It started like any other workday. I got up early, worked out, had a bit of breakfast, and headed out to school. I was pleased with myself because I was on time (often a challenge for me), traffic was light, and I had a hot cup of coffee to warm me up on a cold winter morning. 

After greeting the door security person and waving at my granddaughter Greta, walking in a straight line of kindergartners, I went to the lab. I got computers numbered 1 through 7 out of the cart, arranged the desks in the usual semicircle, and turned on each computer. “Everything is going so well,” I thought to myself. “This job gets easier every day!”

That’s when the trouble began. I tried to log onto the Internet on the first computer, but got that dreaded message, “Safari cannot connect to the server.” I moved to the next computer and tried to log on, but the same disheartening message appeared. “User error,” I said to myself. (That’s what the tech people often tell me when I experience difficulties with my computer.) I tried two more computers. They couldn’t connect to the server either. It was just 10 minutes before 6 energetic students were due in the lab, and I did not have even one computer logged on yet! Yikes!

So, I did what every technology-challenged teacher does. I called the tech office… only to be cheerfully informed that the school’s Internet was down and no one knew why yet. The person on the phone could probably hear my disappointment, because she quickly suggested that I cancel reading lab for the day, reassuring me that the computers would probably be working tomorrow.

Cancel the lab? No way! The students needed their reading workout, and I was not about to let an Internet glitch deprive them of their chance to read. So, I opened my trusty old teacher bag (the one I have carried into every classroom I ever taught in) and got out my emergency lesson file folder. (Do all veteran teachers have one?) I dug through the file pockets until I found what I was looking for—several copies of the same One Minute Reader book. Luckily (not really lucky—planned), it was a level most of my students could manage! I replaced each computer with a copy of the book and answer sheet and happily went to get the waiting students.

Much to my surprise, they seemed excited to see the One Minute Reader books on their desks instead of computers. (Is it possible that they love books like I do?) I explained the computer problem (actually they already knew because they were having the same problems in their classrooms) and told them we were going to read a story together, the Read Naturally way. Of course, I had to make some adjustments to the steps. For example, I timed the students for their cold and hot timings as a group while they read quietly to themselves. (The scores weren’t totally accurate for everyone, but I wasn’t too concerned about that. This was an emergency, after all!) 

The students liked the change of format for a day, and I loved the opportunity to re-teach the correct way to read along and to practice reading the story. I also used this mini-crisis as an opportunity to review question-answering strategies with the students. All in all, being without Internet for a day wasn’t so bad!

When the class was over, I told the students to keep the books in their folders, ready for the next computer glitch. And I am so glad I did! A few days later, I looked over at Maya (name changed) and noticed the One Minute Reader book in her hand instead of the mouse. When I rushed over to tell her to get back to work, she informed me that her computer had run out of battery power, so she was reading her One Minute Reader book instead. She did this without being asked! Teaching doesn’t get much better than that!

Who says at-risk readers don’t want to learn to read? When we give them a supportive environment, they’ll usually show up eager to learn whether the Internet is working or not. So take advantage of every opportunity. When technology glitches threaten to interfere, just remember: The solution can be as simple as pulling some books out of a bag.