As schools across the globe are adapting to varying levels of online learning, the University of Florida Literacy Institute (UFLI) has launched a Virtual Teaching Resource Hub to ease the transition for reading teachers.

UFLI is dedicated to improving literacy outcomes for students who struggle to learn to read and write through teacher professional development. Among the institute’s latest efforts is a monumental collaboration with best-selling author James Patterson to address Florida’s literacy crisis and double the state’s literacy rates — the James Patterson Literacy Challenge (JPLC).

A part of the JPLC, which began in 2018, are robust professional development curricula and online programs designed to increase the capacity of reading teachers. Recognizing the growing needs for resources and tools to support online learning environments, the JPLC team created materials for teaching reading online, and the Virtual Teaching Resource Hub was born.

“When schools first shut down back in March, the thought was, ‘Oh, kids will be home for an extra week after spring break,’” said Holly Lane, director of UFLI and associate professor of special education. “So, we got to work putting together our Parent Resource Hub to provide information and activities for home learning.”

Holly Lane

Holly Lane

The response we’ve received has been incredibly positive, and it has more than confirmed our hunch that this was a real need, Lane said.

Working with JPLC schools during emergency remote learning, Lane saw that while there were professional development programs available about precautions for the coronavirus and using online learning management systems, there was a gap in teacher education resources tailored to online reading instruction.

“Very soon, it became evident that kids would be home for much longer, and we wanted to help teachers in our JPLC schools be as effective as they could be as they were thrust into teaching reading online — most for the first time,” Lane said. “So, we got to work.”

The hub has resources ranging from lesson templates and activities to tips on managing behavior and maintaining student attention to promote literacy learning and support struggling readers via remote learning methods.

“No one was helping teachers figure out how to actually teach reading online,” Lane said.  “Through our use of the hub in the spring, we had figured out a lot of the ins and outs, so we thought we should help more teachers learn what we had learned.”

While initially developed with JPLC schools in mind, the resources on the hub are available for free for anyone to use and adapt for their classes. For example, UFLI offers pre-made virtual materials for a wide range of activities to develop foundational reading skills. The team has also collaborated with UF’s Digital Worlds Institute to create several innovative apps to support development of word reading skills. All of the materials can be used face-to-face, as well.