FVR – Some History

I can report that FVR as a TPRS reading activity started to stretch out and lose its shape and value to students in the early 2000s when “Read and Discuss” became the norm in TPRS classes, immediately and very early on in the anti-textbook movement. It was then that language students – because of their widely varied reading backgrounds – began to find themselves in split classroom communities with winners and losers.

Around that time, we began to see a massive increase in the “novels” being written for TPRS classrooms. It became apparent as early as 2005 that FVR as defined by Krashen was no longer FVR as defined by the new sellers of novels.

One TPRS teacher in the Denver Public Schools once proudly told me that his students had read six novels as a class in level 1 of that year. That is a disaster for too many reasons to go into here. More is not better in language classrooms that should be focused on equity and inclusion.

The problem by 2010 had become that TPRS had become more about reading the “novels” than about providing lots of understandable auditory comprehensible input to provide a foundation for reading later on, again to ALL the students in the classroom.

Teachers by 2010 who were struggling mightily with creating stories found it easier to just hand a class one of those little Blaine Ray novels and so they started buying them in batches and soon level 1 classes were off and running to the reading races and equity in the language classroom was the casualty.

To exacerbate the problem, during those years some TPRS classrooms ended up with huge collections of very expensive classroom sets of novels that began to overrun some classrooms and start taking up room in much the same way that textbooks filled the closets and shelves of classrooms transitioning to the new TPRS approach of the time.

With each passing year, TPRS let go more and more of the listening piece in favor of the reading piece. This really split classes into students with strong reading backgrounds and those without them. Kids joining high school classes who came from disadvantaged middle schools were the ones who suffered.

It is my view that by 2015 TPRS had lost much of its effectiveness in language classrooms due to this overemphasis on reading in level 1 classes.

Why the overemphasis on reading? It was because (a) teachers attending the summer conferences were not getting the training in creating stories in auditory fashion that they drastically needed if they were to transition away from the textbook, which in the case of some teachers was all they knew (no blame!) and (b) selling classroom sets of novels had become by that time very lucrative.

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