By Clare Landrigan, CCIRA 2021 Featured Speaker
You know that saying … if you build it, they will come? For me, this saying has manifested in ways I could have never imagined with the virtual bookroom I created last April. Since then, this virtual space filled with hyperlinks has connected me to educators and students across the world. This idea started because of the need for access to books in a time when even public libraries were closed, and it continues to grow as we think about authentic ways to engage our students as readers virtually. Here are five baskets every teacher should add to their virtual classroom library to maximize student identity, engagement and choice:
Classroom Author Baskets
Our writers need an audience and our readers need access to text – this idea is a win-win! Create digital book baskets filled with your students’ writing. Their peers can choose to read these during independent reading or even for their book club. I love watching authors join book club meetings to answer questions and listen to how their text impacted their readers. Time is a precious commodity right now, this is an easy, meaningful way for our students to publish their writing and connect with an audience.
For many of us, reading is social – it is about being a member of a community. Readers often consider what friends, colleagues, neighbors and family members are reading when they choose books. Students cannot meet together and physically pour over books with one another right now. They are not browsing together in their classroom libraries. We need to find ways for them to connect and share texts virtually so our classroom reading community can support each other. Organizing the books students recommend digitally into a basket provides a space for them to interact. We include student book reviews, audio booktalks, and video book trailers in addition to actual texts so students can consider their peers’ point of view. All of this can be easily organized into a digital bin (Cherry-Paul and Johansen, 2014) in your virtual classroom library.
Research has demonstrated the importance of inquiry in student engagement. In his book, The Curious Classroom, Harvey “Smokey” Daniels focuses on the impacts of student-directed inquiry, “Students were seized by curiosity, hungry to build knowledge, and fully in charge of their own learning. And those experiences, those habits of mind, will serve them for the rest of their lives.” Allowing students to create digital text sets for the classroom library seems to be the perfect opportunity for students to get invested in a topic of interest with peers. They can choose to read in depth, across varied texts, and experience how reading can propel their inquiry and thirst for information. Students may choose any topic or a focus within a content area of study. Students may work independently or in collaboration with peers to research, share, and build their knowledge. This provides students with an authentic, meaningful literacy experience that they can take charge of!
Every writer needs a reader throughout the writing process. Audience is an abstract concept for young writers. It can be difficult to envision a person reading a finished piece of writing while it’s still being drafted. It helps to share writing throughout the process to receive response and suggestions from readers. Enter the perfect collaborative reason to read and respond. We add a Help Wanted basket to the virtual classroom library so students can add their writing throughout the process and ask for peers to respond. Peers share questions, reactions, and ideas. They think about characters, information, structure, theme, point of view, feelings, and tension. Students read these texts during independent reading, writing workshop and even during their free time.
Students need access to recorded texts. Students can choose a favorite book to record for younger students or for their peers. They can focus on their storytelling voice and bringing characters to life as they read their text aloud – slowing down to show the pictures as needed. These recordings are organized into digital classroom library baskets and then shared with other teachers in the school for students to listen to during independent reading, partner reading, or for book clubs.
If you don’t have a virtual classroom library, read this to learn how to use the free virtual bookroom to get started and check out these resources to DIY your classroom library with Padlet, Google Doc or Bitmoji.
Clare Landrigan is a staff developer who is still a teacher at heart. She leads a private staff development business partnering with school systems to implement best practices in the field of literacy. She believes that effective professional development includes side by side teaching; analysis of student work; mutual trust; respect; and a good dose of laughter. She is the co-author of, It’s All About the Books published by Heinemann and Assessment in Perspective, published by Stenhouse. Clare is on the board of The Book Love Foundation and you can find her online at Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and at her website, where she blogs about books and the art of teaching.