Distance Learning Reading Activities: How to Create Lessons based on Picture Books in 2024

If you are an elementary teacher looking for distance learning reading activities and ideas, then you found the right place! This post shares why you should use and how to use interactive read alouds and related digital activities for distance learning activities with your students. Be sure to check out this video that explains how to create distance learning lesson plans based on picture books. Learn more below!

elementary-aged girl listening to a picture book being read aloud to her on her tablet

What is Distance Learning?

Although some may think that “distance learning” is the same as “online learning,” there are actually several differences. Distance learning includes minimal interaction between teachers and students while online learning involves direct instruction from a teacher.

  • When using distance learning, a teacher assigns work and checks in, but the student completes the assignment outside of a classroom setting. Often the work is assigned and the teacher checks in digitally (through email, messaging, etc)
  • Distance learning provides greater flexibility for students to work at their own pace at the times that best meet the needs of their family.
  • Distance learning includes no in-person interaction between teachers and students. However, you’ll likely rely on digital forms of communication and may even meet up face-to-face via video conferencing.
3 students participating in a virtual learning lesson

3 Reasons to Use Literature-Based Activities for Distance Learning

Below are 3 reasons why literature-based activities are great for distance learning.

1. Provides Consistency

Using activities based on picture books lets you provide your students with consistent routines that create a rhythm to their days while also integrating many different skills and concepts.

This is extremely important at this time of uncertainty. It also makes it easier for their families to support your students’ learning at home. Connecting through literature will help to create the sense of community that you and your students miss as you teach remotely.

2. Makes Planning Easier

Not only does creating a sequential pattern of activities for remote learning provide your students with a comforting sense of structure, it makes planning and prepping so much easier for you as a teacher.

A standard schedule of daily practice enables you to focus on inserting what will be most beneficial for your students instead of spending your time searching for things your kids can do at home.

3. Opportunity for Extended Learning

Literature-based learning makes it easy to integrate reader response, writing activities, grammar practice, word study, vocabulary building and other language arts skills. It also opens the door to so many interdisciplinary experiences:

  • pair with non-fiction topics the students can research
  • link to craft ideas and directed drawing videos
  • recommend related cooking activities
  • pick a related science concept for them to explore
  • offer an at-home STEM challenge based on the book
Teacher holding Starts With a Story printable up to her Zoom class

How to Use the Starts with a Story Resources for Distance Learning

Learn how to use the Starts with a Story resources for distance learning below. And be sure to watch a sample planning video and get a free picture book companion!

1. Select the picture book you want to use.

There are currently around 250 picture book companions to choose from! You can see a list of links to all of the available titles and download the standards-based alignment guide at: bit.ly/allpicturebooks

2. Share the story with your students.

Read the book aloud live to your class using a video conferencing service (i.e. Zoom or Google Hangouts), post a recorded video of you reading the book, or share a link to a video of the book being read that has been posted online.

3. Use the lesson ideas, prompts, and activities.

Comprehension Questions

  • If you are meeting with your students virtually, you can use the text-based comprehension questions for a live discussion.
  • If you are recording yourself reading the book, you can ask the questions as part of your video and have the students respond in writing.
  • Another option is to share a link to the book being read aloud online. In this case, you can type the questions out for the students to respond to. Better yet, share the questions with your students’ families and encourage them to listen to the story together and use the questions for discussion.

Activity Pages

  • All of the writing prompts, reader responses, focus sentences, vocabulary and word study activities in the book companions can be used in printed packets that are sent home or shared electronically. With the latter, the students can respond on paper or digitally via Google Slides or Seesaw. We’ve even included instructions for how to adapt the resources on both platforms in this packet.

4. Add extension activities.

This is a great way to enrich your students, encourage inquiry and provide opportunities for independent learning. Extend their learning by having them read / listen to other books by the same author or by researching a non-fiction topic related to the story. Share links to craft ideas, directed drawings or virtual field trips.

Elementary teaching virtual learning reading lesson

How to Use Starts with a Story Resources with Google Slides

The entire Starts with a Story collection now includes sets of Google Slides for all of the books! This allows students to type directly on the activities and submit them via Google Classroom. Students love these distance learning reading activities!

How to Use Starts with a Story Resources with Seesaw

The Starts with a Story resources are compatible with Seesaw. Read the directions for how to use these distance learning reading activities with Seesaw below.

1. Select the Pages You Want to Use with Seesaw

Download the PDF book companion. Decide which page(s) you want to assign to your students.

2. Create Image Files of the Activity Pages

Once you have selected the page or pages you want to use, make a screen shot of them. If you’re not sure how to make a screenshot, just follow the directions below!

If you’re a Mac user:

  • Screenshot of your entire screen: Press Command+Shift+3 simultaneously. The image will save to your desktop.
  • Screenshot of specific part of your screen: Press Command+Shift+4. Click and drag over the area on your screen you want to screenshot. The image will save to your desktop,

If you’re a PC user:

  • Screenshot of your entire screen: Press Windows logo key+PrtScn and the image will appear as a file in your Screenshots folder (inside pictures folder)
  • Screenshot of specific part of your screen: Press Windows+Shift+S and click and drag on your screen the area you want to screenshot and the image will be copied to your clipboard

Name the file and save it to an easily accessible place in your computer.

3. Upload the Images to Seesaw

Now it is time to upload the images you just captured to your SeeSaw account!

  • Log into your SeeSaw account.
  • On your class page, you’ll see a green circle that reads “ADD.” Click on it.
  • Select “Assign Activity.”
  • Select “Create a New Activity”.
  • You’ll need to give the activity a name and write the student instructions.
  • You can choose to have written instructions or add voice instructions.
  • Once you’ve added the name and instructions, it is time to upload your image.
  • Select “Add Template for Student Responses”.
  • You will see this screen. Select “Upload”.
  • Now you will need to upload your screenshot. Drag the image into the box or click “Select from Computer” and then navigate to find the image you saved on your computer.
  • When your image(s) have been uploaded, you will need to click the green check mark that will appear in the top right corner.
  • Next, you’ll see a visual of what your students will see when they access the activity. They will be able to add texts boxes, audio, upload or capture images, and draw on the image.
  • Click on the green checkmark in the top right corner again.

4. Create an Activity

Review your Activity Name and Student Instructions and add more files if needed. When this is complete, click the save button.

5. Assign the Activity to your Students

  • The activity will appear in your activity library where you can assign it to your whole class or to specific students.
  • Click the assign button and select what class or students you want to assign the activity to and select the green “Assign to Class” button.
  • Now the activity has been added to your students’ “Activities” folder where they can complete it.
  • The process is complete!
  • Once a student completes the activity, you will receive a notification.

7 Websites for Finding Read Aloud Videos

Below are 7 sides for finding read aloud videos to use in your classroom.

printable picture book comprehension activities

Free Picture Book Companion

We hope you found this information about distance learning and how to use these distance learning reading activities with your students helpful. If you are interested in learning more about Starts With a Story, be sure to grab this free picture book companion to try it out!

The Recess Queen book companionThe Recess Queen book companion

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