5 Ways to Use Overdrive (& Help Your Students Read More)

Want to offer students more books without spending more money on your classroom library?

Ready to launch an independent reading unit, but wondering how in the world to give your online students BOOKS?

Want to help students broaden their reading horizons and explore more texts?

Ready to make reading more convenient and more enjoyable?

It’s possible, even during a pandemic! And the answer, my friends, is just a few (free) clicks away: Overdrive! 

In all seriousness, Overdrive is the one resource I’ve used the most while teaching this year. I don’t know what I’d do without it. And while I’m risking spoiling my best-kept secret with this post, I want to share all the Overdrive love with you!

WHAT IS OVERDRIVE?

If you’re unfamiliar with it, Overdrive is a free digital library platform that offers ebooks, audiobooks, and magazines through your local library or school. All you need is a library card. Luckily, most public libraries offer quick, free e-cards that give readers instant access to the collection of resources on Overdrive. 

To get an idea of just how much is offered via Overdrive, take a look at the website and search for a book or two HERE. Almost everything I’ve ever searched for is available in some capacity. 🙂

HOW TO SIGN UP FOR AN E-CARD & USE OVERDRIVE

To find a library that uses Overdrive, enter your zip code on this search page. Then, select “Need a library card?” or “Get an instant card,” or head to the library’s website for more information.  In addition to local libraries, your state may have a digital library system on Overdrive. (If you’re in Ohio, like me, check out the Ohio Digital Library). Once you sign up for a library e-card, you can plug in your account number and PIN to Overdrive and immediately begin browsing and checking out books.

In addition to reading & listening to books with Overdrive, you can download the app Libby to read on the go with your phone, iPad, or tablet! The best part about Libby is that you can sync multiple library cards and easily read from different collections. (I have 3 e-cards, so it’s nice to be able to toggle back and forth between the different libraries).

HOW TO USE OVERDRIVE IN THE ELA CLASSROOM

Ready to get started with Overdrive and Libby? Here are 5 of my favorite ways to use the website/app in the ELA classroom:

1. BOOK BROWSING + BOOK TASTING

The best part about the Overdrive website and the Libby app is that you can read or listen to a sample of any book! You don’t even need a library card for this part, so you can head to https://www.overdrive.com/ to check out this feature right now. Audiobook samples are 5 minutes long, and ebook samples usually include the first chapter or two, depending on the text. 

These digital samples make Overdrive a great resource for a COVID-safe book browsing or book tasting lesson. You can head HERE to read more about how I use Overdrive for book browsing in my middle school ELA classroom. (Scroll to tip #2).

Use Overdrive for digital book browsing or book tastings.
Host a digital book browsing day with Overdrive’s “sample” feature.

2. FIRST CHAPTER FRIDAY

First Chapter Friday is one of my favorite ways to get students excited about reading! If you’re unfamiliar with it, First Chapter Friday is pretty much just what it sounds like. Every Friday, I feature the first chapter of a different high-interest book. It’s the perfect way to build a reading community, expose students to more books, and cultivate a love for reading.

Thanks to Overdrive, First Chapter Friday couldn’t be easier! Every week, I check out the book/s I am going to feature, post the link/info on Google Classroom, and press play on the audiobook!

When I facilitate First Chapter Friday, I like to have both the ebook and the audiobook available. I project the ebook on my smartboard & play the audiobook while students listen & complete a fun graphic organizer. Between the ebook, audiobook, graphic organizer, and the tantalizing taste of a first chapter, engagement is always at the max!

For more information on First Chapter Friday, check out the following blog posts:

Use Overdrive to facilitate First Chapter Friday.
Thanks to Overdrive, First Chapter Friday couldn’t be easier.

3. INDEPENDENT/CHOICE READING

Our classroom’s independent reading program would not be nearly as successful as it is without Overdrive. After all, Overdrive gives students access to more books than I could ever possibly offer them on my own. My students have their own e-cards so they have instant access to books, anytime & anywhere, on their chromebooks or on their phones. An audiobook in their airpods…now that’s more than my classroom library can do!

Overdrive has empowered my students to read more and enjoy their reading more. It’s every English teachers’ dream and it’s all FREE! If you take away nothing else from this blog post, at least have your students sign up for e-cards for Overdrive! There’s really no reason not to, unless you don’t like giving the gift of free books…

Here’s how I made this work in my classroom:

  1. At the beginning of the year, I sent home a parent letter outlining my independent reading philosophy and explaining that students would be signing up for e-cards with our local library. I wanted parents to be aware of the fact that their child would have unlimited access to books. (There are no parental controls on a digital library card).
  2. In class, I walked students through the process of signing up for e-cards on our local library’s website. Students signed up with their school email addresses. This process took around 5 minutes. 
  3. I instructed students to copy down their account & PIN numbers & submit those through a private comment on Google Classroom. This was so that I could have access to their information in case they ever forgot their account/PIN numbers. (They did, indeed, forget.)
Overdrive will give students more choices for independent reading.
Overdrive is an asset to any independent reading program!

4. BOOK CLUBS & LITERATURE CIRCLES

When I decided to launch a book club unit for novels in verse, my first concern was finding enough books to offer to my students. Before stressing out too much, I clicked on Overdrive to check out what was available. I ended up being able to offer 3 extra books via Overdrive: The Crossover, Lifeboat 12, and Loving vs. Virginia (I’d highly recommend all of these titles, by the way)! The combination of ebooks, audiobooks, school library books, and my classroom library books allowed me to offer more texts to my students. 

Before you plan your next literature circle unit, check out what’s available on Overdrive. You’ll never know until you look! Click HERE to learn more about setting up book clubs and HERE for tips on how to facilitate them in a middle or high school classroom.

Overdrive will allow you to offer more options for book clubs or literature circles.
With Overdrive, students will have access to more books than you could ever offer them!

5. WHOLE CLASS NOVELS

In addition to utilizing Overdrive for independent and small-group reading, I love using it when teaching whole-class novels. Before I teach a novel, I always check out both the ebook and audiobook versions of it. Here are a few of the ways I use these versions:

  • If I want students to listen to an important chapter or scene, I’ll often play the audio & project the ebook, like I do with First Chapter Friday.
  • When we are close reading or annotating an excerpt, I’ll project the ebook version. With the ebook on my smartboard, I can directly annotate the story.
  • When I want students to focus on any excerpts, I’ll take screenshots and add them to my slideshows or assignments.
  • If a student forgets their book, I’ll encourage them to check out the ebook for the day (and then return it as soon as they’re done, in case anyone in another class period needs it). If there are no copies available, sometimes I’ll return my digital copy so a student can borrow it for the class period.
  • When a student is struggling to keep up with reading homework, I’ll encourage them to check out the audiobook on Libby. I’ve found that students are more likely to do their reading when they can pop in their airpods and just listen!
  • And last but not least, I utilize the audiobook while I’m teaching. I’ll often listen to whatever chapter I’m teaching that day on my morning commute, just so it’s fresh in my mind for our class discussions.
Overdrive is helpful during whole-class novel units, too.
Overdrive’s e-books and audiobooks come in handy during whole-class novel units, too.

As you can see, Overdrive is an asset to my ELA classroom. With Overdrive, my students have more options, read more, and enjoy their reading more! 🙂


Want more ideas for teaching reading? You’ll love the following blog posts:

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