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In a world where a large part of education is online, how do you make sure to enrich and review information? In a classroom setting, you may use centers to help students. However, many teachers are teaching students online 100% of the day. Others may be doing an in-person hybrid with their magical teaching powers. Regardless of how it is getting done, teachers are looking for creative and simple tools to help students work on specific literacy skills. How can we remedy this in our literacy classes? You can use various virtual tools in literacy centers and keep digital literacy centers in your classroom.

What are Digital Literacy Centers?

A literacy center is where students move around the room. They work on specific skills at different centers. Typically, the teacher is one of the “centers”. She works with groups of students. Because so much of our learning is currently online, it can be challenging to allow students extra time to review already taught skills. Using virtual tools for literacy centers can remedy this missed connection and enable students to work on essential skills. Here's how:

Utilize Digital Dice

A variety of digital literacy center activities involve using manipulatives—unfortunately, even in a face-to-face situation, students are not allowed to share materials. So what is the solution? Find ways for students to use digital manipulatives. One virtual tool you can use is digital dice. While many teacher sellers create digital dice using PowerPoint and adding the dice to YouTube, another option is to use digital dice from Alice Keeler or Bearwood Labs. However, if you are a teacher seller, you cannot use Alice Keeler's dice to create TpT products. Having this tool available to students ensures they have the materials they need to complete the center task.


Full-Screen Interactive Google Slides Extension

Another virtual tool for literacy centers is everything Google. Google's interactive platform is great for collaborative work among students. Assign game-based literacy centers to allow students to play interactive games together. 

If you are using Google Slides, you can add the Full-Screen Interactive Google Slides Extension that allows the slides to go full screen. Having the activity full-screen makes the game the focus while still allowing students to use the drag and drop features that make Google so awesome!


Use Breakout Rooms for Center Rotations

Zoom has been a blessing (and a bit of a curse) during this pandemic. However, while it can be a pain, Zoom had a great feature: breakout rooms. Using Zoom or Google Meets as a virtual tool in literacy centers, you can put students into breakout rooms to play and collaborate with different literacy centers. Then, it's like moving around your room, just the digital version of it instead of the physical. 

By using breakout sessions, you can have your students work together on a variety of activities. You can help your students know what to do in each room by posting a digital rotation chart in your learning management system. You can also have instructions available in your Google Classroom before the virtual literacy center begins. Not only does this allow your students to work in groups, but it also gives you time to meet virtually face-to-face to collaborate.

Use Jamboard

If you haven't discovered Jamboard, you are missing out! Jamboard is the ultimate collaborative tool! Students can highlight, draw, add sticky notes, shapes, images, and text boxes. Plus, teachers can add background templates and clip art to each page for students to manipulate. There are so many options for sorting, formative assessment, and digital literacy games. 

Boom Cards

I've known about Boom Cards for a while but never dipped my toes in to see how it might help me in the classroom. Boom Cards is the ultimate virtual tools for literacy centers. The main reason is the ability of students to self-check their work. When teachers have to pull small groups during this time, it's important to find resources that allow students to receive immediate feedback during practice. This feedback is the reason why Boom Cards are a must when assigning digital literacy centers.

If you're online 100 percent, teaching in-person, or teaching in a hybrid classroom, literacy centers are a great way to help students review in your classroom. While you might be missing that physical interaction, you can keep yourself and students on track by using virtual tools for literacy centers. Keeping students on track can be achieved using the tools above and interactive notebooks and other go-to resources for teaching online.

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