Free Digital Resource for Popular Read Alouds
There are several sites and apps that I've come to rely on over the years to help support what I'm doing in the classroom or to simplify the workload that is done outside of it. By sharing a few of those resources with you, I hope to help simplify your life as well.
Over the past decade or so, there has been a great push to incorporate more and more technology in the classroom. While seemingly positive and supportive of student achievement, I've found that it can be a distraction and serve merely as entertainment if not used properly.
I'm not an advocate for technology just for technology's sake.
I believe it should have a purpose and one that enhances learning or the experience of learning rather than be the shining star in a lesson. Oftentimes, I feel that technology is treated as that new toy you unwrap on Christmas morning. Super hot and exciting for a short time before it quickly fades away and you're on to the next "latest and greatest" invention.
While I'm all for being a lifelong learner and keeping up on what is current in education (and technology), I'm not a fan of jumping on bandwagons. As a teacher, I am slow to accept new "tools" until I have solid evidence that it's worth the time investment in learning, supporting, and implementing in the classroom. So - in all of my "tool" posts, you will find information about resources I have researched, tested, and used on my own. I have found them incredibly helpful and hope they will bring you help as well.
Ever need a book right away and you just can't lay your hands on it? I'm sure this never happened to you, but it's happened to me more than once. Even though I'm incredibly organized and always (ok, 99% of the time) planned well in advanced, there have been occasions when the kids are set to arrive in ten minutes and I'm scrambling to find the book I'm using in my lesson that day. Talk about panic. I've search through all of my teacher bags, my classroom library, scoured our building library, and asked every teacher in between - and the one book I need is nowhere to be found.
After that happened to me a few years ago, I started bookmarking every site I could find that had free, digital versions of children's books. That way, I would never be stuck without a book again. One of my favorite sites in that precious folder is Storyline Online.
Founded by the Screen Actor's Guild, Storyline offers videos of books being read aloud by celebrities both adults and kids love. Who wouldn't want to listen to a book read by James Earl Jones, Hector Elizondo, or Betty White? I have to be honest, the appeal of having someone read aloud to you is pretty strong. Many times I've visited the site and have been tempted to stay awhile and listen to book after book.
The site is classroom friendly in that there are multiple options for viewing videos. In my district, YouTube was strictly blocked and we were always looking for alternative sources. Here, you have the option of viewing through YouTube, SchoolTube, and MyVRSpot.
While Storyline's library isn't extensive, the titles that are available are ones that you often would find in an elementary classroom. Books like The Kissing Hand, Thank you, Mr. Falker, Stellaluna, Knots on a Counting Rope, Chester's Way, Brave Irene, A Bad Case of the Stripes and more. The list of available titles is growing, but, as the program functions on donations, books are added as often as possible.
You can follow on Facebook to receive updates when new titles are videotaped and loaded to the site. Their most recent project was "Catching the Moon" with Kevin Costner and his "Black or White" costar, Jillian Estell. (The movie is fabulous, if you haven't seen it yet!)
There are dozens of ways that you could use this site in the classroom. Here are a few:
- Project the site on your SmartBoard and have a text read aloud. Even when the book actually is in hand, it's nice to have another voice read to students besides your own from time to time. Plus, a video with well-known faces is sure to capture their attention!
- Bookmark on student computers for use in a listening or "Read to Me" center. Place a copy of several texts in the center so that students can follow along, if they choose.
- Reinforce newly learned skills. Have students select a text from a list, and after watching, complete a task to show how they can apply that week's skill to new texts. For examples of short tasks, check out my Independent Reader Response Task Cards (also available in Superheroes Theme) or Reading Response Quick Checks. This could also be done whole group, rather than in a center. Simply select a text, play for students, post the task card or response sheet you want to use, and have students complete independently at their desks.
- Use as an extension for when you have extra time. Each title comes with an activity PDF. Many of the activities listed could be completed orally with your students to fill those unexpected 10 minutes at the end of a period (does anyone really have those?).
- Have ready as a back-up for substitutes to use.
- Class rewards. If you use a rewards system in your class, this could be something they work towards earning at the end of a Friday.
Using Storyline in your classroom? Leave a note and share how!
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