RLTA Study Group: Charles H. Wacker Elementary


School: Charles H. Wacker Elementary
Text: The Distance Learning Playbook, Grades K-12: Teaching for Engagement and Impact in Any Setting by Douglas Fisher, Nancy Frey and John Hattie
Study Group Leader: Crystal Carmichael (2nd)
Group Members: Caroline Cunningham (1st), LaConya McKinney (6/7/8 ELA), Danielle Washington (K)
Goal: Effectively teaching developmentally appropriate reading in the remote setting using the Google Suite and complementary apps

The 2020-21 school year started off uncertain as schools worldwide adapted to a new way of teaching due to the Coronavirus Pandemic. Teachers were forced to learn a whole new skill set in order to reach our students. As a group we selected The Distance Learning Playbook to guide us as we updated our craft to meet this new challenge.

When we first began our book study we were very focused on how to effectively plan and teach remote lessons. We picked chapters from The Distance Learning Playbook that prioritized these areas like “Module 7: Planning Instructional Units for Distance Learning” and “Module 6: Engaging Tasks.” We constantly reassessed our goals for being effective teachers and feeling confident about our work. This resulted in frequent changes in tools and strategies to help keep students engaged and learning. Finally we went back to “Module 1: Take Care of Yourself” and “Module 9: Learning, Distance or Otherwise.” The group found that it was important for us to focus on self care in order to be most effective at teaching remotely. Slowing down, focusing on what is most important in our lesson and cutting out “extras” helped us lessen our burnout and make lessons more effective for our students.  

One particularly nice feature of this book is the incorporation of videos using QR codes. You could scan the code and watch a video of an educator implementing the ideas in that chapter. One standout is the video with a guided reading teacher showing how she used digital anchor charts, letter boards and leveled books to reach her students without those materials at home. We give this book 4 out of 5 stars. Through this book we learned how to:

  • Communicate effectively with students and parents
  • Fostering student-teacher relationships
  • How to create digital units
  • How prioritizing self-care makes you a better teacher
  • Classroom management online
  • Feedback, Grading and Assessments

It is a great jumping off point for those beginning the remote teaching journey with concrete examples that are ready for use.

As our discussions through the year we realized that our goal evolved from simply wanting to teach reading online effectively to becoming proficient with technology to improve our remote reading instruction. This meant going beyond the text for more resources. To increase student engagement each of us began to incorporate more websites and apps to make remote and hybrid learning more interactive. Reading A-Z, Scholastic and Kahoot became website favorites among our students. We also used several apps such as FlipGrid, Kami and multiple Google Suite Apps. We used Youtube videos and staff training to learn more about these add-ons. Students were excited to have more interaction with each other and show their work to everyone instead of just listening to the teacher talk.

Resource Links

Pocket Full of Primary  This teacher youtuber does tutorials of several apps for distance learning

RLTA Showcase Project Our study group project which includes samples of documents we used, links to video tutorials and sample student videos