Tips For Teaching Growing Readers Online


When it comes to teaching online, Michelle B. from Read to Rewire has nailed it. She is a guest on my blog and is sharing, “Tips on Working With Wiggly Readers Online”. If you are an Orton-Gillingham teacher or work with children online, her tips are going to really help you!

Do you notice how easily our wiggly readers can wiggle right out of the screen? You might find yourself saying, “Sit Up!”, “Where Did You Go?,” and “Stop Leaning Over”.  These phrases will engage you in a power struggle with a student and leave you pleading for the student to show up in the video.

Have you ever tried a code phrase?

This is a predictable phrase that you can repeatedly use to redirect behavior. If you have younger students, try this little song 🎵

Head and shoulders, neck, and face

Neck and face

Head and shoulders, neck, and face

Neck and face

Eyes and ears and a smile and your nose

Head and shoulders, neck and face, online we go

Once you introduce the song, you can shorten it to a code phrase.

You could say, “Head, shoulders, neck, and face. Is Melanie in her place?”

If your students are older, try this phrase: “body check, friend”.

This works as a code phrase to get your students to sit up and be alert. Explain that when we sit up, we work better. Try to practice these code phrases on the first day, or it’s never too late to reset. Use these code phrases, and you’ll be able to say goodbye to “Slumpy Sammy”.

You can watch a video of

Provide choice for inflexible thinkers

 As reading teachers, we follow a very scripted, structured, literacy lesson. We know our students need this kind of instruction; however, it doesn’t fit well with our inflexible and students and those with ADHD. There are easy ways to provide choices for our students in any part of our lesson.

Try this activity, add a sticker to a sound card, word card, or fluency strip. When the sticker shows, ask the student what they want to do for the sticker. It can be a 10-second movement, maybe a minute to draw using the tools, or even some of my students have asked for yoga stretching; you’d be surprised at how creative they are. Giving them a choice allows them to have some control over the lesson, but it doesn’t bring you away from your learning objectives.

 Get ready to move with them

Along with providing choices, you want to keep building your rapport with your student. Don’t be afraid to get silly and move with them. Whatever they choose as a movement break, make sure you have your flats on so you can move too. Sometimes it’s fun to yell “Celebration Second” and pop in a quick song from Spotify.

It helps to learn their favorite song 🎵 on the first day. My students have had me dancing to “Desposito,” “Better When I’m Dancing,” and “Let’s Get Loud.” Remember, you’ve said goodbye to the quiet classroom and library setting when you are online. Take advantage of being online and pump up some music. The kids will love it, mainly because they get to choose the song.

Add in quick games relevant to the goal of the lesson

 Every child wants games to be part of their lesson. They love the competition and the fun that occurs. You can build games into any part of a structured literacy lesson and still focus on the learning objective. It is easy to do this during a word card activity. Grab a simple board game that appeals to a student’s interest and put sentence strips down or word cards.

Find a virtual die on your phone. Check-out Next, place all the materials under the document camera. Now you have a fun game to play with any of your own materials.

Include mini breaks according to student interest

Remember that every student isn’t going to like to dance around, do jumping jacks, or sit through a long lesson. Including mini breaks is essential for a smooth lesson but be aware of what a student loves to do. You will meet students who don’t want to listen to music but would love to draw with the tools for their mini break. Try to learn more about your student every day. On the first day, play a “Get to know you game” to understand what the student likes.

I hope these tips are helpful for the next time you get online with a student. I share more tips about success as an online teacher, how to use less tech online, and engaging activities on Instagram at @readtorewire.

A fun freebie for you!

Michelle has a freebie checklist you can download!

Go here to find to grab your checklist to get set-up as an effective, online reading tutor.

About Michelle Breitenbach

Michelle Breitenbach is an energetic and motivating presenter who will get you on your feet. She is a certified dyslexia practitioner and early literacy specialist from Boston, Massachusetts. After working as a special educator for seven years, she established her own company in Miami, Florida, Read to Rewire. She supports students online as a private educator and coaches teachers globally. Michelle is passionate about teaching others how to engage students through less technology, movement, and games in the classroom and online, precisely those extra wiggly, inflexible thinkers. Michelle was teaching online for over a year when the pandemic occurred. She supported the transition to online teaching with free resources and webinars during the pandemic. Michelle loves creating unique resources to support teachers and maintain student interest with games and bursts of movement. Her interactive webinars have focused on elevating student engagement, maintaining multi-sensory methods, minimizing tech online for successful lessons, setting up behavior systems, and weaving quick motivating activities into each part of a structured literacy lesson.

Formerly spoke at:

Climbing the Ladder of Reading Conference on March 27, 2021 Hosted by Wimberly Dyslexia Center

Topic:  Engaging Struggling Readers with Less Technology

Hosted by Wimberly Dyslexia Center

Webinar Presenter for Reading with TLC (Lively Letters)

Topic: Kicking Phonics Boredom to the Curb with Games and Movement

Topic: Success with the Document Camera for Online or In the Classroom (over 1500 sign-ups)

Topic: Setting Students up for Success from Day 1 Online

Presenter for Active Educator

Topic:  Online Behavior Systems that Work

Presenter for  Tutor Success Academy

Topic: Success as an Online Tutor with Minimal Technology

Thank you for stopping by today!

If you’re interested in learning more about teaching online effectively, be sure to check out, Start Tutoring Online Nowfrom my sister website, Tutor Success Academy!

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