English teachers using StudySync have a wealth of online resources they can use to keep students learning remotely. For teachers using StudySync in combination with Google Classroom, I’ve described three strategies that educators can use to capitalize on the activities in the StudySync First Read lesson plans to engage students in online discussions, collaborative research projects, and online vocabulary review.
#1 Use the StudySync Access Prior Knowledge Activities to Facilitate Online Discussions
Teachers using StudySync can use the Access Prior Knowledge Activities in the First Read Lessons to engage students in asynchronous online discussions using Google Classroom or a learning management system, like Schoology.
Online discussions give students the opportunity to engage with their peers virtually to share their prior knowledge before reading a text. This can help students to feel more connected to their peers when learning remotely. It also requires that they “use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.”
#2 Create Collaborative Online Research Activities with Building Background Activities
Despite having access to unlimited amounts of information, many students struggle to research effectively. Students are unfamiliar with search operations that can help them to narrow down their search results. For example, they can use quotes around phrases to do a verbatim search and limit their results to resources with that exact wording. They can also limit their search results to a particular domain by typing site:.edu or site:.gov. These simple search operations can help them to find higher quality content when they are researching a topic.
In addition to using Google search operations to improve their searches, students need to practice assessing website credibility. They need to think critically about the quality of an online source before they take information from that website. They should ask questions like, does this website have an author? Does the author have expertise or experience in this field? Is the website affiliated with a company or organization? If so, could that create bias?
For students to hone these critical research skills, they need to practice conducting online research. Teachers using StudySync can take the Building Background activities in the First Read lessons and create collaborative research assignments for students learning remotely.
Teachers can use StudySync in combination with Google Slides to allow small groups of learners to engage in a collaborative research activity. Teachers can use the prompts from the lesson plan under the Building Background activity to guide the students’ research, and students can organize the information they find into a multimedia presentation.
#3 Facilitate a Deep Dive into Vocabulary with Google Slides & the Frayer Model
In each First Read lesson, students encounter several bold vocabulary words. I ask them to stop and use the context clues in the sentence to make a prediction about what each word means based on how it is used. The goal is to get students thinking about a sentence like a puzzle. What can they learn about the words they do not know by looking closely at the words they do know? Once they have made a prediction about each word’s meaning, they capture that in an annotative note.
When students move on to the Close Read assignment, there is a vocabulary review activity. They have to drag and drop the definitions so that they appear next to the corresponding vocabulary words. They also need to write a sentence using the word.
Normally, students would do additional vocabulary review activities in class to help them learn and remember these words. While students are at home learning remotely, it is necessary to design online vocabulary review activities to reinforce their understanding of these words.
Teachers can use Google Slides and the Frayer Model to engage students in vocabulary review beyond the classroom. I created a Google Slide deck with a slide for each of the vocabulary words in the text. I used the Frayer Model to provide structure to the review activity.
On each slide, the students have to:
- define the vocabulary term in their own words
- insert an image that will help them to remember the word
- think of a synonym for the word
- find an antonym for the word
Teachers who want to make a copy of and use my vocabulary slide deck can access it. Google will force you to make a copy, so you will need to be signed into your Google account.
I am writing a series of guest blogs for StudySync to support teachers as they transition to teaching online. You can check them out here. StudySync is also creating resources designed to support teachers as they make the transition online. Check out their 5-Day Mini Units for Grades 6-12.