Teachers who work with early readers know that these students need lots of encouragement, support, and feedback as their skills develop. A balanced literacy program includes opportunities for that type of engagement through quality whole group teaching, in small groups, and with individual reading support. Small group literacy instruction is a crucial component of this balanced approach because it gives students a low risk environment to practice and apply new skills.
Teaching small groups and guided reading isn’t as easy, though, for teachers who are teaching fully remote or hybrid. On top of the challenge of supporting these emergent readers from a distance, the reading opportunity gap continues to widen because of the lack of access and the decrease in face-to-face interactions.
Being dedicated to helping your students build literacy skills means you have to take advantage of the time you do have with them. Here are some tips on how you can get the most out of your small group instruction whether you are in person or remote.
- Have a routine. A routine helps assure that students are building on prior skills and connecting those with new concepts. Here’s an example.
- Warm up 3-5 mins. Review prior skills.
- Introduce students to new concepts through direct teaching and modeling
- Support students while they apply the skill by trying it together
- Provide encouragement and feedback while students try it on their own
- Check for understanding and close.
- Try different grouping strategies for guided reading groups. Work with small groups that are at the same instructional reading level, or pull students who need reinforcement of a particular strategy. Pair students with their classmates in the classroom, or experiment with breakout rooms. Whether you are in person or remote, use independent reading to build reading stamina.
- Balance your instruction. Small groups shouldn’t concentrate only on introducing a new leveled reader. This time is an opportunity to provide literacy intervention for a variety of skills including:
- Acquiring new vocabulary
- Understanding Science or Math through literature
- Increasing Fluency
- Building Comprehension
- Document what happens during your small groups. Assess and track student progress and achievements. Using a tool like BookNook, you can build assessments into your routine and easily monitor progress overtime. Keeping track of students interests can also help you know your students as readers and suggest books that you know will foster their love of reading.
- Find good digital text. If you’re teaching remotely, you still need to choose good literature, but you also have to think a bit more practically about the books you use. Ideally, you want to be able to display it easily while teaching and provide access for students afterward the lesson so they can build their fluency. Also remember, any good library collection provides quality literature at a variety of levels and both nonfiction and fiction text.
Small group time can be a powerful intervention for any reader. These tips can help you get the most out of your teacher-led groups. However, it isn’t just an opportunity for literacy instruction, it’s also an opportunity for you to build relationships with your students. Take advantage of this smaller setting to give you and your students a break from a hectic schedule or Zoom calls. Then tackle reading.
Study after study has shown tutoring can make a huge difference for students having a hard time with reading, so BookNook is thrilled to be partnering with Prince George’s County Public Schools to deliver high quality and impactful remote tutoring to at least 4,000 students in grades K-2.
“We know what a difference this will make for students and families. Our summer remote tutoring programs saw students make 6 months of reading skill gains in 6 weeks, and 95% of families rated their experience a 10 out of 10,” says Michael Lombardo, founder and CEO of BookNook.
The buzz has just begun about the new partnership. Read our press release for details as well as a story by student journalist Dorvall Bedford in southern Maryland’s The Enquirer-Gazette.
The school district has wasted no time in kicking off the initiative, aptly named PGCPS READS. Regional community, non-profit and civic organizations have already mobilized to support PGCPS students, recruiting adult volunteers to serve as reading guides for young readers. Volunteers will spend 1-3 hours per week reading virtually to their students through the end of the school year. Access for all learners is key, with 800 different texts in English and Spanish available. BookNook provides students with instruction in basic skills, vocabulary development, and reading comprehension. Reports of student progress are also measured after each lesson. Families within Prince George’s County Public Schools can sign up for remote reading tutoring here.
PGCPS READS is a model initiative that BookNook is determined to bring to districts and schools across the country, teaming up with educators and education leaders to make a real and measurable difference for all students.
BookNook is a social enterprise on a mission to close the reading opportunity gap by using technology to provide every student access to world-class teaching, whether at school or online. Founded in 2016, BookNook has quickly grown to partner with hundreds of schools, school districts, and nonprofits across 32 states. It has received national recognition for its impact on students’ reading ability and its unique equity-based pricing model.
Learn more about Partnership opportunities like PGCPS READS:
Thanks to the extraordinary efforts of thousands of parents, caregivers, educators, tutors, AmeriCorps members, volunteers–and, of course, students–BookNook is proud to announce the results of our spring Distance Learning programs.
Like most in the field of education, we found ourselves facing a crisis we had not prepared for when schools began closing in March. Fears of students regressing in their reading proficiency due to a ‘Covid Slide’ compelled us to act quickly and decisively to keep students learning.
While our program was designed for synchronous, in-person learning taking place at school or in childcare settings, we were able to quickly move to a purely online format. By the end of April, we were able to migrate nearly 40% of our in-person learning students to regular online distance learning sessions.
Because BookNook collects and analyzes data in real time while students are online, we were able to measure the impact of regular usage of our program despite most of the schools and nonprofits we partner with not being able to conduct end-of-year or ‘post’ assessments on reading proficiency.
Among students who spent a minimum of just three hours using BookNook from April to June, 91% were able to maintain their level of reading proficiency, experiencing no Covid Slide at all. Better still, 57% actually advanced in their reading level during school closures, ending at a higher level of achievement in June than they were in March.
The average BookNook student gained three months of reading skills during school closures, keeping them more or less exactly on pace with what should have happened in a normal school year. Put another way, BookNook students made the same progress during Distance Learning as would be expected in the classroom.
This is particularly meaningful because the majority of our students use BookNook in the context of intervention. Our average student has been falling behind in reading by about 1/3 of a grade level per year before they start using BookNook, meaning that a typical third grader is about a year below benchmark when they start using BookNook.
When comparing our students’ previous rate of reading level growth to what they showed during school closures, we saw that our average student was progressing at a pace 2.4 times faster, more than doubling their pace of growth.
Of course, none of these results would have been possible without our partner families, schools, and nonprofits, spread out across 32 states now. We are grateful to work with so many people who are so dedicated to helping students become strong, confident, lifelong readers. Together we are making a real and measurable difference.
Equity has been one of BookNook’s core values since the very beginning of our journey. The phrase we use to define it is “We Are Our Community.” We talk about it that way both because we want our team to look like our users, but also as a reminder that when something we created becomes part of a child’s life, we by extension become a part of their community.
Recently we’ve asked ourselves some hard questions about the kind of community member we have been. Like many in the field of education, we come from a place of good intentions–our mission is to close the educational opportunity gap. On the surface, it’s easy to tell ourselves that what we are doing must obviously advance equity.
But the way we go about that work matters, and on deeper reflection we’ve come to realize that we have made choices with unintentional but very real equity consequences. We want to acknowledge that publicly and commit to taking concrete action to be a better member of the communities we serve.
The hard truth that surfaced is this: the way we structure our fees is not equitable. Like most edtech companies, we charge based on how many students are using our program. On the surface this seems logical, but when considering that the most common use of BookNook is intervention it means we are, in effect, charging the most to the schools and nonprofits who serve the most struggling students–populations that overwhelmingly skew towards children of color.
We also treat our Spanish Dual Language Learner and Summer programs as “add ons” at an extra cost, reasoning that not every school or nonprofit will want to use them, so not everyone should be charged for them. Again, the practical effect here is to charge higher prices to schools serving higher need communities.
So, starting this summer we are rolling out an equity-based pricing model. When setting out our fees for a school or nonprofit, will expressly and transparently take into account the relative privilege of that community. The higher the percentage of children who are eligible for the National School Lunch Program, the less we will charge. We will also include our Spanish Dual Language Learner and Summer programs as part of our base subscription, rather than charging extra for it.
We realize this will mean some of our partners will see an increase in what they are asked to pay to use BookNook, and that others will see a decrease. Considering the equity gaps that have been once again thrust painfully into the forefront of our national consciousness, we think that is exactly what should happen in the moment.
We’ve run the numbers on this (another of our values is “Data Rule Everything Around Me”), and we expect that the net effect with our current partners is that they will be charged less. We hope that some of those partners will decide to reinvest their savings to provide more reading supports to struggling students as part of their Covid Slide responses. But if they need to use those funds to provide other crucial services or to make up for budget cuts, that is more than understandable.
We realize that, like all actions taken individually, this alone is an insufficient response to the issues we as a nation must grapple with. So at BookNook we will continue to reflect on ways in which we can “be our community,” act on our values, and work with partners to do more for the schools, nonprofits, and students we serve.
We Are [Striving to be a Better Member of] Our Community.
OAKLAND, Calif — BookNook continued increasing the depth of experience on its advisory board today by adding longtime education leader and teacher advocate, Ellen Moir.
Ellen is the Founder and former CEO of the New Teacher Center, a national nonprofit dedicated to improving student learning by accelerating the effectiveness of teachers and school leaders. Ellen’s deep expertise will help BookNook improve on its professional development process for teachers across the US that use BookNook to help them provide world class reading instruction.
Ellen also brings with her a wealth of knowledge about school districts and their operations which will increase the effectiveness of the BookNook partnerships team as they implement in more districts across the country.
“Ellen is a legend in the teaching community and brings a unique and incredibly valuable perspective to efforts to support teachers in those challenging first few years on the job,” said Michael Lombardo, BookNook’s CEO and Founder. “She will help us continue to refine our platform for teachers of all backgrounds and we look forward to partnering with her to realize our shared vision that every child in the United State should get excellent teaching every day.”
Ellen said “I continue to be impressed with what BookNook has been able to do with technology; particularly the way it scaffolds for teachers, para-educators, and afterschool employees. I’m extremely lucky to have joined forces with such a talented group who cares about teachers and ensuring that their students get the best instructional content.”
BookNook is on a mission to ensure every child has access to a world-class teaching with an adaptive digital reading and language platform that helps students make measurable progress in improving achievement. With a headquarters in Oakland, CA, BookNook has partners and employees across 19 states dedicated to serving the student in their community with an easy-to-use, rigorous, and fun platform.