Act 1: Panic and Regret
I spent Monday night in a slightly panicked state. It was the first day back from Winter Break and it was FVR Eve. I went from the confidence of a teacher who hadn’t had a rough day in two weeks (because of vacation) to the anxiety of a teacher who had several lessons fall flat the first day back.
I was questioning everything I had planned:
- I acquired all of these CI novels, paying for them with funds from the school and from my own pocket, and I had the realization that they might be too difficult for my middle school students.
- I printed all these articles and stories and I had the realization that my kids might not be interested in any of what I have for them to read.
- I had planned all this time to explain what I wanted them to do while they read and I had the sudden realization that I didn’t have a plan for them to actually get the books and put them back.
Act 2: Retreating into Research
I calmed myself down by doing all the googling. I found several really helpful sites…
…and I dove back into Mike Peto’s book, Pleasure Reading in the World Language Classroom.
I found strategies to address all the challenges I was facing:
- Displaying the books
- Organizing the books by “level”
- Procedures for browsing and selecting books
- Procedures for reading time
These put me at ease and I was able to sleep…at 2 AM…
Act 3: The Library
I have put together a pretty substantial library of novels and stories and news articles. The issue was how to implement it. I was not interested in the kids fighting over books or having a traffic jam by the library. After a lot of research and thought, I decided to do a few things and then just jump right into it.
During my planning period, I divided the books into 3 “Levels” based on the range of vocabulary in the books. Student-created stories and Level 1 novels have lots of vocabulary that the students are familiar with (and lots of pictures and large text), the Level 2 books have more unknown words, Level 3 books have even more unknown vocabulary, and the non-fiction articles (mostly from Newsela.com) have familiar vocabulary but no glossaries.
In other words, the level 3 books are not necessarily more difficult, they just have more words students might not know. Luckily, though, they all have glossaries, so the more adventurous students at lower proficiency levels can still make their way through the books.
Act 4: The Students
I spent a few minutes on Monday introducing the idea of FVR as “Spanish AR.” Our school uses a reading program called “Accelerated Reader” and the kids have “AR time” (silent reading time) from the time they are in 1st grade. Instead of trying to add a new label to the alphabet soup of our educational system, I took the name for my own. The big difference between English AR and Spanish AR is that there is no assessment for Spanish AR, it’s just reading for pleasure. This put them at ease.
I used a few of Bryce Hedstrom’s free posters to help make my case for what the kids are supposed to do during reading time (READ!!!) and how they can or should choose reading material (pick what looks interesting and if you don’t like it, pick another one next time!) the how and the why of silent reading https://www.brycehedstrom.com/wp-content/uploads/HOW-TO-CHOOSE-A-BOOK-Classroom-Poster-1.pdf
The final challenge to tackle was how to get them into the room and reading silently at the beginning of class. I want to avoid traffic jams and commotion and tomfoolery during the time when they come in and get their books, so this is what I settled on (this is subject to change based on how it goes over the next few weeks).
- Students line up outside room
- Students say password and enter silently
- Students go straight to books and pick one and sit down
- Students start reading
- Teacher starts timer and everyone reads at least x Minutes
- After timer goes off, librarians put books away
- The rest of the class unpacks their materials for class as we discuss what the students read
- The class completes and Do-Now activities (copying vocabulary, answering questions in their notebooks, etc)
- New lesson in our unit
Act 5: This Seems Promising
After the students’ first reading session I asked 2 questions of all my classes, 6,7, and 8:
- Who would like to continue reading what they started today?
- 50+% in each class wants to keep reading the book they started today!!!
- Who wants to share something interesting about their book/story (without spoilers!)
- Lots of interest in sharing funny/random/interesting things about their stories
It looks like the anxiety I had on Monday was misplaced. The students are generally positive about reading in class and I got the impression many of them were surprised at how well they could understand what they were reading, even if it was not every single word.
I am excited to see where this goes. I am also excited that I get to read in class for my own pleasure—I have such trouble finding time to read during the day (with life and the sleepiness it causes—I’m usually asleep by 9 or before!). More importantly (and less selfishly), I am excited to see how Spanish AR affects my students’ acquisition and their proficiency levels, especially my 6th graders who will (if all goes well) be doing this for a few years.