Making Open Circle Literature Connections Remotely

By Peg Sawyer, Open Circle Trainer, Coach, and Literature Specialist

One way to maintain positive relationships between students and educators remotely during this challenging time is through sharing stories. Reading aloud to students through a variety of remote platforms is one way to sustain normalcy and personal connection. Sharing literature has the added value of prompting discussions about social and emotional issues. Having an opportunity to share feelings and experiences is especially important now.

Sharing stories that have connections to self-awareness, self-management, positive self-talk, and problem-solving can provide support to students who are experiencing stress and uncertainty brought on by the current public health crisis and being away from their classroom community and routines.

Although most teachers have limited access to school and public libraries right now, they may have some picture and/or chapter books on hand that they can use for their virtual read-alouds. Some things to keep in mind:

  • Almost any children’s book offers opportunities for making connections to social and emotional learning.  Most stories are built around basic human experiences and feelings: being upset, having a problem, worry, controlling emotions, etc.
  • As with in-person read-alouds, it’s important in a virtual book-sharing experience to help children make the connections to SEL and Open Circle using prompts such as, “What are some ways that (character name) could (calm down; cooperate; listen well) using what we learned in Open Circle?

An alternative to teachers reading aloud to their students remotely is the use of read-aloud videos. Educators might want to share these resources with students in the following ways:

  • Share the video of the read-aloud during a remote learning session.
  • Invite students to watch and/or listen to the read-aloud video on their own and complete a book reflection or book response to share at the next remote learning session.

When using a read-aloud video, teachers can “bookend” the experience with pre-reading prompts and post-reading questions and discussions, using Open Circle vocabulary and concepts to help students make connections to social and emotional learning.

Here are some Open Circle favorites that are available through video links: 

Sometimes I’m BombalooSometime Im Bombaloo 75w
by Rachel Vail, illustrated by Yumi Heo


Yesterday I Had the BluesYesterday I Had the Blues 75w
by Jeron Ashford Frame, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie



Thank you Mr. FalkerThank you MrFalker 75w
by Patricia Polacco



Chester’s WayChesters Way 75w
by Kevin Henkes



Enemy PieEnemy Pie 75w
by Derek Munson, illustrated by Tara Calahan King



Rainbow FishRainbow Fish 75w
by Marcus Pfister



StellalunaStellaluna 75w
by Janell Cannon


Here are additional read-aloud videos with connections to social and emotional concepts:

I am Peace, by Susan Verdel, illustrated by Peter Reynolds

Sylvester and The Magic Pebble, by William Steig

Somebody Loves You Mr. Hatch, by Eileen Spinelli, illustrated by Paul Yalowitz

Hula Hoopin’ Queen, by Thelma Lynne Godin

Catching the Moon, by Crystal Hubbard, illustrated by Randy Duburke

It’s OK to Make Mistakes, by Todd Parr

Bilal cooks Daal, by Aisha Saeed

See the following websites for more read-aloud videos:

Storyline Online: Screen Actors Guild Foundation
Actors from film and theatre read aloud from a diverse selection of picture books.

Kid Lit TV
Features a wide variety of reading resources for children, including videos of authors reading aloud from their books.

Sankofa Read-Aloud (YouTube Channel)
Diverse read-aloud story videos featuring children’s books by African American authors and illustrators.


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