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Summer Student Essentials

Hi, friends! A question came across my email inbox this week that seems to be a common question that I get asked. The question was, "What do students need for summer learning?" So, I thought I would address this in the blog post this week.

If you have read this blog for any length of time, you will know that I advocate for you to keep things simple. You don't have to tell your students to purchase a document camera, have high-tech learning devices, a gigantic screen, the latest apps, or stacks of books nearby. Remember, as an online teacher, you have very little control over your student's organizational system.

Guess what? They probably have little control over it also. Most of your students most likely have executive function difficulties and organizational challenges. 🙋‍♀️ Raise your hand if you've ever started a lesson and your student says that they have to retrieve an item from another room. We don't want to miss any of the precious learning moments we have with our students. This is why when I support teachers through coaching, I tell them to keep the majority of the materials on their side of the screen and in their control.

Besides not having to worry about whether your student is going to show up with their necessary materials, the next best part of this strategy is that the materials can be used over and over again saving you money and precious prep time. 😊

So the question is, what do students need on their side at a minimum and what do I have parents purchase if they can afford it?

Here's my list:

Letter board

As I have recommended in previous blog posts, iPads work amazingly when you're teaching online. However, when you're trying to keep it super simple, I don't use any electronic, techy letter boards. I have found that students have a lot of difficulty using the iPad's remote control. To bypass this, just use a good old fashioned letter board. Here's a link to one of my favorites. Find it here.

If your students have trouble with the letters falling off of the letter board, have them put it on a cookie sheet because the magnetism is stronger. A cheap alternative is to use sticky notes. If you don't have this resource, here's a free version: make a free letter board with this FREE LETTER CARD DOWNLOAD by cutting up letters printed on card stock, grab your laminator (here's my favorite cheap one), attach some magnetic strips, and you and your students are ready to go!

White Board

I've had students bring white boards of all sizes to their screen for a lesson. 😱 This does not have to be a gigantic learning tool. It can be just a small, inexpensive one. I personally love the Fundations Letter Board because it has a handwriting grid with squares for putting words into syllables or segment words into individual sounds, all while keeping it off to the side.

I suggest that you have one so students can quickly write an answer and show it to you. This is especially important in case tech is not being friendly to you that day, and your student needs to share an answer with you. The downside is that sometimes your student will have 20 markers within arm's reach and sometimes not even one! So, always have a Plan B by hopping on the Zoom board real fast.

Index Cards

Big index cards work great for students. Students can put them on a ring as you introduce words, such as high-frequency words. They can also have their own set. I like to use I think-I spell-I learn. This is where students can take sight words and turn them into pictures. It is so much fun for the kids! It also works as a short drawing beak!

Teachers have also asked me if my students have readers on their side of the screen. My answer is no. I keep the student readers on my side and pop the sentences under the document camera. You can do the same thing with code-able stories. This works great because you can use a resource over and over again.

Tapping Tool

I love when my students know how to correctly tap using their finger or down their arm, but sometimes it just needs to be a little different. Just bring toys to the screen! I turn any toy, actually any object, into a tapping tool. The students love this!

Recently, I had a client bring a dinosaur 🦕 to our lesson. Another student had a pop-it, which actually worked very well in our lesson. Pop-its make a great tapping tool and can help with fidgeting. If you have the means to send your students one, it would make a great summer gift and help build a connection with them, 😊

Dictation Paper

I love the dictation paper from Wilson to seperate sentences, sound words, nonsense words, and phrases. On the Wilson site, they have an example of it with a handwriting grid. I really like this because you can see your student's work nice and big on the screen. If you want to know more about how students share, check out this recent blog post.


I have my simple pen for a reason. It's because during dictation, I want to be able to see the errors. Teaching online, I'm not sitting next to my students anymore. If they're using a pencil, it easily erases and I don't know what they need support with. So, I have them use a pen for two reasons. One, I can see it brighter. Two, they can't erase their errors so I can see the support I need to provide them.


This is to practice sight words and to write letters and practice sounds. If they don't have sand, they can also grab salt from the cabinet. I wouldn't recommend shaving cream or anything else messy. It's really easy to keep salt, sand, or rice in a plastic container. Have the container shallow enough so you can see the student practice.

I would be lying if I said that my students always had their materials. That's why it's a good idea to always have a Plan B. One day, a student did not have any rice or salt. She did, however, have a Velour pillow. It worked just fine. You just have to be flexible as an online teacher. I even had a student want to tap her sounds down her dog. It worked, and she had fun learning. Puppies would probably not sit still for this.

As you prepare your sessions for the summer, don't forget to think simple. It doesn't have to be complicated. We don't want it to be complicated for your students, their parents, or yourself.

Do you have a question that you would like me to answer? I'd love to hear your ideas for another blog topic. Comment below, or send me an email, with your favorite summer must-have for students. Have a great week!

Keep teaching without the tech! 👩‍💻


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