Spotlight Post

A Coaches' Bookshop!

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

A Review of: Connecting with Students Online: Strategies for Remote Teaching and Learning by Jennifer Serravallo

 
Wow, that is about all I can say, Wow

Jennifer Serravallo definitely outdid herself again with her newest book, Connect with Students Online: Strategies for Remote Learning. This book is seriously a MUST READ for all educators and an amazing resource for the unique teaching methods of 2020!

For starters, when I first heard Jen was writing this book and pre-ordered it, I ‘assumed’ it was going to all be about reading and/or writing strategies for remote learning only. As I was reading (I finished it in two nights after restarting it again) I quickly realized I was wrong. I was eager to read more because it was not just about reading and writing strategies. Jen wrote each chapter based around the many things teachers need to know and be able to do for a variety of content areas and topics, regardless of your learning environment. It was as if I was reading a user-manual for remote and in-person instruction in 2020. 


Chapter 1 provides great information that reinforces various important elements of instruction that need to be consider in order for online instruction to be effective, for both the students and teachers. 

I thoroughly enjoyed chapter 2! As a mother I was able to pinpoint the ideas found in the chapter that Jen was suggesting that my child’s current 3rd grade teacher already does to build a literacy community and partnership with the student’s home and family. Jen suggests practical ideas that parents will definitely appreciate if teachers put them into practice.

Chapter 3 was my favorite! As an instructional coach (who focuses on early literacy instruction), backwards design is ‘our way of doing things.’ Without it, our teachers are lost and don’t know the “what” of the intended learning. This chapter very simply shows educators how to apply the backwards planning process for these trying times we are in.  I like how Jan gives step by step instructions on how to map out lessons! The planning and adjusting of ‘normal units’ for remote and/or hybrid instruction has been challenging for teachers and district personnel. I feel that this chapter will give educators comfort and reassurance in that modifying and shortening lessons and/or units during this unique time, is okay to do. Educators need to hear from someone in Jen's position that modifying is necessary.

In Chapter 4, Jen shares the idea of taking a mini-lesson that is intended for in-person instruction and makes it a micro-lesson for remote learning. This was an amazing take-away! Jen found a way to take a task that may be difficult for teachers to grapple with, and put it into a simple understandable format! 

In chapters 5 and 6 you will start to see the emphasis placed on reading and writing more, where Jen provides ways to tweak specific strategies and practices to fit remote instruction, while connecting them to other topics and content areas. I really appreciate how Jen provided simple, do-able ideas to help teachers make sure their students have what they need (i.e., materials and a home-workspace) to be successful! She was very successful in walking educators through how to hold different conferences and modify instructional practices, which many of us are not yet comfortable adjusting ourselves. 

This book will help many educators feel more confident and competent, regardless of their type of learning environment. The various tips provided throughout the book (i.e., time tips, bonus items, and nuts and bolts) are powerful coaching moves on Jen's part to scaffold the learning! 

And then there are the videos! Jen has embedded videos within the text where the reader gets to see Jen and other educators put many of the ideas from the text into practice. This addition will provide educators with visual scaffolds and models that they need in order to feel comfortable making 'it' their own! 

As a former teacher and current instructional coach/early literacy specialist, I appreciate the hard work and dedication Jen and her team put into this project! Jen and all who helped her, should be extremely proud of themselves for the large contribution they have made to many educators learning of 2020!