How Much Reading When?

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84 thoughts on “How Much Reading When?”

  1. I decided to plow through Piratas in my spanish I class and we’re only on day 3. HOW OBVIOUS it is that reading input is LESS compelling than auditory input… i wonder if it isn’t more practical to put these novellettes out there for free reading. The kids who want to will pick them up and those who don’t won’t until they want to…

    1. Grant, I thought it was just me. I began reading after exams to change things up a little. I put aside Pauvre Anne in favor of Pirates, but it is taking forever. Plowing only works for me after we have discussed and circled lots of the structures. Laurie said to try to relate the text to the kids in the class. I have tried to make a modified readers theater work and some days are better than others. The reading assessment they like most is the questions asked in English with the information which supports the answer written in French. They sit together in groups and really read and re-read the chapter and point things out to each other. Other days it feels like I am dragging a wet blanket around with me. I am going to try to act out chapter 5 as Ben and I saw it done at iFLT in California. Something in me just does not want to bail on the novel, but I’d sure like to speed it up BUT …slow, the brain craves novelty, not too much reading in level 1 and the beat goes on!

      1. Gayle Traeger can make the drama work but I can’t. She lives in LA, has a background in theatre, has perfect French, likes to laugh, plans her classes, brings tons of props, has the personality of a director, etc.

        And on the novels, what was really odd – I couldn’t believe he said it – was when Krashen said that the little novels out there were GOOD. Obviously he has never tried to use them.

        I generally go through a chapter or two and milk all I can in reading and aural CI out of what we read and then tell them what happens in English and dump it.

        My best reading teaching is in the readings we get from stories but even then, as Grant said, how obvious is it that even they are not all that great.

        Is it so odd to just wait until spring of level 2 to blow their minds with real books from the real culture? I don’t see what is so bad about doing that. Yes, I will read in level 1. Nope, I won’t do it at that same 50/50 level I have not been able to attain in the past few years.

    2. Since I don’t have that ability to make a novel come alive for kids, I would think that relegating the crappy ones we have now to the FVR cabinet is actually a very good idea, Grant.

      But as you well know we need new stuff because we have to have novels. We can’t just teach reading via stories, as great as that is. I can’t wait to see what kinds of concrete products grow out of this discussion in a few years with the blazing talent we have in our PLC.

      And Grant thanks for saying that about how obvious it is that the input is so clearly less compelling in these bad novels. I thought it may have just been me.

  2. I think that the question is not only how much, but when and how? Plowing has never, ever worked for me. I like to think of it as “massaging” the novel. :o) When it isn’t going well, it is almost always because either a) the language is too difficult, b) I’m going too fast or c) I’m not connecting it to the kids.

    I have a group right now that are very slow processors AND do not like to read AND have a reputation for stubbornness AND would rather be entertained and speak in English than do anything in Spanish because they believe that they are bad at school, therefore, terrible at Spanish.

    I am having to use the novel Casi Se Muere in a way I have never ever used it before. I am so tempted to chuck it some days. :o) Or run through it. But when I resist the urge and find ways to make it accessible and successful and connected….it works!!!!!!

    Reading is a highly complex process and we secondary teachers know so little about it. We are used to them showing up with reading skills and we assume that the skills should magically transfer themselves from one language to another. It is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay more complicated than that.

    Here’s what we now know, as a group this blog:

    Reading works.
    Reading works when:

    The words become a picture in the mind/heart of the reader.
    The reader cares about the material.

    Everything else that we work on falls into those two categories.

    with love,

  3. …we are used to them showing up with reading skills and we assume that the skills should magically transfer themselves from one language to another….

    This is huge. We must read at the level of their understanding. We have learned ways of doing that in stories. What are some ways we can do that in readings, given that the readings don’t grab their attention as much?

  4. …we are used to them showing up with reading skills and we assume that the skills should magically transfer themselves from one language to another….

    It is true that many reading skills transfer from one language to another, but when the skills are lacking, there is nothing to transfer. One of the things I try to do is point out the skills as we use them and remind students that things like context clues, predicting and visualization work no matter the language.

    We must read at the level of their understanding. We have learned ways of doing that in stories. What are some ways we can do that in readings, given that the readings don’t grab their attention as much?

    Just a couple of ideas:
    1. Try to create some enthusiasm before starting the reading. Just like no one cares about Ricardo or Genevieve in the textbook, no one cares about Anna or Petra in the readings.
    2. Tell them the plot essentials before reading. My level 1 is currently reading Arme Anna. I intended to start chapter 3 today, but we got sidetracked. (One of my students asked about the title of a book on the reading rack, Waffen und Rüstung – “Weapons and Armor”. We spent the rest of the period with me pulling a battle axe, mace, two swords and a surcoat out of the closet in the room and telling them about working for Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament as a knight – in German of course. It was really interesting to watch them rise to the challenge of formulating questions above their current ability because they genuinely wanted to know.) Now I’m glad we didn’t start reading, because I will have the opportunity to prepare them better by giving them the plot of the chapter. Sometimes we – or at least I – tend to think we have to keep the plot a secret so we don’t “spoil” the reading. It isn’t that kind of a book, and we won’t spoil anything by telling student ahead of time what they are going to read. It’s called scaffolding
    3. Get better readers. I’m absolutely serious about this. One of the weaknesses of the Blaine Ray readers that I have encountered is that they try to “set the stage” and tell us about the main character before getting to any action. It’s much better to begin the story in medias res. Think about how the James Bond movies open – full-on action sequence. Ben and others do this naturally when creating stories: start with a verb, and you’re already involved in the action. That’s why I started my level 3-4 German reader in the middle of a class discussion about courage and got to a fight in the first chapter. (BTW, I got a proof from the printer today and should have the first run before the end of the month.) Also, reveal character through action and dialogue rather than description. Put any truly necessary lexical help in a footnote at the bottom of the page so students don’t have to stop the reading process to find the words that the author knows are “out of bounds”. (I did this with medieval terms that were essential to the story but definitely not high frequency.)

    Having finished my first book, I’m working on another. Actually, I have a second level 3-4 reader (set in German East Africa at the start of WWI) well under way and the start of a third (set in the North Sea area around 1400), but I – at the instigation of Ben – have started working on a level 1 reader as well. Right now it starts in the middle of a soccer game. OK, enough of the shameless plug.

    1. Well, I am very glad for your plug!!! Now I have something to look forward to. Especially the one set in medieval times. One of my level II’s favorite word is “Ritterstechen” ever since they went to one of those medieval festivals in 6th grade. By the time your novel comes out (can’t wait!!!), they’ll be in level III and hopefully up to the task.

      1. Brigitte there is something very cool about a language teacher knowing favorite words of their students. It’s new. Or, at least, I can’t recall a time when language teachers knew their (non four percenter) students’ favorite verb conjugation, or verb tense. Times are changing!

        (Although, as a four percenter, I am not shy to say that I am still in love with an old flame from my days in France, the super sexy pluperfect subjunctive. Does anyone else have some old flames from their days as four percenters that they would be willing to share with the group?)

  5. You will note that I try to make materials available on my site and that we have Bryce’s in Spanish. Although he has tons of stuff for teachers, he doesn’t have any Spanish readers. Robert if we can get some of your stuff into Brigitte’s hands, or Matava’s or the other German teachers in our group, we can make decisions on their relative value at certain levels and mayb