The Missouri Reader WINTER ISSUE Vol. 44, Issue 1 - Page 7


will replace with current cover when current cover is done



Beth Hurst

If there’s anything we know to be true of 2020, it’s that it has been unlike any year we have ever experienced before. Since mid-March, the world has been in a constantly shifting state of change: virtual teaching, stay-at-home orders, social distancing, contact tracing, remote learning, and forging relationships through our screens and devices. In the midst of these ongoing changes, Missouri Literacy Association also made a shift this summer by hosting our first statewide book club online with the amazing text Read the World by Kristin Ziemke and Katie Muhraris (2020).

Over the course of four evenings of discussion, educators from across the state gathered online to unpack the wisdom of Ziemke and Muhtaris, taking a close look at the ways in which the educational field has been preparing for years for the moments 2020 has brought to us. These discussions highlighted the major themes of the book: our own comfort with technology, our ability to build students’ identities as citizens of the world, and the ways in which we can promote equity and authenticity in a learner-centered classroom. The culmination of the book study was a virtual visit with Kristin Ziemke in which she further unpacked the ideas from the book and shared insights for re-opening schools this fall. In the course of her presentation, Ziemke placed emphasis on three major themes: instructional core principles, relationships and community, and strategies for remote teaching.

In order to be most effective, whether teaching in person or online, Ziemke emphasized the importance of knowing--and holding true to--your core instructional principles. For Kristin, these core principles are centered around practices that identify students as readers: providing a library of books to read nightly, prioritizing a daily read aloud, and making time and space for independent reading. Best practices must come first, she emphasized--even if they are not always easy. Our students deserve to be in classrooms where best practices are recognized and upheld, even when our physical space and structure have changed.

Alongside strong instructional practices, community and relationships are central to a healthy classroom. Ziemke offered several tips for supporting classroom environments in which students feel safe and have the space to build relationships:

Spend time and energy reestablishing community. This is of critical importance since students have not been physically present in a classroom since March.

Consider issues of wellness by checking in frequently with students. Being attentive to students’ emotional wellness and spending time inquiring about their well being frees up necessary cognitive space for learning. Ziemke suggested several resources for promoting a focus on social-emotional learning, including a distance learning form to check in with kids each day (available on the Read the World website) and a Padlet with options for daily soft starts.

Finally, Kristin shared strategies specific for remote teaching to maximize instructional benefits for kids:

Set aside plenty of time for small group instruction. This will prioritize time for students to both speak and listen and will promote dialogue and interaction.

Be prepared for in-the-moment teaching and response. Keep your tools nearby, including a clipboard with blank paper for creating quick anchor charts. Students should also have paper and pencil close to respond by writing or drawing, which they can easily hold up to the screen.

Determine which instruction is best delivered synchronously (“same time”) and asynchronously (“anytime”). Live instruction should focus on discussion and interaction, while pre-recorded videos provide flexibility and the option for both students and their families to rewatch key teaching points as needed.

Be intentional. Educators must be thoughtful about the resources we ask kids to use, what we expect them to do, and how we expect them to do it.

Videos should be conversational. Pre-recorded instruction should include many opportunities for students to pause and respond.

Less is more. The menu of resources available to teachers continues to grow exponentially, but Ziemke suggests focusing on 6-15 excellent tools that are open-ended and work across subject areas and grade levels.

Overall, Ziemke stressed, authenticity is key for instruction in today’s world, whether that teaching happens in a physical classroom or a virtual environment. Educators are encountering new challenges on a daily basis and it is essential to recognize that everything we do in front of our audience of students is modeling. Whether it is delivering instruction or resolving a technology issue, we are showing our students what it means to be authentic and to solve real world problems. As we dive headfirst into a new school year, Ziemke’s wisdom--in the ideas shared with Missouri Literacy Association, the incredible lessons and resources outlined with Katie Muhtaris in Read the World, and the collaborative website an outstanding guide for educators as we all continue to grow, learn and adapt in our ongoing role as both teachers and students of the world.


Ziemke, K. & Muhtaris, K. (2020). Read the world: Rethinking literacy for empathy and action in a digital age. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Sarah Valter is a member of the MLA Social Media

Committee. She is reporting on the 4-part book club

MLA sponspred on Ziemke's book. Book Clubs have

a regular feature of MLA's Literacy work.


Everyone a Student, Everyone a Teacher:

Reading the World with Kristin Ziemke in the Time of COVID-19


Sarah Valter