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How To Teach Reading To Students Online?

How Can I Build Relationships Virtually?

Although this is easier in person, you can adjust many of the methods above for distance learning. Parent questionnaires and questions of the day can continue. Conversations and observations will be more challenging – but you can still note their book choices, artwork, and even toys, decorations, pets and siblings in the background of virtual meetings. You might also encourage students to bring something to share (show). You might use a theme to prevent "bring and brag" episodes, such as a favourite snack or book. All of these can help you know more about the child.

In addition to getting to know students, teachers use the fall to build a classroom community. Shared activities such as morning meetings, books, songs, chants and games contribute to this sense of community. You can continue to do many of these things virtually, using class meeting video conferences a few times a week.

Beyond getting to know students, I typically work hard to build a classroom community. It is typically done through our morning meeting but also shared activities. These shard activities include books, songs, chants, games, etc. Many of these can still be done virtually but may need to be adapted.

Come Back To The Gradual Release Of Responsibility.

When you're drowning in tech tools, it's easy to lose sight of what matters.

The gradual release of responsibility is one of those "things" that matter!

We need to read to our students, have them read with us, and read by themselves. And we can make that happen even when teaching online.

Reading To Students:

  • Read-aloud can easily be done during a live video call. Hold up the book like you normally would, or put it under a document camera if that's easier for you. (That's my Amazon affiliate link to the doc camera I use.)
  • Consider recording many of your read-aloud. I love doing read-aloud life, but if I only have very limited instructional time, that's one thing the kids can watch on their own. You can still pause to ask questions even if you're making a recorded video! Have students answer your questions to a caregiver or a stuffed animal. 

Having students respond to a story or text by drawing or writing is a simple, engaging extension activity that can be completed as independent work. If you need reading response prompts and activities, check out my reading response packs: Kindergarten / 1st grade / 2nd grade.

Reading With Students:

  • Incorporate shared reading. Shared reading is a GAME-CHANGER!! In shared reading, you share the work of reading with the students. I model strategies – like decoding words, reading with attention to punctuation marks, using text features – and have the kids practise strategies with my help. I display the text under my document camera to read part of or all of the text along with me. Check out this blog post if you're not familiar with shared reading or need a refresher. Seriously, shared reading can make such a big difference when you're teaching reading online.

Having Students Read By Themselves:

  • Make sure that parents understand the importance of independent reading practice. Provide access to digital texts via Epic, RAZ Kids, or my guided reading books. You can talk to your kids and their families about building reading stamina (starting with small chunks of independent reading time and gradually working their way up).
  • If you're concerned that your kids aren't reading, try having a "silent reading party" online! Everyone checks into Zoom, the kids can hold up the book they're reading, and then you mute everyone. All the kids read, right there, as if you were all together in class. Afterwards, kids could share a bit about what they've read. You could even do something fun like a PJ reading party!
  • Consider having 1:1 virtual meetings with students for reading conferences if you can. It can be time-consuming (don't try to fit in all your kids every week!) but pay off.

The gradual release of responsibility is a valuable model to come back to, whether we're teaching online or in-person. It works!

Accept That Online Teaching Has Limitations, And Plan Accordingly.

Online teaching has its unique challenges! And the online setting can feel very limiting, especially if you've been teaching in-person for years.

Here are some tips to help:

  • When you bump into a problem, take a deep breath. It's normal to feel frustrated, but getting upset over things you can't control (i.e. connectivity issues) doesn't serve anyone.
  • Remember that kids' attention spans are short – and sometimes they're even shorter during an online lesson! Plan for frequent opportunities for students to talk and physically get moving.
  • Suppose you have much more limited time than you do during a "normal" school day, except that you're not going to cover the same amount of material. Period. Go for quality over quantity, and adjust your pace based upon what students need.
  • Keep in mind that your students are still learning, even if your instruction looks very different than it does during a "normal" school year!

Expect That Kids (And Even Families!) Will Forget Things And Give Them Tools To Help.

It can be frustrating when you've taught or explained something three times, and students (or their families!) still aren't remembering it.

In a "regular" classroom setting, you might have anchor charts posted on the walls. Students can ask their peers for help. Families get "hard copies" of letters to refer back to.

But in an online setting, kids and families don't typically have these same tools.

We can safely assume that people will always forget things. ? It happens to everyone!

Here are some tools you can give students and families to support your reading instruction:

  • Recorded videos of you demonstrating skills like breaking up a word to read it, retelling, etc. (These are great for kids to re-watch as needed!)
  • Digital anchor charts for students and families to refer back to (you can take visuals like the ones from my reading workshop toolkits, take screenshots, and paste them onto Google Slides or into Seesaw)
  • A single "home base" where parents can find supporting resources (like the anchor charts, your recorded videos, etc.) all in one place

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How Can I Teach Reading Online?

Teachers will need to adapt to new forms of teaching instead of trying to convert their in-classroom strategies for the online format. Here are some tips and tricks for teaching reading online:

Keep It Simple – Reading instruction online needs to be kept as simple as possible. Stick to having one activity and work with one reading for several lessons. This more intensive approach can help your students, in the long run, to spend more time reading. In addition, this can help them improve their reading fluency and their reading comprehension.

Stay Interactive And Engaging – The most important aspect of teaching reading online is to keep lessons as interactive and engaging as possible. Teachers should rely on activities that allow for more student-centred work, such as virtual read aloud or playing reading games.

Use Visuals – Visual aids such as slideshows, mind maps, or even drawings can help make your reading instruction more engaging. Teachers can also use tools to create visuals like online storybook makers or virtual whiteboards.

Think-Pair-Share – This classic teaching strategy is easily adaptable on Zoom and makes for a great way to practice reading comprehension online. Often used as a pre-or post-reading activity, Think-Pair-Share is a great way to introduce a reading material or discuss after reading.

On Zoom, teachers can introduce a topic or discussion question to students then pair them off in breakout rooms. Then, students can come back together and share their ideas in the whole class Zoom session.

Independent Practice – Reading instruction via Zoom also will rely heavily on promoting independent practice. It means providing students with ample materials and time to read independently. In the Zoom session, teachers can focus on having pre-and post-reading activities to introduce new reading materials and then check for comprehension.

Use Apps And Online Reading Games: A great way to utilise online tools on Zoom for reading instruction is to use reading apps and online reading games in the Zoom session.

Using the share screen feature, teachers and students can play online reading games or use reading apps together to make for a much more interactive and engaging learning experience.


The best way to find out what works for your students is to try different methods and see what helps them learn and improve their reading skills. Keep in mind that every student is different, so what works for one may not work for another. Be patient, keep trying new things, and most importantly, have fun with it! 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Skimming. Skimming will help you grasp the general idea or gist of a text. 
  • Scanning. Scanning allows you to locate precise information. 
  • Detailed reading. Detailed reading allows you to consider aspects of the text critically. 
  • Revision reading.

While-Reading Activities help students focus on aspects of the text and understand it better. The goal of these activities is to help learners to deal as they would deal with it as if you wrote the text in their first language.

Online reading is the process of extracting meaning from a text that is in a digital format. Also called digital reading. Most researchers agree that the experience of reading online (whether on a PC or a mobile device) is fundamentally different from the experience of reading print materials.

To improve students' reading comprehension, teachers should introduce the seven cognitive strategies of effective readers: activating, inferring, monitoring-clarifying, questioning, searching-selecting, summarising, and visualising-organising.

Good readers actively engage with the story and identify with the characters. They visualise what is happening, follow the story's events, and anticipate what will happen next. A good reader can explore the meaning of a story and connect it to their own life.

Anyone who has ever tried to teach reading to students online knows that it can be a daunting task. There are many methods and strategies to choose from, and it can be difficult to know where to start.

In this post, we'll outline five methods for teaching reading online and provide tips for making the most of each one. We hope this information will help you get started helping your students become successful readers!

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Tips For Teaching Reading Online

Use Two Devices When Reading Aloud With Students Virtually.

Before diving into the actual teaching component, you must be set up and prepared with the right technology. Whether you're using Google Meet, Zoom, or another digital platform, I recommend having one device where you share your screen with students so they can view the digital resources you're using, or using a Doc Cam or other webcam to share physical resources. Then, you would use the other device to engage with your students! Of course, a plus is seeing what your students see to adjust accordingly.

Administer Reading And Benchmark Assessments.

It's critical to have a baseline of your students' performance so you can determine any specific areas of need. Every school uses different curriculum resources to determine reading levels, so leverage whatever you have access to in a virtual setting. Many resources have digital supplements which are perfect for remote assessment. If not, I recommend researching whether any teacher has already created benchmarking resources for you! There has been an incredible amount of collaboration amongst educators within the past year to digitise resources and share them with their colleagues.

Ultimately, not everything you have at your disposal may be digital. For example, I have a benchmark assessment kit with no digital components. Everything inside it (for instance, teacher's guide, student workbook, and levelled readers) are all physical copies. Sometimes I quickly turn physical resources into a Google Slide or a Seesaw activity, or I use a webcam for the students to see physical resources. I also recommend creating a schedule of times to meet with each child individually during the school day. You can create a breakout section in the virtual classroom to work with that one student while also keeping an eye on other virtual learners. Give yourself ample time!

Group Students Based On Their Present Levels.

Your students will now be separated into their reading groups. Devote time every week to meet with all groups. This year I've been spending more time with my lower groups as I noticed a significant learning gap coming from distance learning last spring, followed by the summer break.

Finding the time to make this happen isn't always easy, whether in the hybrid format or not! I recommend meeting with groups when other students are reading or working independently. I like to use a "Must Do, May Do" list that I put on the board for both in-person and at-home learners to see. "Must Do" is what the students have to complete when they aren't working in reading groups. It typically works independently on a previously taught skill or independent reading assignments. "May Do" are the activities you set aside for students who have completed their "Must Do" list and are either done early or waiting for their turn with their reading group. I read through the list, model what they have to do for each item, and have students repeat what it says before breaking into groups.

Try Round-Robin Reading.

A way to reach every student throughout the week when teaching reading remotely—whether aloud, in small groups, or independently—is to give them the opportunities to read aloud to their classmates. It doesn't even have to be sole during ELA; you can work on reading across all disciplines!

Allow students to read out loud as much as possible. It can take the form of reading directions for an activity or worksheet or having students take turns reading word problems in maths or photo captions in science and social studies. All students can participate in reading in any classroom format, whatever the subject matter is.

I like to switch between having in-person and virtual learners read aloud. Sometimes I will keep a checklist to make sure I heard everyone's voice that day. The best way to understand whether a student truly grasps a concept is to see them apply that concept or skill in context independently and correctly.

Stop For Comprehension Regularly.

Besides reading, comprehension is the most critical skill to master concepts truly. Just because someone can read something doesn't mean they understand it! It is incredibly true for students.

When teaching reading virtually, I constantly stop to check for comprehension with my students. To do this, you can ask questions such as: What does that word mean? What is the author telling us? What is happening so far in the story? Why did the character say that?

Give students as many opportunities to read as possible, whether whole-class or independent. For example, you may opt to provide digital resources of virtual libraries for students to have continuous access to literature, or you may be able to provide books to students.

Giving Students The Tools They Need

Our goal is for students to understand the texts and content they need for our coursework and learn reading strategies they can use in subsequent assignments—and throughout their lives. Therefore, we should teach these strategies explicitly so that students can recognise them as strategies they can apply to multiple texts.

In distance learning, we can teach these skills during synchronous learning as preparation for reading that occurs during asynchronous learning. We can use our learning management systems to create gateway activities so that students complete prereading activities before the reading text is read released.

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