When a global pandemic shuts down our educational system it is critical to mobilize quickly and effectively to support children and families. This article explores one educator's experience of setting up free online classes to support students during the COVID-19 shutdown. Participants ranged in age from 3 to 12 and were from Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, and Ohio. The author outlines how she designed classes, engaged with children and families, and provided instruction that was grounded in literacy research and Michigan's Essential Instructional Practices in Early Literacy while guided by developmentally appropriate pedagogy. Specific practices that foster motivation and engagement and contribute to connecting with families are outlined. Insights from the experience reveal that a classroom community can be forged remotely across states and ages, internet access affects educational experiences, and that teaching requires hard work, innovation, and dedication regardless of the setting. Limitations and insights for the future are also discussed.

Author Bio

Annie Petrozzelli Spear has been in the field of education for over 20 years and holds a Master of Education in Reading and a Master of Arts in Elementary Education. She taught in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Michigan. She is an Early Literacy Coach at C.O.O.R. Intermediate School District, consultant, and co-author of Let’s Talk: Getting Your Baby Ready to Read. Annie was a Principal Investigator and Reading Clinic Coordinator for The Literacy Center at Central Michigan University where she remains an adjunct faculty member. Annie aims to facilitate learning around literacy development and provide actionable ways for educators to meet children's needs through research-supported practices. She has a passion for engaging and collaborating with families in authentic ways linked to literacy research. She lives with her family in Northern Michigan and can be reached at anniespear@gmail.com.


With thanks to the children, families, and educators who attended classes at Annie's Academy. You inspired this story and helped me grow in my educational journey.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.