allen, I. E., & Seaman, J. (2010). Learning on demand: Online education in the United States. Babson Survey Research Group. http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED529931.pdf Allen, I. E., Seaman, J, Poulin, R., & Straught, T. T. (2016). Online Report Card–Tracking Online Education in the United States, 2015. Online Learning Consortium. https://onlinelearningconsortium.org/read/online-report-card-tracking-online-educationunited-states-2015/ Daugherty, K. K. (2006). Backward course design: Making the end the beginning. American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, 70, 1-5. Davidovitch, N. (2013). Learning-centered teaching and backward course design—from transferring knowledge to teaching skills. Journal of International Education Research, 9(4), 329. Jeong, H., & Hmelo-Silver, C. E. (2016) Seven affordances of computer-supported collaborative learning: How to support collaborative learning? How can technologies help? Educational Psychologist, 51(2), 247-265. doi:10.1080/ 00461520.2016.1158654 Kozlov, M., & Große, C. S. (2016). Online collaborative learning in dyads: Effects of


knowledge distribution and awareness. Computers in Human Behavior, 59, 389-401. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2016.01.043 O’Donnell, A. M., & O’Kelly, J. (1994). Learning from peers: Beyond the rhetoric of positive results. Educational Psychology Review, 6, 321–349. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/BF02213419 Springer, L., Stanne, M. E., & Donovan, S. S. (1999). Effects of small-group learning on undergraduates in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology: A meta-analysis. Review of Educational Research, 69(1), 21–51. http://journals.sagepub.com.proxy.mul.missouri.edu/doi/pdf/10.3102/ 00346543069001021 Walker, April. (n.d.). Teachers Pay Teachers. https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/ Unit-Plan-Template-for-Understanding-by-Design-freebie-1904918?st=dd1fd64973117 d8b90da38e5179b9a92 Yuan, J., & Kim, C. (2014). Guidelines for facilitating the development of learning communities in online courses. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 30(3), 220-232. doi:10.1111/jcal.12042 Ziegenfuss, D. H. (2019). Information literacy and instruction: Backward design: A must-have library instructional design strategy for your pedagogical and teaching toolbox. Reference & User Services Quarterly, 59(2), 107-112. doi: http://0-dx.doi.org.library.ualr.edu/ 10.5860/rusq.59.2.7275">10.5860/rusq.59.2.7275

As I continued to virtually coach secondary reading teachers throughout the end of the 2020 school year, I engaged in conversations with them about how to find balance. As these conversations unfolded, it became clear that the concepts and insights from those conversations may prove helpful to others also thrust into online teaching.


Teacher to Teacher

H. Brian Thompson Involving Parents in the Writing Process with Elementary Students Teaching elementary students to write clearly and effectively remains a challenge for this veteran teacher. Increased demands related to state-mandated testing, the never-ceasing demands for our teaching time, and the lack of motivation I encounter from many of my fourth-grade students in regard to writing continues to make the teaching of writing a laborious, timeconsuming, and unpleasant experience for me and many of my fellow teachers. I teach in a K-5 elementary school set within a suburb consisting primarily of white, working class families. The majority of my writing instruction occurs following a writers’ workshop model. Juggling the tasks of teaching, conferencing, and monitoring student engagement proves daunting. There is never enough time, especially for conferencing. In an attempt to tackle this overwhelming issue, I began seeking help with the conferencing stage, especially focused on the revising and editing stages of the writing process. Literature Review As a means to improve my students’ writing abilities, as well as create a classroom environment in which writing becomes seen as important and valued, I embarked on an action research project (Ferrance, 2000) seeking to involve parents in the writing process of my students. Action research by definition “refers to a disciplined inquiry done by a teacher with the intent that the research will inform and change his or her practices in the future” (Ferrance, 2000, p. 1). Carried out within the confines of my classroom, I sought to answer the question: Can parents be utilized to effectively and efficiently help improve their child’s writing as a complimentary extension of the writing instruction I provide? Research regarding parental involvement with student reading is widely established. However, research regarding parental involvement related to writing instruction is extremely limited. However, a couple of studies do show promise and confirm that parental involvement bolsters students’ writing development (Scanlan, 2012; Zurcher, 2016). Zurcher (2016) concluded that time spent coordinating and communicating with parents about writing instruction “will be recovered and multiplied in the future as parents become allies in the writing classroom” (p. 368). Furthermore, benefits of parental involvement extended to gifted students, students from low-socioeconomic families, and students from culturally and racially diverse backgrounds (Zurcher, 2016). Scanlan (2012) conducted an action research project with Year 2 students in England (approximately 2nd grade in the U.S.) focusing on low-achieving boys looking at the home-school connection with writing. The quantity and quality of student writing improved significantly, due primarily to prioritizing “choice and ownership,” as well as playing to the social nature of the writing process by increasing talk at home between parent and child (Scanlan, 2012, p. 10). Methods Extending Zurcher’s (2016) research involving parents, I introduced an opinion essay writing unit to my 22 fourth-grade students through a series of mini-lessons and model passages.


Students then brainstormed topics they held strong opinions about and started an initial draft. After an initial draft was completed, students partnered up and peer edits were completed. As was typical with the majority of my fourth-grade students’ writing, initial drafts, even after peer edits, lacked organization, details, and convincing facts or arguments to back their opinions, not to mention a plethora of spelling and mechanical errors. The task of assisting every student to both strengthen their arguments and better organize their essays was daunting. It was time to involve the parents. First Parent Involvement Each rough draft was collected and stapled to a parent letter clearly explaining the assignment, the final format requirements, and asking for their help both with assisting their child in thinking through their reasons for holding the opinion they chose as well as with basic edits related to spelling, grammar, and mechanics (see Appendix A). Parents were then asked to read their child’s essay and make notes on the hardcopy draft. The students were then to bring them back to school to make any revisions and edits during class time. I do not feel my students are unique in their struggle with revisions and edits, specifically reorganizing their essays, usually because they do not want to have to rewrite it. Asking the parent to mark on the draft was intended to show students the editing process. It was also important to me for my students to see feedback from someone other than their teacher, so it was not simply the teacher “marking up” their papers, which they equate with a “wrong” answer or as negative. In Figures 1, 2, and 3, I have included an example of Emmalee’s (a pseudonym and used with permission) progress through the writing process (not every draft is included) from initial Figure 1 Initial draft of Emmalee’s “Up With Trees” (with mom’s markings)


Figure 2 Emmalee’s mother’s extended notes and feedback (next steps)

Figure 3 Final draft of Emmalee’s “Up With Trees” opinion essay


draft to final publication. I have also included the parent’s feedback, edit marks, and even included a “to-do” list the parent made for her child to follow during writers’ workshop the following day in class. The student work and corresponding parent feedback in these figures were representative of a majority of the class. Parents provided sufficient proofreading marks for their child to make necessary edits. Five of the students’ essays initially lacked substance and focus. The parent feedback provided critical conversations and allowed the students to expand their writing to produce a much higher quality product. Second Parent Involvement Shortly after the successful completion of an opinion essay using parent feedback, I wanted to attempt a different genre to determine if the results were replicable. We then embarked on an expository piece researching each student’s favorite animal. This genre required much more research requiring each student to navigate through internet searches and determine meaningful information. This unit required several mini-lessons with explicit instruction on conducting research using internet search engines. We also perused multiple expository model texts, looking specifically at how other authors arranged their information and used multiple text features. Once I clearly defined the report requirements, students chose their topic and began a rough draft. This assignment also differed in that the final product was to be a GoogleSlides presentation with plenty of pictures and images (as we noticed with our exemplar texts) that could be printed out and made into a book format. The students eagerly got to work. After an initial draft was finished, I printed out each student’s “book” and sent it home in the same manner as with the opinion essay, with a cover letter asking parents to offer feedback, make notes, and provide encouragement. (Examples of student work during the expository unit are included in Appendix B.) Results and Discussion Parental involvement increased during the expository assignment, from approximately 50% in the first assignment to about 75% for the expository report. I attribute this increase to the familiarity with the process by the students. Students that did not take their writing home for parents to help edit the first time noticed their peers getting valuable feedback. Their peers were also able to proceed to publication much more quickly. There were several advantages I experienced when involving parents in the teaching of writing. The time it took to complete a unit significantly decreased, allowing for more writing to occur. What normally took over a week, if not more, to get through all of the individual conferences, lessened to three to four days. This reduction in time spent allowed students more free-choice writing time during writer’s workshop. Several students would publish one essay or report and then ask if they could do another! Motivation for writing was noticeably improved. My conferences also took on a different feel. Of course, there were some students with limited familial support, for whom I continued to provide all the feedback and guidance during conferences. But primarily I was able to focus more attention on my struggling students and reluctant writers. Another pleasant outcome was the fact that I could also focus more on helping students polish their final drafts for publication, which in the past was often rushed in order to meet a deadline and move on to the next unit. Final products were of much better quality, and student motivation increased as did their pride in their work.


The revision and editing stages of the writing process were beginning to be seen by students as a beneficial means by which to grow and become better writers. Many began to see feedback, not as a judgement toward them that they are “bad” at writing, but that all writing can always be improved. This practice was thereby able to reinforce the recursive nature of the writing process. Finally, the majority of the final products noticeably improved in quality and substance from what I had been previously getting from my students. Parent feedback was often more focused and more elaborate than what I would have given during conferences, as evidenced in their notes and edit marks. I typically would have focused on one or two main teaching points. Discussion of the writing assignments occurred during parent/teacher conferences with several of the parents. Through these conferences, it was confirmed to me that parents indeed had meaningful conversations with their children because of this process, thus pushing the students’ thinking about topics that were important to them. This ultimately resulted in much more convincing arguments in the opinion essays than I typically receive from fourth-grade students. Ultimately parents were more than able and willing to assist their child in the development and refinement of their essays and reports. Several parents commented during conferences about their child’s abilities, or lack thereof. Parents were initially disheartened when they encountered their fourth grader refusing to begin sentences with capital letters or use punctuation marks throughout their writing, basic skills that I had to remind students of continuously and which further cut into valuable teaching time. Parents were not only able to reinforce the necessity of basic writing mechanics with their child but did so in tandem with the teacher. Both the students’ improved writing ability and the cooperation between parent and teacher had lasting effects on many of the students throughout the school year. Conclusion As with most action research, this research was undertaken to facilitate change that is believed to be needed, as well as be an ongoing formative process guiding one’s pedagogy. Through this research, and based on the outcomes I noticed, I concluded that not only is it possible to ask parents for help, but the benefits received in both increased writing ability of the students and the parents’ understanding of their child’s academic level make this an invaluable teaching tool I will continue to use and apply to multiple genres and writing units in the future.

Dr. H. Brian Thompson teaches fourth grade at Limestone Elementary in Sand Springs, Oklahoma. He recently finished a PhD in Language, Literacy, and Culture at Oklahoma State University where he is also employed as an adjunct. He can be reached at thomphb@ostatemail.okstate.edu


References Ferrance, E. (2000). Themes in education: Action research. LAB at Brown University. https://www.brown.edu/academics/education-alliance/sites/brown.edu.academics.educationalliance/files/publications/act_research.pdf Scanlan, M. (2012). ‘Cos um it like put a picture in my mind of what I should write’: an exploration of how home--school partnership might support the writing of lower-achieving boys. British Journal of Learning Support, 27(1), 4-10. Zurcher, M. (2016). Partnering with parents in the writing classroom. The Reading Teacher, 69(4), 367376. Appendix A Example of parent letter sent home


Appendix B Example of parent feedback given for expository writing.

Note: This parent focused feedback mainly on the text features of captions, font, and visual appearance, which was the focus of the lesson. The student was able to redesign the book into a much more visually appealing and informative piece of writing.


Children’s Book Reviews RECOMMENDED: BOOKS THAT CHALLENGE, DELIGHT, AND INSPIRE Sue Christian Parsons, Ph.D. Fall 2020: Just what we need 2020 will go down in history as a challenging time. We know, though, when things get tough we can always find sustenance and inspiration in a good book. This list focuses on great books that emerged this year. I’ve added a couple of gems from last year that remind us of what really matters, and I share a word from authors Janet Wong and Sylvia Vardell about new books ready to launch. These books are filled with laughter, love, wisdom, inspiration, perspective, and possibility. They encourage us to relish what we have and also try new things. They inspire us to find treasures where we never expected them. They remind us to look at the world and ourselves in wonder. And, as Oga Mora reminds us, when the things that bring you joy are cancelled, when your expectations are dashed, pause, close your eyes, and let out a deep breath—then go on expecting splendid. It’s still here. Brand new for 2020 Every Night is Pizza Night by J. Kenzi López-Alt (author) and Gianna Ruggiero (artist). Norton Young Readers Pipo is positively passionate about pizza. In fact, it is all she wants for dinner. Her pizza-weary parents try to entice her with other options, but Pipo knows pizza “Is. The. BEST.” She has “done the tests to prove it.” When her parents point out that eating pizza in different ways doesn’t count as data-rich research, Pipo reluctantly concedes. To be absolutely sure pizza is the best food, she must sample other fare. Her neighborhood provides the perfect natural laboratory. Pipo samples food at various friends’ houses, approaching each new experience with the refrain, “I do not need it. I do not want it. But I will try it.” And try she does—bibimbap, tagine, red beans and rice, dumplings—and she loves them all! But are any of them better than pizza? Her friend Mr. Gonzales agrees that pizza is best, “but it’s not the only best.” Best depends on the moment and the best of all is people you love to share food and life with you. The text is spiced with word play, humor, and sizable serving of science. Ruggiero’s artwork shifts tone along with the story, including bursts of color and heady swirls as Pipo relishes her food.


I Am Every Good Thing by Derek Barnes (author) and Gordon C. James (artist). Nancy Paulson Books. Before you launch into the text, stop to peer into each beautiful face snuggled together in the endpaper collage portrait of Black boys. Turn a few pages to find the first image, a Black boy in a billowing superhero cape, arm outstretched as in flight, brilliant smile. “I am a nonstop ball of energy. Powerful and full of light. I am a go-getter. A difference maker. A leader.” Then, page after page, relish meeting each boy engaging with curiosity, kindness, energy, resilience, and joy. James’ vibrant portraits illustrate Barnes’s metaphor-driven narrative, a first-person narrative recounting all the many good things Black boys are. Readers will be caught up in the swell of this joyful litany, honoring and celebrating, so when the narrative subdues for a moment, they are likely to lean in and really listen--“Although I am something like a superhero, every now and then I am afraid. I am not what they might call me, and I will not answer to any name that is not my own. I am what I say I am.” Digging for Words: José Alberto Guitierréz and the Library He Built by Angela Burke Kunkel (author) and Paula Escobar (artist). Schwartz & Wade. When José Alberto Guitierréz was young, he had to leave school because his mother couldn’t afford tuition. He went to work as a bricklayer but looked forward each day to his mother reading to him in the evening. Those moments were, he thought, paradise. Years later when working as a garbage collector, he rescued a copy of Anna Karenina from the trash. He read it again and again—paradise! After that first book, Jose searched every night for book treasures in the trash, eventually gathering enough to make a library in his home. He named it “Paradise.” Now every Saturday, he opens his doors for the neighborhood children to stream inside where he helps them dig through the books to find a treasure to take home and read. Kunkel’s debut picture book is at once a deftly crafted biography and a homage to the glory of a good book. References to well-known books may be lost initially on young readers but allow opportunities for discovery and extension. Columbian artist Escobar depicts Bogota with accuracy and warmth and the settings of the book’s characters read with enthusiasm. Portraits of Guitierrez radiate kindness. Back matter includes an author’s note, telling more about Guitierrez who today, in addition to running his library, heads a foundation called La Fuerza de los Palabras that provides reading material to schools, organizations, and libraries in Columbia and has garnered world-wide recognition.


Robobaby by David Wiesner. Clarion Books. In this delightful romp, a robot family is excited to welcome their newest child, but first they need to assemble their new bundle of joy. The parents, Diode (Di) and Lugnut (Lug), struggle with the task while big sister Cathy (short for Cathode), toolbox and tech knowledge at the ready, offers repeatedly to help. Dad is flummoxed—baby assembly has changed since they put Cathy together. Mom thinks she’s got it, but her assemblage falls apart. Uncle Manny adds his own special flair to the assembly so the resulting baby can’t function correctly. A call to the emergency hotline brings technicians to the house but they just add to the chaos. Finally, Cathy sends in the family dog to fetch the baby from the hapless adults so she can assemble her sibling herself, as she does brilliantly to the appreciation of the adults. The design hearkens back to midcenturystyle futurism, with “classic” orb-and-bolt spaceships and modular house pods. Humor abounds. Cheers to the STEM girls! Little Wise Wolf by Gijs van der Hammen (author) and Hanneke Siemensma (artist). Translated by Laura Watkinson. Kids Can Press. Little Wise Wolf reads like a classic folktale but with the generous grace of Milne’s Pooh stories. Little Wise Wolf reads and reads to learn all he can, but when other animals in the woods ask him for help and advice, he keeps his door closed to them. With so much to read, he doesn’t have time for them. One day he receives a letter begging him to use his wisdom to heal the sick king. Reluctantly, Little Wise Wolf sets out on his own to make the long journey to the castle. The other animals, worried about his making the journey alone, decide to secretly follow along to make sure he’s okay. When the little wolf gets lost and scared, he is surprised and relieved to find his friends there to provide food, warmth, and comfort and to help him find his way again. Little Wise Wolf does use his book knowledge to heal the king but realizes he is not as wise as he thought and has a lot to learn from his friends back home. Siemensma’s textured and layered illustrations are softly lush. Along with the gentle, straightforward narration, the entire book gently imparts an important lesson. Heartbeat by Doe Doyle (author) and Daniel Long (artist). Albert Whitman & Company. A hummingbird’s heart beats one thousand times in a minute, a fact Doe Doyle learned that so fascinated her, she researched and wrote this book. Eleven animals in all are addressed with human beings rounding out the dozen. Each animal is given a two-page spread featuring a carefully crafted exposition of the animal’s heart at work along with additional facts about the


animal’s life and habits, and bold graphic illustrations. The poems across the book display a wide range of poetic devices, with rhythm and onomatopoeia often taking center stage to demonstrate the varied beats. Because the text starts with the tiny pygmy shrew and progresses to larger animals, the reader may quickly assume that heartbeat speed is determined solely by size, but Doyle challenges that generalization and invites critical analysis by introducing animals whose heartbeat rates adapt to factors besides size. The book ends with a focus on the human heart and what it does, including a clear, labeled diagram. Fascinating. Little Fox by Edward van de Vendel (author) and Marije Tolman. Translated by David Colmer. Little Fox is an unexpected gem of a picture book that invites readers to read and ponder again and again. The initial action unfolds wordlessly through brightly colored animal characters against a background of tinted monochrome landscape photos. Little Fox is playing happily, watching, chasing, and cavorting with birds. The narration joins the images as Little Fox “races along behind two butterflies because they are purple.” In his enthusiasm, he chases them straight off a cliff, landing with a thud and lying motionless below. In a dream sequence that follows, Little Fox replays his life so far, warm memories from infancy, playing with his siblings, and exploring the world. He also hears his father again urging him to not be so curious because “too nosy is dead nosy.” He remembers a terrifying episode when he got his head stuck in a glass bottle, and he remembers a boy who helped him. In his dream, he sees himself lying motionless at the bottom of the cliff. “How,” he wonders, “did things turn out like that for Little Fox?” Outside of the dream, we see the boy from the dream appear, lift the limp fox, and take him back to his den where, happily, he awakes. Your Place in the Universe by Jason Chin. Neal Porter Books. Jason Chin is a master at making the huge comprehensible to readers, whether huge ideas (gravity, evolution) or huge things and places (redwood trees, coral reefs, the Grand Canyon). In this book, he does both, addressing the enormity of the universe and exploring the age-old question of what (or who?) might be out there. Like any good teacher, he begins where the reader is, in this case with a group of 8year-olds on a hill with a telescope, then launches into a quickly expanding play with comparisons. For instance, the children are 5 times as tall as this book but only half as tall as an ostrich, and the ostrich is a little less than half as tall as a giraffe. Each object/animal appears suddenly upon mention,


crowding into the pages. At the bottom of the page, Chin offers brief facts about each new arrival. A turn of the page expands the view and takes it to new heights—redwoods are shorter than the tallest buildings that are still shorter than our highest mountains, but not even Everest reaches into space. And with a turn of a page and a twist of the book to accommodate a dramatic vertical spread, Chin launches the reader into a guided tour of the universe. Drawing heavily on comparison/contrast and clear, succinct description, and offering an array of carefully crafted visuals (charts, labeled illustrations, etc.), Chin explores the relatively near (our sun, the moon’s orbit, space stations and satellites, our solar system, our Milky Way galaxy) and beyond. In a deft merging of image and explanation, Chin shows how galaxies are clustered in groups that come together in clusters that expand into the cosmic web that continues far beyond what we can see with any tool at our disposal. Your Place in the Universe makes understanding the enormity of the universe accessible for 8-year-olds and other readers. Intriguing back-matter offers more information on using scale to understand size and additional expository descriptions on central concepts, including reference to Earth as a Goldilocks planet with “just right” conditions for supporting life. Are there others out there? You Matter by Christian Robinson. Antheneum Books for Young Readers. You matter. There is no more essential message for a human being, but in a complicated world, it’s hard to believe it sometimes. If all there was to this book was Robinson’s straightforward, reassuring, encouraging poem paired with his whimsical illustrations, that would be enough. But this is a book with many facets, shining light from all angles. Robinson opens with a contemporary girl looking through a microscope as the text reminds us that even the stuff too small to see matters in the world—a scientific truth, but a metaphorical one, too. At times, each of us feels too small to be seen. The visual story shifts to the history of Earth (creatures moving from water to land, dinosaurs with an asteroid on the way), offered in counterpoint to the simple text to suggest an interdependence across time and place. The visuals shift again, back to contemporary life, zooming in briefly to show and touch the stories of the unnamed individual characters featured on the book cover. Robinson keeps it real. Sometimes life is really hard. Sometimes someone you love leaves. Sometimes you need help. “Sometimes you feel lost and alone,” even in a crowd. But the entire, intricately woven narrative is infused all with hope, love, and community. You matter. And all will be well. Not as new, but just what we need Saturday by Oge Mora. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers Ava and her mother look forward to Saturday all week long. Saturdays are splendid! Saturdays are special! On Saturdays, Ava’s mother doesn’t go to work, and they spend the whole day together, going to the library, getting their hair done, and picnicking in the park. This Saturday was going to be even better because they had tickets to a “one-night-only puppet show!” Ava and her mother launch their day excitedly, but things do not go as planned. Storytime is cancelled, their new hairdos get ruined


by the splash from a passing car, and the park is too crowded and loud. With each disappointment, Ava and her mother pause, close their eyes, let out a deep breath, and look forward to what is next. But when Ava’s mother realizes she forgot the tickets to the show, she breaks down, distraught that she has “ruined Saturday.” Ava closes her eyes, lets out a deep breath, and tells her mother what a special day it has been because they spent it together. Mora’s collage illustrations echo the ebullient style of her Caldecott-winning, Thank You, Obu! and the sweet story reminds readers what really makes life special and splendid. What is Given from the Heart by Patricia McKissack (author) and April Harrison (artist). Schwartz & Wade. From the lovely dedication (artist Harrison recalls reading McKissak’s books to her children and writes a letter of appreciation to the late author) to the joyful ending, What is Given From the Heart is the tenderest of books. Mama and James Otis were “poor before” his father died, but now they struggle even more, and the blows keep coming. But they are making it through and have each other to hold onto. Valentine’s Day is approaching, so the church congregation is putting together “love boxes” to share with the needy in the community. On Sunday morning, the pastor shares news of a mother and child who just lost their home in a house fire, adding them to the love box list. Mama and James Otis give from the very little they have, with faith that “what is given from the heart, reaches the heart.” Their gifts, an apron sewn from Mama’s only tablecloth and a book created by James Otis with his broken crayons, are received gratefully. As they walk home from church, relishing the joy of giving, they are surprised and delighted to find a love box on their own porch. Coming soon! From poetry mavens Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong, two great volumes debuting this fall. Hop to It: Poems to Get You Moving edited by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong. Pomelo Books. Release date: Oct. 15, 2020 Take a break—hop to it!—with our new anthology of poems for young readers, all focused on helping kids MOVE—from nose to toes! They can climb like a cat, sign the phrase watch me, or do a binky rabbit dance. Along with 100 new poems, we’ve included STEM and social studies connections, thematic mini-lessons, read aloud tips, and extensive back matter featuring useful activities to help maximize student learning and social-emotional development. They’ll discover fun factoids such as why pigeons make good messengers, who invented jumping jacks, and how sleeping can help you learn a new language. We’ve included pandemic poetry about wearing masks and virtual learning, plus poems that inspire young people to stand up and speak out. You’ll find a diverse and inclusive roster of 90 poets, from Alma Flor Ada to Zetta Elliott to Margarita Engle to Jack Prelutsky. You can share a new poem or two every week and get kids thinking and moving as they read aloud their favorite poems using pantomime, sign language, and whole-body movements—including deskercise!


A World Full of Poems edited by Sylvia Vardell. DK Books. Release date: Oct. 6, 2020 I’m so excited to share news about a new poetry anthology that I edited, A World Full of Poems to be released October 6, 2020 by DK Books. The international variety of poems and perspectives encourages children, grades K-5, to see the poetry in everything around them and to embrace the little moments of their everyday lives. It features the work of 110 poets, including voices from the U.S., the U.K. such as Douglas Florian, Nikki Grimes, Georgia Heard, Carol Ann Duffy, and Colin West and beyond, as well as a handful of classic poets from the past—all interpreted in whimsical ways by London illustrator Sonny Ross. The poems are gathered together in eight thematic sections from personal subjects like emotions and family, to the wonders of the natural environment and the challenges and rewards of learning in school. It concludes with a variety of fun poetry activities for children and families to get kids sharing, talking, drawing, and writing.

Suzii Parsons believes that books truly matter in the lives of young people. She is the Jacques Munroe Professor of Reading and Literacy at Oklahoma State University. You can contact her at sue.parsons@okstate.edu.


Policy and Advocacy Dr. Julie Collins

Oklahoma Policy and Advocacy Oklahoma Reading Education and Assessment Legislation The first section of this column is to update you on recent Oklahoma legislation affecting literacy assessment and education. In 2019, Representative Mike Sanders was the principal author of House Bill 1228 which requires dyslexia awareness training annually beginning with the 2020-2021 school year. Requirements of the new section of law include that the training should, at a minimum, include awareness of dyslexia characteristics in students, effective classroom instruction to meet the needs of students with dyslexia, and available dyslexia resources for teachers, students and parents. If you have not yet had a training session about dyslexia at your school or in your district, you may want to check these resources which can be used or which may have training suggestions for you and your colleagues. You can find the enrolled (final) version of the bill here. The updates are in section F. The Oklahoma Dyslexia Handbook (2019), which is available at the bottom of this page on the Oklahoma State Department of Education site. Additional instructional resources on the Oklahoma State Department of Education site include these for resources, assistive technology, and instruction. During the 2020 Oklahoma Legislative session, Representative Mike Sanders was the principal author of House Bill 2804. This bill requires students in Kindergarten, 1 , 2 , and 3 grades who do not meet grade level targets at the beginning of the year on assessments required by the Reading Sufficiency Act to be screened for dyslexia. Students may also be referred for testing by their parents or specified school personnel. The dyslexia screening requirement will begin with the 2022-2023 school year. In preparation for enacting this new screening requirement the Oklahoma State Board of Education will develop policies by July 1, 2021. These policies will address the definition and characteristics of dyslexia and related language disorders and the processes for referral, notification of parents, and monitoring student progress. The Board of Education will also approve a list of approved screening assessments that address: phonological awareness, advanced phonemic awareness, sound symbol recognition, alphabet knowledge, decoding and encoding skills, rapid naming, and developmental language. The bill includes reporting requirements. The Oklahoma State Department of Education will provide training on best practices for dyslexia screening as funding is available beginning in the 20212022 school year. st



You can find the enrolled (final) version of the bill here. This link provides information about dyslexia evaluation but is not specific to this bill.


Policy and Advocacy during a Pandemic This year, perhaps more than in other recent years, teachers may hear about, and feel, the effects of national, state, and local educational discussions and decisions. Trying to make the best decisions for teachers and students during the pandemic has been challenging, and it has become clear that not everyone will be pleased with all of the decisions. You may have found yourself in a position to advocate for yourself, your colleagues, and/or your students during the past months as schools closed and then reopened in a variety of environments this fall. If you talked to your principal or members of your school board about your preferences regarding starting school, pat yourself on the back! You advocated for yourself, your colleagues, and your students. Educators aim to base decisions on research. What has been done previously? What does research suggest would work well with our population of students? But in 2020 we find that we do not have research results directly applicable to our situation on which to rely in order to make decisions. Education leaders are relying on health research and information as much as, or more than, education research in deciding how to conduct school in the 2020-2021 school year. Administrators need to feel certain that decisions about opening school buildings are based on whether students, teachers, and staff members will be in sanitized environments and be able to be socially distanced during classes as well as passing periods, lunch, and recess. They have to decide whether or not to require faculty, staff, and students to wear masks, and how that process will be managed. In addition to health concerns, attention must be given to instruction. If students are attending school in person, how will classrooms and hallways be configured? Many teachers I know have had to separate desks and turn them all to be facing forward, instead of having them in small groups. Many teachers are keeping seating charts and lineup charts so that contact tracing can be completed if someone in the group tests positive for COVID19. Limitations on how close students can be to one another limit instructional strategies many teachers rely on in their classrooms for students to talk to one another, read together in pairs, and participate in games and activities to reinforce skills and solve problems in small groups. Teachers, students, and, in some cases, parents helping their children, are being challenged to complete online coursework whether they are participating school online, part-time within a hybrid model, as part of a face-to-face model, or while quarantining. Teachers are working to utilize a variety of learning platforms including ZOOM, Google Meet, Google Drive, and Google Classroom, as well as a variety of apps to assist in lesson and assignment delivery and completion, including Google Slides, Canvas, SeeSaw, Epic (online books), Clever, Quizlet, Wakelet, Loom, and Mastery Connect, and probably many others. Students, and in some cases parents, are working hard to be able to participate in live class sessions and navigate the learning platforms to watch videos of their teachers, complete assignments, and submit those assignments to their teachers. These Oklahoma State Department of Education sites include information about meeting students' needs and legal guidance about serving students during the COVID-19 Pandemic. One concern with online instruction centers around student privacy. This is true at all levels from PreK-12 grade to post-secondary undergraduate and graduate students. The first th


issue is whether all students have access to technology at home. Do they have a smartphone that everyone shares? Or a laptop or desktop computer? Are they familiar with working the device(s)? And, beyond knowing how to use the device, are they able to connect to the internet to participate? Internet access could be limited due to financial barriers or reliable internet services not being available in their geographic area. Some schools have been able to provide devices, and in some cases hotspots for connectivity, to students to help rectify this situation. Privacy concerns also include decisions about who is shown on the screen, allowing everyone privacy if they want it, and yet wanting to be able to see students participating in class. Requiring students to be seen online could be problematic if it exposes living or family situations that they do not want to have made public, and that can be a bigger issue for them if the class sessions are recorded. I teach at the University of Central Oklahoma and we let students know that they may not record sessions or let other people watch the classes with them in order to protect all students’ privacy. We are allowed to record our zoom meetings, but still need to practice respect when addressing students’ concerns about potential requirements to be “seen” in the zoom. Some teachers would appreciate some norms being implemented, such as students (and family members who can be seen in online class sessions) being appropriately dressed and working in an appropriate learning environment. Oklahoma is now in the process of analyzing, and re-analyzing, the statistics about COVID-19 spread in school buildings, districts, cities, counties, and across the entire state. Many districts have set guidelines for numbers of cases in the area which would provide data points for whether students should attend school in person or whether they need to be moved to virtual learning. If your district is making and following decisions that you feel are keeping you and your students safe and for you to be able to teach and the students able to learn, let them know. Advocating includes positive feedback to policy and decision makers when you agree with them, in addition to letting them know what action you would like taken. If you see them making decisions that do not match the reported COVID-19 data, let them know. You can email, call, send letters, or organize peaceful demonstrations. It can be challenging to speak up, especially to your employer. Sometimes people find strength in the support of a group of friends, colleagues, or parents. Each time you speak up it will become easier as your confidence grows. I recently read about what has been seen as the unfair implementation of the various teaching platforms on teachers. The fact that many teachers are having to do twice the work that they have done in teaching a class, or a day full of classes at the secondary level, in person are now being expected to also provide online resources for content learning and create videos of themselves teaching. Providing all of these services is causing teachers to essentially work the equivalent of two full time jobs, and I imagine that some of you feel like you are working more than that. This creates a multitude of issues. Obviously, the number of hours that many teachers are working is not fair based on expectations of what full time work should demand. Many teachers work more than forty hours a week already, and these requirements may be causing many more hours of work. These expectations may include steep learning curves and additional training in learning platforms. Teachers, please know that we see you and we appreciate your dedication and commitment to your students and your profession! We know that you are giving your all and that this process is exhausting. We know that you want the best for your students, your colleagues,


and yourself. Please continue being the authentic people you are and advocate for best practices for you and your students.

Dr. Julie Collins enjoyed all of her literacy experiences in Oklahoma City, Norman, and Putnam City Public Schools and at the OSDE, before becoming a Professor at the University of Central Oklahoma. She can be contacted at JCollins18@uco.edu.


Research Summary Dr. Linda McElroy

Important Lessons from “Connected Reading: A Framework for Understanding How Adolescents Encounter, Evaluate, and Engage with Texts in the Digital Age” Writing this column in the Fall 2020 as we all experienced teaching in the midst of a pandemic encouraged me to look for current research-based information that would be helpful as teachers are adapting and supporting readers in a world that has had to transition to new ways of thinking and new ways of “doing school.” A 2019 article from Reading Research Quarterly, “Connected Reading: A Framework for Understanding How Adolescents Encounter, Evaluate, and Engage with Texts in the Digital Age” by Kristen Hawley Turner, Troy Hicks, and Lauren Zucker gives thoughtful information as we approach the new challenges. Authors of the focus article wanted to explore what, where, and how adolescents read digitally. They wanted to describe the specific texts that adolescents are reading in digital spaces, what devices they prefer, and the strategies they use as they read online and on e-reading devices. The theoretical framework for the research was reader-response theory (Rosenblatt, 1978), with the emphasis on ways that an individual reader interacts with any text, dependent on that reader’s background, as well as on the text and the context in which it is read. Based on this research study, the authors developed a framework for understanding the ways that adolescents choose and interact with varied types of texts. An important awareness for teachers is that when students are reading digital texts, they each create unique texts as they choose which links to follow within the digital spaces. The end of the article elaborates on some instructional applications that teachers can implement with students. Developing a New Reading Model—and More The specific article cited here describes a focus study that was part of a larger study; the focus study participants were adolescents between the ages of 13 and 18 from 12 classrooms in four states. Of the 804 participants in the original survey, the researchers purposefully selected 23 teens based on their responses on the survey and conversations with teachers who were asked to participate in an interview. The selection of the participants was designed to provide a broad and varied participant pool: males and females, honors and struggling students, and students who valued digital reading as well as those who did not, racial/ethnic diversity, English learners, and students with 504 diagnoses. The researchers developed five hypothetical profiles of different types of readers (avid readers, readers of multimodal texts including games, and reluctant readers) that also referenced a variety of print and non-print texts and devices. During the interview, the students were asked to explain what they liked or did not like about each profile and indicate the one with which they most identified. Reviewing the literature on reading models and processes, the researchers realized that no existing model accounted for what digital readers do. Using the data they gained from the original survey and these interviews, the researchers first developed a framework or reading model grounded in Rosenblatt’s reading-response theory that they called “connected


reading.” They described and explained the model in their 2015 book (Turner & Hicks, 2015). The main components of this framework are: Encountering In the process of encountering texts, teens described different paths. • Receiving. Teens frequently receive texts through passive encounters with a constant stream of information on social networks and notification settings, without needing to invest effort. Sometimes, receiving messages from these passive sources leads to more active searching. • Stumbling. Students sometimes used a semi-structured exploration of the web that the researchers described as stumbling. They may be intending to look for specific information, but they find something interesting and follow additional hyperlinks. • Surfing. Teens described surfing as an unstructured, unintentional exploration of the web, for entertainment or with a lack of focus. Random clicking and exploration is done in a mindless fashion. • Searching. Sometimes teens open a web browser, use a search engine, and look for specific questions or terms. As they move through the search results, they click on additional hyperlinks from those pages. They may also use additional searches such as Google. Engaging •

The connected reading model suggests that a reader encounters a text, then enters a recursive cycle of engagement and evaluation. These practices include decisionmaking, described as deciding. Engagement with a text begins when the reader encounters a social network post, a link to another website, or a new book (either physical or virtual). They need to decide whether to read now, read later, or discard completely.

Evaluating •

The practices of evaluation include determining the value of the text. Readers scroll and read some of the links, then make decisions related to their interests, whether they know the person who posted the information, and whether links were related. Teens also demonstrated an understanding of judging the quality of the digital texts. Some teens focus on traditional academic approaches (gives important details, gives accurate feedback from reputable authors). Others judged the importance of short-term texts, such as noticing that the quality of a celebrity’s tweets was declining, as a factor in their decisions of whether to continue to read.

Not satisfied that they had gleaned all they could from the study, the researchers revisited the data to categorize the types of texts that the participants reported using, utilizing open coding, intercoder reliability, and member checking with teachers to increase trustworthiness of the analysis. The emergent snapshots of teen readers helped to answer questions about what kinds of texts teens read digitally and where (on what devices) they read those texts. Responses to the original surveys showed that 82% had a social network account (short-form reading), 84% said they read news stories or blog posts (mid-form texts), and 50% reported reading digital books or


magazines. In the follow-up interviews, teens reported all three types of texts and elaborated about specific genres and titles, as well as specific apps. These teens had access to a variety of devices (mobile phone 84%; smartphone 71%; internet-enabled handheld devices such as iPod Touch 71%; laptop or desktop computer at home 77%; dedicated e-readers 21%; and internetenabled e-readers 45%). Most of the respondents said they read primarily on paper in school, while out of school they were split between paper and device reading. Outside of school, a large number read on a device. In summary, these teens were engaged in both print and digital reading for a variety of purposes, both in and out of school. The analysis yielded the following three categories of text types that participants reported using: •

Short-form texts (social media posts, snippets or summaries from news items and blogs, other types of instant messaging and digital). These texts were often skimmed or scanned without deep engagement. Mid-form texts (brief reports from news media, blog posts, discussion forum posts, and online fiction, especially fan fiction). These texts required a longer period of engagement (3 to 10 minutes) and were read in one session. Long-form texts, such as investigative journalism and academic articles, e-books, other transmedia stories. These were harder to absorb, required more attention, and needed longer reading sessions or multiple sessions.

But these were not the only findings the researchers detected. Moving Toward Deeper Engagement Readers described a difference between slow and careful reading (deep reading) and the skimming and scanning that is often associated with digital reading. Students suggested that “real” reading means engaging deeply with an academic text. Some students suggested that the skimming and scanning of digital texts was not “real” reading. However, other students acknowledge the value of skimming (looking for keywords, without reading the whole text, but looking for specific bits of information). Students pointed out that their engagement with a text was different based on their purpose for reading. For instance, a student who needed to do a speech in class chose an article about his topic, read it, and soaked up all the details, to have ideas already in his mind. He said he actually enjoyed the reading, so he took more from it. Students described practices for the strategic use of digital tools. Some described software and web apps that include annotation tools to highlight, make marginal notes, and engage in threaded discussions. Several students mentioned the dictionary feature on a digital device, where they can just click on a word and look up the meaning, unlike in a print book where they would not go to the dictionary to find out the meaning. One student commented that Kindles are a good way to read more challenging texts because of the ease of looking up words. Other students talked about highlighting and bookmarking as tools they used while reading digital texts. They enjoyed being able to mark a quotation. They also valued being able


to change highlighting that they had done earlier if they decided they didn’t need it, which they could not change in a printed text. On the other hand, many students still preferred printed texts, where they can put in a sticky note or bookmark, instead of going back to find annotations. Students who were proficient in using digital tools were more likely to prefer them. The researchers also described the value of digital texts for curating, cataloguing, and organizing for later reading. One student described using keyboard shortcuts to open several pages at one time. Another described using Pinterest to save links she wanted to revisit later. A very few students described curation of images, rather than alphabetic texts. Two students had been introduced to curation concepts by a teacher and used the process to search to learn more about a topic of interest. Most of the teen readers searched for texts to read immediately. Teens in the study were not yet using digital tools to support efficient access to texts later. These teens identified sharing of texts as an important aspect of connected reading. Many students described how they encountered texts when their networks shared them. While fewer of them described their own sharing practices, several did mention deciding to share texts, forwarding them to friends, or “retweeting” them. Most shared based on their own enjoyment, instead of considering their audience. In contrast, one described sharing and adding a comment, hoping to encourage his audience to engage with the text. The students recognized the challenges of managing distractions when they were reading on a device. They described the very existence of links as being a tempting distraction, even when the links didn’t relate to what they were reading but were instead separate topics that they considered “cool”. One person commented that they sometimes get off task, click on an ad, think about wanting to go on Facebook or websites, and get off track from what they are supposed to be doing. One person thought that a print book was more distracting, because when they had their phone nearby, they put down the book to pick up the phone and got sidetracked. They claimed that on their Kindle, it would be right there, so if they were sidetracked, it was only for a moment, and they would be right back to reading. A few participants actually used technological tools such as the parent setting on a device, so that even if they were craving to play a game, they couldn’t leave the parent app. It forced them to finish reading before they could play the games. The findings of the study have powerful implications for practice and research about reading. Three key features informed the development of the connected reading model: recursion, social connection, and a both/and mindset. •

Recursion was a key feature which recognized that readers encounter texts in varied ways (from others passively, actively seeking new reading materials, by surfing without intention, and by searching with focused intention). They enter a recursive cycle of engaging and evaluating, mediated by the tools available. The recursive process of evaluating and engaging led to a cyclical, rather than a linear, model. Readers make decisions, read more deeply, and share their reading with others.


Social connection was a second key feature. Opportunities for sharing one’s reading is easier with digital tools. Readers exist in a network of other readers. In addition to general social media tools like Facebook and Twitter, other online spaces and communities included varied textual forms such as discussion posts, pieces of art, and fan fiction. However, most of the students used the internet more to consume information than to communicate and connect with others. A third key feature was the development of a both/and mindset toward print and digital reading. This research study focused on digital reading, but the teens in the study actually live in a both/and world that includes print and digital media. Adolescents need to learn to be flexible in order to work across multiple devices and formats. Changing Instructional Practices

The researchers commented that their data showed that teens reported that skills such as use of and preferences for e-books, understanding options for finding and downloading e-books, and using annotation features to engage in dialogue with classmates through an e-book application are seldom taught. In the recursive environment of digital reading, teachers still must teach foundations of reading and understanding texts. New professional development opportunities for teachers also need to help build knowledge of effective ways to support reading of digital texts, in order to prepare students for college and careers, where the majority of texts are digital. Finding an appropriate book may not include going to a library, searching shelves, and thumbing through physical books. Therefore, students will still benefit from having teachers actively teach them strategies to choose a book (thoughtfully seeking texts, getting recommendations, conducting a search engine query, consulting the book’s index, looking up a book in a library database). As students engage with texts, they will need help with learning to use annotation and curation tools (highlighting, notes, voice memos) instead of using traditional tools such as bookmarks, dog-eared pages, margin notes, and reader’s journals. Teachers can teach explicit strategies such as creating one’s own reading path, multitasking, and managing distractions. When talking about managing distractions, students often mentioned “printing it out,” although printing is not always possible, so students need to learn about other options such as ad blockers and reader view extensions. Development of self-regulation skills is vital, so teaching students to identify reading goals, manage distractions, and reflect on their learning will benefit both digital and print-based learning. Teachers can talk with students about ways to manage and use their devices for reading and about managing the social practices related to reading. Students also need support in understanding the disconnect between school-based and home-based reading, in part because school tends to value mid-and long-form texts, while students report frequent home-based reading of short-form texts such as social media and a regular habit of skimming and scanning digital texts. Teachers need to help students understand how different kinds of reading are appropriate and valued in different contexts. Skimming has a strategic value for leisure reading and academic reading. Some texts do not require close reading and do not need to be read in their entirety. However, readers need practice with texts of varying lengths and complexity, and teens need to know that even reading social media and news headlines need more attention and reflection than we often think.


Strong readers need deep, repetitive practices to build reading stamina and to build habits of mind for leading a literate life. The researchers strongly recommend continuing research to “help the field understand what, where, and how adolescents read, in an effort to teach them how to be more critical consumers of texts and effective connected readers� (Turner & Hicks, 2019).

Dr. Linda McElroy is a professor at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma. She previously taught in Oklahoma schools as a classroom teacher and as a reading specialist. She can be contacted at lmcelroy@usao.edu.

References Rosenblatt, L.M. (1978). The reader, the text, the poem: The transactional theory of the literary work. Southern Illinois University Press. Turner, K.H., Hicks, T. & Zucker, L. (2019). Connected Reading: A Framework for Understanding How Adolescents Encounter, Evaluate, and Engage with Texts in the Digital Age. Reading Research Quarterly, 55(2). Turner, K.H., & Hicks, T. (2015). Connected Reading: Teaching adolescent readers in a digital world. National Council of Teachers of English.


Tech Talk Shelley Martin-Young

Teaching Digitally: Part 1 As teachers across the US head back into the classroom many are still faced with challenges from COVID-19. Are you teaching face to face? Are you teaching online? Are you teaching a blended method? Being able to teach in any space is vital for the times that we are in. Many school districts have incorporated Google Classroom into the virtual spaces for their teachers to use. If you have created your Google Classroom already, you may be thinking now what? The next step is creating and delivering engaging content no matter the space in which you are teaching. Below are my favorite ways to create that content. All of the ideas, strategies, and technology I am sharing merge seamlessly with your Google Classroom. Curating Resources Teaching in a digital age, requires us to become curators – curators of resources, curators of lesson plans, curators of digital tools. There are several digital curating tools that can help you get all of these things organized and easily accessible by both you and your students. Padlet is a web app that lets users post on a digital wall. With Padlet you can create an online post-it board that you can easily share with students, parents, and other teachers. Just like the post-it notes you write notes on, students can write on digital post-its and them to your board. Unlike a paper post-it, students can add images, video, and sound to their post-its. Uses of Padlet are only limited by your imagination. Some uses include online student portfolios, exit tickets, classroom communication, parent communication, newsletters, research projects, video collection, resource gathering, interactive storytelling to name a few. Check out this video for ideas on using Padlet in your classroom. The following are classroom examples – a history class, all about me, college and career board, a study guide, and my favorite—a Padlet of reading and writing Padlets. A teacher can have three free Padlets, but you can always delete and make new ones. Wakelet is very similar to Padlet but it is completely free. Wakelet facilitates and supports educational communities by allowing the presentation of engaging educational content in a format that’s easy for both teachers and students to access and follow. Wakelet allows users to curate all media types: videos, links, tweets, Instagram posts, pictures, texts, and PDFs. Curating resources for your students ensures that time will not be wasted wading through sites that you really don’t want them to visit. Wakelet can easily be integrated with Google Classroom and is a great resource for personalizing your students’ learning. This video is a little long, but it is a great introduction to using Wakelet in your classroom. Example Wakelets include distance learning resources, Minecraft Education, beginning Wakelet, antiracism, Wakelets for kindergarten, music education, and STEM. Smore is an interactive newsletter, flyer, poster that can be embedded within your school website, Google Classroom, or emailed straight to your parents. It is also a place to curate those resources, so they can be easily accessed by your students and parents. You can create many


things with a free account, but I use it so much I paid for a teacher account. I use it for my weekly agenda. My students know exactly what we are doing each day and what their homework assignments are. You can easily add links and media to your Smores and make them interactive. Here is a link to one of my agendas. Other uses for Smore include flyers and assignments, class newsletter and parent communication, library apps and resources, and classroom management. Smore is easy to use with ready-made templates, beautiful backgrounds, and several fonts to choose from. If you want a way to quickly and easily share links and websites with your students or parents, then Symbaloo may be just what you are looking for. Symbaloo is a great way to share all of your favorite online resources. Easy to use, simple to share, and seamless to update, Symbaloo generates a link that you can share by email or in your Google Classroom. Here is a link to my Maker Space symbaloo. Teachers can use Symbaloo Learning Paths to create a gaming atmosphere for their online lesson plans. If you are interested in gamifying your content watch this introductory video. Symbaloo can also be used to customize your students’ learning. Students can also make their own symbaloos as a place to organize their work or possibly their research. Multimedia such as YouTube videos, Prezis, and anything from the Google Suite can be added to the symbaloos. Here are a few symbaloos that you can check out ~ music class, coding class, technology, writing, and social studies. Interactive Presentation Tools As a teacher, you are tasked with presenting content to your students whether that is in a face-to- face environment, a digital environment, or a blending of the two. We need to be thinking about how we are intentionally engaging and interacting with students especially in digital spaces. The following are presentation tools that can be used by the teacher to present content, or by students to share their learning. Nearpod is a way to make interactive lessons, videos, and formative assessments. It is a student engagement platform that keeps students engaged and involved with every lesson you teach. Teachers can create presentations that contain quizzes, polls, videos, images, drawing boards, web content and more. Students access a teacher’s Nearpod simply by entering a unique code. Lessons can be either teacher paced, or student paced depending on your needs. In the teacher paced mode, students’ devices will only be able to engage with the Nearpod lesson. Students will not be able to view other websites or do other things on their devices while you are teaching. Nearpod is flexible and can be used in a wide variety of creative ways. This video is a great introduction to Nearpod. Besides just presenting remarkable lessons, Nearpod can also be used for individualizing student learning, live and formative assessments, self-assessment, modeling, sharing interactive homework, and so much more. Nearpod also offers a plethora of already-made teacher resources and lesson plans. You simply go to the Nearpod library where you can search by grade level, subject, or resource type. Here are some Nearpod examples ready for you to use: poetry, elapsed time, the nervous system, Harlem Renaissance, and Teaching Tolerance. Classkick is one of my favorite tools. Classkick is a way for you to see what everyone in your classroom is doing in real time. You are able to see students as they work, and you can track their progress in any lesson you create in Classkick. Simply upload a lesson you already


have or create new lessons. You can include drawings, text, images, videos, and links that you want your students to work through. You can include multiple choice, true and false, and fill in the blank questions. You can have students draw something or write something, or even answer with an audio file. Giving feedback with Classkick is flawless. Teachers provide individualized real-time feedback and grading to students right on the canvas. Students can virtually raise their hand and even ask peers for assistance with work. This is a great tool for synchronous or asynchronous communication, blended learning, and cooperative learning. Here is a Classkick overview video. Some sample lessons include second grade measurement, introduction to Classkick, tenth grade Spanish assignment, composing shapes, and celebrating Pi Day. Classkick has a library of premade lessons for all grade levels and subjects. Explore Classkick today! While Nearpod and Classkick are tools for the teacher to use to present lessons, Flipgrid can be used by both teachers and students. Flipgrid is a free program that will allow you and your students to post short videos online in response to different prompts, and to converse with each other via video. Teachers simply create a topic and students from PreK to PhD engage in the learning community. Flipgrid has expanded many of its accessibility features to ensure that all students can participate. Students can use closed captioning when viewing videos, which also generates a full transcript for each video. Microsoft’s Immersive Reader can be used within the closed captioning or with any text within a topic to read the texts aloud and break up words into syllables for easier decoding. Using Guest Mode, teachers can invite guest speakers to participate in classroom discussions. Guests can watch student videos and post their own videos. This option provides a way for experts in a field to share their knowledge asynchronously, with students posting videos of their questions for the expert to answer at a convenient time in a video response. STEM teachers, for example, could invite engineers or scientists to discuss their careers and their research and to answer student questions. Students can also annotate their videos using the write-on option when creating their videos. Students can also add sticky notes with additional information. Check out this blog that has 50 ways to use Flipgrid in your classroom. You can download the e-book Educator’s Guide to Flipgrid here. Examples include poetry readings, conversations about race, equity, and justice, book talks, Minecraft Education, and a novel study. Also, here is a Smore full of Flipgrid ideas. No matter how you are teaching your students this year, virtually, brick and mortar, or a combination of both, engaging students is more important than ever before. The use of technology can bridge the distance you may be feeling even if you are in the same room with your students. In this issue, I have given you tools for curating your resources. I have also provided you with interactive presentation tools. These tools work wherever you are teaching or whatever teaching platform you may be using. In the next issue, I will share my favorite assessment tools, tools to enhance classroom discussion, and tools for gamification. I hope you find a new favorite tool that you can easily incorporate into your classroom this year.

Shelley Martin-Young is a doctoral candidate and graduate teaching assistant at Oklahoma State University. She can be reached at dawn.martinyoung@okstate.edu.


Professional Development: Off the Shelf Dr. Barbara J. McClanahan

Becoming a Metacognitive Teacher: A Review Typically, the texts we adopt for the courses we ask our teacher candidates to take as they approach the student teaching semester are full of tips on how to organize the classroom, how to establish important and dependable routines, how to plan for discipline, how to deal with parents and the community, and so forth. These are important topics to include in a teacher preparation program. But Becoming a Metacognitive Teacher: A Guide for Early and Preservice Teachers is the first text I’ve seen that stresses how a novice teacher should be thinking as s/he moves toward and into his/her own classroom, and that may be the most critical piece of all. Scales, Wolsey, and Parsons offer us such a text. This small volume is a credible resource that prospective and newly minted teachers can use to navigate the turbulent waters of education in the 21 Century. I don’t know that teaching is any harder now than it used to be, but it feels like it is. And the authors don’t mince words in warning their readers that teaching is not for the faint of heart. In doing that, however, they lay out a course that new teachers can actually use to carry them through the hard, confusing, bleak days when they feel like no one understands what they have to deal with, a course that is based in research, not just feel-good platitudes. st

When I went through my teacher preparation program, the term reflection wasn’t the buzz word it is today. Not that we weren’t taught to think about how a lesson went or what we could do to improve—it just didn’t occupy the space then that it does now in our thinking about teaching. A formal reflection, such as we require of our teacher candidates now, was unheard of. What is important about what the authors of this book have done, however, is to marry the concept of reflection to the idea of metacognition, another term I did not learn going through my initial program. As they point out, metacognition is reflection in the moment, reflection on your feet, reflection on the fly. This is the type of automatic response teachers must have literally thousands of times a day in thousands of individual situations. Scales and colleagues base their guide on their own longitudinal research with teacher candidates, student teachers, and first-year teachers that pointed them to the qualities that successfully metacognitive teachers exhibited. The wisdom of this book is organized into only seven chapters. Each chapter addresses one or more important aspects of the path an individual follows from teacher candidate, to student teacher, and finally to novice teacher. In an early chapter, the authors introduce us to the Metacognitive Teaching Cycle (Figure 1), which forms the backdrop for the remainder of the book. The cycle begins with Planning and Teaching accomplished through knowledge of students, standards, and context; to Thinking while teaching by adapting lessons on the fly and experiencing successes and challenges; to Applying strategies learned from coursework, mentors, and evidence-based sources; to Reflecting on students’ learning and changes for next time; and then begins again (p. 48). The authors explain that each role—teacher candidate, student teacher, novice teacher— though similar, is decidedly different as well, and transitions to the next. They explain the


Figure 1 Metacognitive Teaching Cycle

Reprinted by permission of the Publisher. From Roya Q. Scales et al, Becoming a Metacognitive Teacher, New York: Teachers College Press. Copyright Š 2020 by Teachers College, Columbia University. All rights reserved.

likenesses and differences clearly and then provide anecdotal examples from the teachers they followed in their study through these three roles. They discuss the valuable lessons learned during university coursework but then describe how those lessons may or may not be representative of what the student teacher finds while working with a mentor teacher. How can a student teacher respond metacognitively to that? When the educational climate of a novice teacher’s first placement is not conducive to teaching the way he or she was taught in university coursework, can a metacognitive teacher find ways that such learning can still be applied? When it comes to actually teaching lessons, how should a metacognitive teacher candidate think about the instruction before, while, and after the teaching has taken place? What about the student teacher? The novice teacher? Is the metacognitive process the same for all three? These are some of the questions for which the authors of this book offer answers based in their research. Chapter 6 deals with classroom complexity, a broad topic indeed. The authors offer suggestions and scenarios to suggest how to deal with that complexity using the metacognitive


processes learned in university coursework to rethink and re-approach those messy, knotty, unwieldy, ill-structured problems as they arise. The key, they tell us, is to monitor our teaching and our students’ learning through reflection that results in adaptation—being a metacognitive teacher. Given the recent emphasis on teacher action research, this book lays an excellent foundation for practitioner research at any level. One of the most useful aspects of this book is the collection of up-to-date resources at the end of each chapter. Although there are the traditional articles and books, the authors also provide lists of blogs and brief videos, most with QR codes as well as URLs. Becoming a Metacognitive Teacher is the book I wish I’d had as I finished up my teacher preparation program.

Dr. Barbara McClanahan currently serves as Professor of Elementary Education at Southeastern Oklahoma State University, teaching the reading and literacy courses in the ELED program on the McCurtain County Campus. She can be reached at bmcclanahan@se.edu.

Reference Scales, R. Q., Wolsey, T. D., & Parsons, S. A. (2020). Becoming a metacognitive teacher: A guide for early and preservice teachers. Teachers College Press


Authors are requested to submit only unpublished articles not under review by any other publication. A manuscript should be typed, double spaced, not right justified, not hyphenated, and should follow APA, 7th Edition guidelines (Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association). Tables and graphs should be used only when clarification is needed. Include a cover page giving the article title, professional affiliation, complete address, e-mail and phone number of the author(s). Special sections have specific requirements that are described below. The editors reserve the right to revise and/or edit all copies. The Oklahoma Reader welcomes manuscripts that support the growth and development of classroom teachers, reading specialists, and other literacy professionals throughout their careers. Manuscripts should successfully translate literacy research into practice through concrete strategies and techniques. Considering that the main audience of The Oklahoma Reader consists of PreK-12 teachers, manuscripts that offer practical ideas for successful literacy instruction are encouraged and prioritized. Manuscripts should be limited to 4000 words including tables, figures, and reference(s). Submit the manuscript electronically as a Word document attached to an e-mail message addressed to oklahomareader@gmail.com. Manuscripts will be reviewed anonymously by three members of The Oklahoma Reader Editorial Advisory Board. Manuscripts are evaluated on the basis of clarity, interest, organization, content, and style. If accepted, revisions may be requested. Manuscripts must be original work which has not been previously published nor is undergoing simultaneous review in another journal. The Oklahoma Reader also seeks submissions dealing with instructional practices (teacher-to-teacher), classroom research (teacher research), and book reviews recommending texts that can be useful for individual or group professional development. These are described as follows. All submissions should be submitted electronically as a Word document attached to an email message addressed to oklahomareader@gmail.com. Teacher to Teacher: Submit descriptions of teaching activities that have helped students learn an essential literacy skill, concept, strategy, or attitude. Submissions should be no longer than 1500 words and align with the following format: Title (if adapting from another source, cite reference and provide a bibliography Purpose of Activity, including the literacy skill, concept, strategy, or attitude the students will learn Description of activity with examples, questions, responses. Please provide enough detail so someone can implement the activity. How activity was evaluated to know if purpose was achieved.



Guidelines for Authors continued

Teacher Research: Submit manuscripts that describe research or inquiry conducted in classrooms. Submissions should be 1000-2000 words and align with the following format: Description of the question or issue guiding the research/inquiry, including a short review of pertinent literature. Description of who participated in the study, what the sources of data were, how the data were gathered and examined. Description of the findings and conclusion from the research/inquiry. Title, author, publishe r of the resource. Short description of the resource. Critical review of the resource including strengths and weaknesses. Short discussion of how the resource might be useful to a teacher. Book Reviews for professional development: Submit manuscripts of approximately 1000 words, thoroughly describing the content of the book reviewed and applications for teaching, especially of reading. Include an accurate reference for the text reviewed.

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FALL 2020


Barbara J. McClanahan Maribeth Nottingham Susan Morrison

Southeastern Oklahoma State University Southeastern Oklahoma State University Southeastern Oklahoma State University

Assistant Editors

Shelly Martin-Young Cindy A. McClanahan

Oklahoma State University Georgia College & State University

Editorial Review Board

Gretchen Cole-Lade Julie Collins Karen Coucke Tammi Davis Rebecca M. Farley Tracy Hunt Sylvia Hurst Petra Hutchison Mollie Kasper Linda McElroy Claudia Otto Lynn Schroeder Donita Shaw Brian Thompson Jill Tussey Liz Wilner Jodi Wolf Debbie Yarbrough

Oklahoma State University University of Central Oklahoma Rockwood Elementary, OKC Mustang Public Schools Oklahoma Baptist University University of Central Oklahoma University of Central Oklahoma Oklahoma State University-Stillwater Forney, Texas, ISD Univ. of Science & Arts of Oklahoma State University Oklahoma State University Sequoyah Public Schools Oklahoma State University Sand Springs Public Schools Buena Vista University-Iowa Oklahoma City University Edmond Public Schools Woodward Public Schools

Oklahoma Literacy Association Officers Chair Chair Elect Secretary Treasurer Past Chair ILA Coordinator

Sylvia Hurst Rebecca Marie Farley Eileen Richardson Debbie Yarbrough Sheri Vasinda Linda McElroy

Univerisity of Central Oklahoma Oklahoma Baptist University Cameron University at Rogers State University Woodward Public Schools Oklahoma State University Univ. of Science & Arts of Oklahoma State University 63

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