Your child’s/children’s school district is closed.  You have to figure out how to keep the learning going. Most teachers are putting in extra hours to provide resources, and they will work through the shutdowns to support their students and their students’ parents. But what if you need more?

There are so, so many resources available to parents online.  I have compiled a list of some of my favorites so you can find them all in one place.

Before we get to the resources, here are a few things to think about.

Create a schedule.

Children need structure and boundaries to feel safe.  Even teenagers.  You will need to balance their work with yours, so think about ways to merge your peak times with their quiet work time. Then work with your child to create a schedule, and  stick to it as much as possible.

  • Younger students will need a balance of quiet work, activities, and free play time. Use this resource on normal attention spans to help you plan.  Several sample schedules are available on social media and Pinterest, but the best schedule for you and your child will be the one you create together.
  • Older students should create their own schedules. Just provide some non-negotiables and let them come up with a few options. Turn it into a lesson and let them present their first choice and reasons to you in a persuasive presentation!
  • For students of all ages, brainstorm a list of what to do if they are stuck and you are unavailable.  For example, they could write their questions on a post-it before moving on to a back-up activity or a next-on-the list task.  Older students could have a network of friends to work with through a site like Flipgrid (see below) or Zoom.

Make sure younger children know what you mean when you say “emergency” so they’ll know when it’s necessary to interrupt you. 

Build in incentives/rewards and social time.

We will all need some things to look forward to during these days of limited social contact.  Part of planning the daily schedule should include a plan for incentives and rewards.

  • Ask your child to create a “menu” of reward options. Then plan on ways they can earn the rewards.
  • Build in time to be silly or move. I have included a few sites that might help for short breaks or for days kids can’t go outside.
  • All students will miss spending time with their friends, so a reward option might include social time on their phone. Fligrid is a great option for kids to use to keep in touch.  Learn about it here.

Help children process emotions.

Everyone is experiencing some level of anxiety and fear right now.  Be sure to build in time to address feelings.

  • Writing is one of the best ways anyone can tap into and address emotions. Most children can write openly about what they are feeling or experiencing, but if a child is especially anxious, writing a story about someone else and speculating on what that person might be feeling can help.  I included some sites that provide other ideas on the resources page.

Limited/no access to online tools

What if you do not have enough devices or Internet to use any of the online sites and tools?

  • Contact your child’s school. Schools are working hard to put plans together for all students, including students who do not have access to devices.

Resources List

Don’t get overwhelmed; there’s a lot here!  My goal was to create a one-stop resource that you can come back to as needed.

Processing emotions

Information on emotional development by age groups:

Helping younger students process emotions:

Using writing to process emotions:

Activities for processing emotions:

Sites to get kids moving

Fun short activities aimed at elementary kids, but fun for kids of all ages:

Lots of virtual dance parties on Youtube.  Here’s one:

For younger students:

Sites for English language arts

For younger students:   Streams videos featuring celebrated actors reading children’s books alongside creatively produced illustrations.

For all age groups:

Access books through local library apps and

For older students:

Kelly Gallagher and Penny Kittle’s lesson ideas for secondary students:

Not sure what’s important to do to help students in grades 6-12 with reading? 

Podcasts and storytelling

26 Best Podcasts for all age groups:

Authors reading aloud online:

For older students:

Storytelling, all topics:

True scary stories (14+) 

Sites for all subjects

Game learning:  recommended for 8-13

Social studies

For younger students:

For older students:  20+ resources

Also, please note many sites like Newsela and Readworks include social studies texts.


For younger students:

Science Mom shares videos:

For older students:  and


64 websites:

Sites for art  mostly elementary  Use sketchnoting to learn content and respond to reading.


Enjoy exploring these amazing resources with your children!





Now that students have ideas, it’s time to flesh out the stories.

With any piece of writing, two parts are critical for students:  ideas and organization.  Both of these, known to many teachers as traits of writing, can be difficult for any writer.  Who hasn’t labored over a first rough draft, trying hard to find a way to pull it together? Writing is hard work, so it’s no wonder students find ways to avoid it sometimes.

When you are ready for students to dig in and write a piece of fiction (or any other piece of writing), it’s important to think about what writers need.  I know I need time – time to think, time to experiment, time to get feedback, time to re-examine mentor texts, time to rewrite, and time to read my work out loud.

That’s a lot of time, especially since teachers are constantly battling the clock.

The only way I know to provide students with enough time and support is to utilize a workshop structure in the classroom.  If you need a quick overview on workshop structure, check out this blog post  from Two Writing Teachers.  Workshop provides students in-class time for all the critical parts writing, including time to confer with me and with peers, rather than setting the expectation that students will write outside of class time without support.

After spending some writing workshop time on thinking, drafting, and conferring, students are ready for narrowing their focus and “reading like a writer” again, but with a specific lens. To limit this activity, I ask students to read their mentor texts for the following:  character, suspense, and conflict.  High school students can handle working on all three, but for middle school students, I would suggest letting them choose one, or one at a time at least.

To provide some structure, I pose a few questions such as these:

  • Character:  What character trait is most important about the main character?  How does the writer reveal it in the story? How do this character’s actions move the plot?
  • Suspense:  Where does the writer build tension in the story? How did he/she build this tension for the reader?  Why does it work?
  • Conflict:  What is blocking the character from getting what s/he wants? Does this conflict escalate/complicate as the story progresses? Does this conflict come from outside and inside?

Students spend time working alone, reading and annotating.  Then students meet with their writing group, or you can re-group students by the mentor text or element they chose to analyze.

All students work on the question “What did you learn about characterization, suspense, and/or conflict that you want to try in your writing?”

I think this is an important question on which to spend a little whole-class time debriefing.  Students can benefit from hearing which techniques other writers prioritized and ways students discuss the elements of fiction.  Clearly, students are developing their reading skills throughout this lesson series, and listening to what other students notice is a low stakes way of developing students’ knowledge of and ability to analyze text.

Armed with ideas and techniques, it’s back to writing time.  Younger students may be adding on to their quickwrite, while more skilled or older students should be deep into their drafts.

Within a workshop schedule, time to write, confer, and revise continues for days. I try to have copies of mentor texts available around the room so students can get “professional” help without waiting for me.

Students are also always working on reading goals – always.

Our classroom expectation is this:  If you are stuck during writing time, switch to reading.  Of course, this was something I dedicated time to at the beginning of the school year, defining and modeling expectations, and even so, I would sometimes need to pull a student to have a behavior conference instead of a writing conference.

For students who come to class without their independent reading books, I always have plenty of books of all genres around the room.  Sometimes, though, students do not want to dive into a new book, so I borrowed a wonderful strategy from my colleague Whitney Keeton.  Whitney provides newspaper stories she thinks students might be interested in, and students are able to pick an article, read it, and put it back before they leave the classroom.  Yes, sometimes a student simply wants to read how a favorite sports team fared the night before, but the student is still reading!

If I notice a student chooses to read rather than to write several days in a row, I make sure to confer with that student.  It could be that the student prefers to write at home.  Or it could be that the student is stuck and needs my help to move forward with the writing. Reluctant writers sometimes need short, specific writing goals for each day, so that might be worth posting each day.  The best determiners of success are making sure students are interested in what they are writing and feel secure in the classroom community.  If these two things are in place, I have successful writing workshop days!

Next, students use protocols to provide feedback to each other.



A few years ago, I served as Penny Kittle’s driver.

Yes, you read that sentence correctly.

No, I am not an Uber driver, nor am I particularly good driver. But Penny was in town, and she needed someone reliable to drive her from the hotel to the workshop venue for the two days she was presenting.  To this day, I have no idea how this task fell to me, but I said yes.

Saying yes meant I had PENNY KITTLE trapped in a small space with no one but me to talk to!   I utilized every minute of that time while trying to not overwhelm her with questions.   (I considered asking her if I could tape our conversation, but I thought that might be going a bit too far.)  She was kind and gracious, which made me appreciate her even more.

Serving as her driver meant I could attend the workshop, too.  One of the many ideas Penny shared was an activity in which she sketched and annotated her thoughts in response to this question:

Have you ever had a moment when you felt two parts of who you are or who you want to be or who others expect you to be at war inside of you? Where you feel split in two but also whole all at once?

See the activity here.

A couple of weeks later, my students finished book clubs, and I decided to try an adaptation of Penny’s idea.  I asked students to think about how characters in their books changed from the beginning to the end of their stories.  I asked them to think about what kind of changes were significant and notable versus changes that were insignificant, and I asked them to provide a sketch that revealed “before and after” attributes and details.

I wanted to see where students were in their understanding of character development, and I liked the idea of providing a low stakes, creative method for them to show me.  I also decided to give students individual time to create their sketches, which gave them some space from their book club partners.  I learned over the years that sometimes even the best groups need a little time to think away from each other.


When they finished, I asked them to meet in their book club groups to share their drawings and to discuss how they determined what they put on their sketches.  As they talked, I captured some of their thoughts and ideas on my clipboard.  These would be the ideas we would discuss.

I did not have my students dig in as deeply as Penny’s example shows, but I liked the results, and I attached a few for The Secret Life of Bees throughout this post.  I quickly determined which students needed some conversation with me the following day, and then we had a strong whole-group discussion about the various ways students noticed important changes in their characters.  The discussion was strong because all of the ideas came from the students — not from me, not from a list of pre-determined notes, not from a teacher’s guide.

What you cannot see, though, are the animated conversations that took place as students shared their thinking processes and their sketches.  All of that joy and excitement prompted me to put everyone’s sketches on my bulletin board after school that day.  The next day, students vied for space near the bulletin board.  They were reading, commenting, asking questions to each other, etc. — exactly what every literacy teacher hopes to see students doing in response to books.

Thank you, Penny Kittle.