Unplugged Literacy Activities

 “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”

– Benjamin Franklin

I finished my second trimester report cards on Friday, less than twenty-four hours after our school closed for six weeks, due to the state-mandated COVID-19 closure. Although I know instruction will continue in some capacity, districts, including my own, are scrambling to adapt to this current reality. Our number one priority is making sure our students will still continue to have their basic needs met through food and nutrition services. Then, we can focus on the next task– facilitating learning opportunities outside of the classroom.

I’m not a fan of all-day screen time. Yes, a lot of distance learning takes place on computers and there are phenomenal learning websites to reinforce skills and aid in instruction, many of which I will be sharing in the coming days and weeks.  There are also many activities that can be done at home without a computer.

With that said, I am not opposed to technology or computer access in any way, at home or at school, however here are some literacy activities so students can learn from home during this time of imbalance.


Read. Read. Read.

The best way to improve fluency and comprehension is to read. Have your children read for at least thirty minutes daily. Ask them questions about what they read that day, give them a sticky notepad to write a quick sentence about each chapter and post the notes to create a storyboard. I’ve also found that if I’m reading, my kids are more likely to follow without complaint.

Build Fluency by Reading Aloud

Fluency is the rate and accuracy in which a student reads. The higher their fluency, the better their comprehension because they are working less on decoding words and are therefore able understand what they are reading. Read aloud to your child and have them read aloud to you. The more children read aloud, the more comfortable they become in doing so. Watch for unnatural pauses in sentences and encourage them to use expression in their voice.

Build on New Vocabulary

Write newly acquired vocabulary in a notebook. Have children try using context clues to identify what the words mean before going to Google or a dictionary. Encourage them to create a dictionary and quiz others on their new vocabulary terms.

Create Storyboards and/or Story Pamphlets

Fold paper into thirds to create a story pamphlet or board. After reading, students can create a cover, identify the plot, as well as the characters, setting and theme. My daughter created this one for Lily’s Purple Plastic Purse so I could show you an example.

story board


Start a Book Club

Read the same book within your family or create a book club between your child and a few of their friends. When they are not together and technology is allowed, they can create a common document to summarize and discuss the book.

Family/Friends Book Reviews

Find a place to post about books and make recommendations. Book reviews are a fantastic place to start opinion writing. Convince me to read that book you’re recommending!

Listening and Learning

Read something to your child and then ask them comprehension questions. The art of being an active listener when not being able to follow along with what is being read is very difficult. You have to tune out all side thoughts and distractions. Make the questions very specific to what was read.

Practice Identifying the Theme of a Story

In my experience, the ability to identify the theme, or message/moral, of a story is difficult for all elementary students. It is also an essential learning standard. Contrary to the main idea of a story, it is the overlying and often inferred messages that are woven throughout. The best place to find identifiable themes and morals are in fables and fairy tales.

For example:

The Three Little Pigs: don’t take short cuts to get a job done.

Tortoise and the Hare: slow and steady wins the race.

The Lorax: take care of the environment.

Harry Potter: loyalty, friendship, courage, good vs. evil.

The ability to identify themes in books is essential so make it fun and practice!

Practice Comparing and Contrasting

So many books have movie companions. To compare and contrast, draw a Venn Diagram and have students write what’s specific to the book, what’s specific to the movie, and what’s in both.


Create a Plot Diagram or Story Mountain

To learn more about what a Plot Diagram is, I suggest this fantastic Pixar Video that one of my teaching teammates shared with me. After reading a book or watching a show, ask your child to create a plot diagram of it on paper. I created one on our white board at home of the cartoon version of Mulan. I also like to add a favorite quote, as well as the themes, and genre of the book/movie.

plot diagram

A Little Bribery Never Hurt

Not only am I a teacher, but I’m a parent, which also makes me a realist. Despite forcing them, I have two children who, unlike myself, are not avid readers. Therefore, a few bribery tricks to encourage reluctant readers.

  • For each book read, they get a puzzle piece. When the puzzle is complete, they earn a prize.
  • Create a BINGO board. For each book read they get a square. Bingo is a prize and Blackout is a prize.
  • Sticker charts, completed Mr. Potato heads for prizes. Extra technology time, money and desserts…I’ve done it all.


Good luck and stay tuned for my next post on unplugged writing ideas!

Until then, as I would say to my students…be kind, stay awesome, and ask yourself, What have I done for others today? 










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