Distance Learning, Reading

Distance Learning: Communication Tools

Making the transition to distance learning? First, I want applaud you and your efforts. This is not an easy time, yet I am seeing so many in the education community step up to the challenge with positive attitudes, ideas, and compassion for their students and each other. We may be facing some rough days ahead, but we will get through them together.

I have been compiling some resources to help you continue teaching the standards you were planning. Before we get to those, let’s discuss some of the ways to present and send these lessons and materials to your students and how they can send completed work back to you.

Online Distance Learning Tools

These are some of my favorites, but they are by no means the only tools you can use to communicate with your students and parents. All of the sites below are currently free to use. I would love to know if you have any favorites. Either tell me in the comments, email me, or DM me on Instagram @cultivatingcriticlareaders.


Zoom is an incredibly impressive web based video conferencing app that has so many capabilities. It is completely free to sign up and doesn’t require the students to have an account.

I think the most amazing feature in Zoom is the ability to share your screen during the video chat/meeting. This means you can show a video to your entire class while still being able to talk to them live. For example, you could show a free video of a read aloud you found on Storyline Online, stopping to discuss parts of the story. You could also use this feature to read a book or text online together from sites such as DOGO News, News ELA, or Epic!, taking shared reading and whole group instruction into each child’s home. You could even show Flocabulary and Brain Pop videos to students to help you introduce new concepts. Bottom line, Zoom is an incredible tool for distance learning.


Seesaw is an excellent way to assign work to your entire class as well as individual students. You can include videos, photos, drawings, links, and upload documents as a part of the assignment as well as provide multimedia and voice directions. Another great thing about Seesaw is that you can assign work to specific students or groups of students. The students are given a code to use when they log in and do not need to create an account with an email address. Once they log in they are able to see the activities that you have assigned to them. The platform gives them the ability to respond in fun ways, such as taking a picture of their book and using the tools on Seesaw to draw, label, or annotate it. Students can also submit photos and videos of their work.


Edmodo is set up in a way that resembles a class Facebook page. Class discussions, images, documents and polls can be shared on the main page and responses can be seen by everyone. You can also send private messages back and forth with the students. While students have the ability to post messages for the entire class, they cannot directly message each other.

Assignments, documents, videos and quizzes are easy to create and share with the class, specific groups, and individuals on Edmodo. Students can answer discussion questions, turn in assignments, and take quizzes. Although Edmodo doesn’t provide as many multimedia tools, it does allow students in groups to be able to see each others messages. This would be beneficial for things like book clubs and class discussions.

Students need to either create an account or have one created for them using the class code. No email is required.


To be honest, I haven’t spent as much time on this one, but it does seem like it’s pretty cool. It gives students the ability to respond to questions, assignments, and topics by recording and sharing a video. This would be a really fun way for students to share reading responses and give book talks about what they are reading at home with each other. Students do not need accounts. They enter the Flip Code to get to your class Grid.

Offline Distance Learning Tools

What about students that have limited or no access to the internet or have a limited amount of computer and devices that need to be shared by multiple people in the home? A family of four with two parents working remotely and two children actively participating in distance learning may find it difficult to divvy up screen time. I encourage you to keep this in mind as you assign work. Try to include options for work and activities that do not involve sitting at a computer. Menus are great for this.

Provide menus for reading responses, spelling words, and vocabulary words that keep your students practicing the standards in fun and active ways. Most importantly, try to give them choices and do your best to refrain from sending home packets of worksheets. I can’t think of anything that will kill the love of learning and reading faster than stacks of worksheets. Another way to include some choice is by creating a weekly schedule with a list of options for each subject.

Parent Phone Conferences

Don’t forget to call parents (and students) to check in and see how they are doing. This is not easy for you, but it’s also not easy for them. They may need help understanding how to explain certain topics or strategies. They may also need permission (and possibly encouragement) to put their child’s mental health above school work.

“Just try new things. Don’t be afraid. Step out of your comfort zones and soar, all right?” –

Michelle Obama

Now is the time to try new things.

I know this is a hard transition and figuring out how to teach remotely is overwhelming. Just remember, we are all in this together. Everyone is facing these changes and being forced to learn new ways of communicating, including parents. Don’t be afraid to try these new tools. Put yourself out there. Try recording a video of you teaching a lesson or reading aloud. Seeing your face and hearing your voice may be a huge comfort to your students right now.

Connect with Others

Lastly, because we are all in this together, consider joining some online groups. Teachers across the globe are coming together like never before with ideas and tips on how to make distance learning work. There are so many great groups on Facebook and incredible accounts to follow on Instagram. I’ll link to my favorites below.

Facebook Groups

Amazing Third Grade Teachers

3rd Grade Teachers

3rd Grade Texas Teachers

Texas ELA Teachers

Upper Elementary Teachers

Accounts to Follow on Instagram






Free Online Services and Resources for Distance Learning

In case you haven’t seen this on Facebook, a huge list of companies are offering free services and subscriptions due to school closures.

Find it here.

Stay Tuned for More ELA Distance Learning Resources, Links, and Tips!

Remember those resources I said I’ve been compiling to help you continue teaching the standards you were planning? I’ll be posting them shortly, so stay tuned.

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