Silent Reading

Tranquil. That’s the word I would use to describe my class the other day. Calm is another; relaxed could be a third.

It was simply sublime…And it’s all thanks to Silent Reading.

As I discussed in my last post, we are reading a novel in my 6th Grade Spanish classes: Brandon Brown Quiere un Perro by Carol Gaab. So far, the students have been engaged and interested in the story and they have been able to follow along well.

Today’s activity involved re-reading a chapter that we read last week and doing some Interpretive Mode activities. I have my students 2 days a week, either Monday and Tuesday or on Thursday and Friday (the days they don’t have me, they have another special subject class: PE). Because of this, there is a lot of time that goes by between Spanish classes, which can be a blessing sometimes (lots of time for tempers to cool after bad days), but most of the time is actually quite inconvenient. The students lose a lot over the 5 days they don’t have Spanish class, which makes acquisition take that much longer.

This is why I can have students re-read a chapter and have it not be too boring for them. We read the chapter together in class (with actors and sound effects and me as the narrator) last Tuesday and yesterday, Monday, they had to re-read the same chapter on their own.

They were engaged and excited to read. The quiet atmosphere in my classroom was a testament to this. They are almost never completely quiet, no matter what we are doing. There is always some motion or someone asking another student for a pen or paper or something–that’s just how it goes with a large class. But today was different.

The activity they had to do while reading (or rather, after reading) was to choose 6 important sentences from the text, write them, and then illustrate them. The activity came from the Teacher’s Guide to Brandon Brown Quiere un Perro. The original activity called for writing 6 sentences about what happens in the chapter and then illustrating them, but I changed it up a little bit. Interpreting the text and writing their own sentences is a valuable exercise and I have them summarize in their Story Journals (More on those later).

Rather than having the students write their own original sentences, I had them choose the 6 most important sentences. I recently read about this activity on a language teaching blog and decided to try it (I wish I could remember where, if this is your idea or you know who wrote about it first, please comment. As much as I love it, I definitely didn’t come up with it!). The idea is that the student has to imagine that they have to get rid of all but 5 or 6 sentences. Which ones do they keep in order to still get the main idea of the story (or the chapter, in this case) across? The value of this activity is that they have to do a close reading of the text in order to analyze it and make sure that the sentences they choose carry the most important information.

Then, they had to illustrate their work, which is always interesting for them (and for me) because it gives them a chance to shine in a different way than they are normally used to in their other classes. Some students are incredible artists and they all come up with very clever ways to illustrate their work.

The students left today looking calm but energized: They didn’t look drained or exhausted as they sometimes can after a mostly silent period spent doing schoolwork. Several told me they are looking forward to tomorrow’s class to see what happens next in the book.

I am very excited and (more importantly) so are they!

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