Crystal Starr

Driving Student Engagement During Distance Learning.

To say this school year has been unprecedented would be an understatement. When the pandemic hit in March of 2020, Crystal Starr, a 6th-grade teacher at Lincoln Public Schools in Lincoln, Nebraska knew she was going to have to teach differently this year. 

The challenge wasn’t easy…

Like many teachers around the country, Crystal was teaching both on Zoom and in-person at the beginning of the year. The problem she was faced with immediately was keeping students productive and engaged for the first 15 minutes of the class where she would have to be disinfecting the tables, getting her Zoom students online, and also keeping the students that were coming into the classroom on-task. “It was 15-minutes of learning time that would go un-utilized if I didn’t find the right activity,” Crystal said.

“So I gave my students a choice – you can independently read for the first 15 minutes of class, or you can play Read to Lead. Of course, they all chose Read to Lead!” 

It was equally as important that Crystal would be able to monitor student progress and performance as well since many students were learning remotely. 

Then she found Read to Lead.

When Crystal came across Read to Lead, she learned she could easily get both her remote students and in-person students on Read to Lead at the beginning of the class while she was disinfecting tabletops and setting up the Zoom call. The students knew this was the routine of each class, were excited to play the next game, and couldn’t wait to see how many “words read” they had achieved so far on the dashboard. 

With the formative assessments embedded in each game, Crystal could monitor students’ understanding, progress, and even assess performance by Common Core Standard. 

The results were unexpected.

“The Million Words Read Challenge upped the competition in my class,” Crystal said.

With the class being so disconnected due to the pandemic, Read to Lead brought the students together for a common goal. “They wanted to see who they were competing against on the leaderboard from around the country, and it made them feel connected to something bigger, ” Crystal said. 

“The most surprising outcome of Read to Lead, is that my students were reading and talking to each other about the different decisions they were making throughout the game,” Crystal said. Students had to think critically and take the time to understand what they were reading in order to make the right decisions to progress through the game.

Two of Crystal’s  English Language Arts classes become Read to Lead Millionaires and will be receiving their student prize packs in the mail along with a gift card to host a class celebration hosted by Read to Lead’s generous donors. 

While the school year is coming to a close, many of Crystal’s students love Read to Lead so much, she often finds they are playing at home on their own time!


About Read to Lead

Read to Lead uses the power of game-based learning to empower middle school students to build literacy, life, and career skills. Teachers can sign up for a free account to get started!