2019-2020 Curriculum Shakeup, Part 2: Reading

I have spent this year making breakthroughs in my teaching practice. Whether it’s using news stories, novels, story circles to engage more students, Non-targeted CI, or working with Movietalk in a new way (for me), I have experimented and felt really successful with each one. Next year, though, is the time to put all of these experiments together in a cohesive way. These are all great puzzle pieces, but I need to get them together in such a way that they make a full picture.

I recently read Mike Peto‘s Pleasure Reading in the World Language Classroom and I am a changed teacher. I have all kinds of new plans for how to implement, how to use texts, and what kinds of texts to use. This will tie in well with the reading activities I began to dip my toes into this year, specifically news stories and novels.

Coincidentally, before I read the book, I was trying to plan out my year using the Can-Do Statements. As much as I talk in conferences about the proper way to use Can-Do Statements and how they can guide our classes, I have found that I fall back on the same types of activities. So students “can do” interpretive activities on fictional texts reeaaaaallllyyyyyyyy well. It’s the thing I like to do more than anything, so it’s the thing they can all do well.

By 6th or 7th grade, they are here:

…and they’re here:

That is to say, they are nowhere near intermediate in any other area. But does it have to be that way? By the end of the 8th grade, my current graduating students should have made gains in all proficiency areas, but it seems that they have only made noticeable gains in the interpretive mode. In other modes, they are: novice-mid to novice-high in the interpretive with non-fictional texts, presentational speaking and writing, and novice-low to (just breaking into) novice-mid in interpersonal communication.

The takeaway I have from looking over the Can Do statements is that maybe I shouldn’t give so much fictional reading and maybe I should incorporate texts other than fictional stories. I love TPRS and I love to tell stories, but the kids need to be exposed to more. It’s up to me to do the best I can for the students and get them the best input in lots of different genres and modes.

Enter Pleasure Reading.

FVR provides a boost to proficiency to all language learners (and all learners in general). The more the students read for fun, the better their results will be This point is argued and research is shown throughout the book, so I will refrain from doing it here. Additional information can be found on blogs like Mike’s as well as many others (a quick google search of Free Voluntary Reading World Language yields many results). Also, check out this article by Stephen Krashen and this list of Generalizations about FVR (also by Krashen).

FVR is one of many different things that I am planning to add to my class next year. My hope is that I can expose my students to more types of reading and that these will lead to more types of conversations in class. They will be able to read news from Newsela and Mundo en tus manos, leading to discussions (in L1 and L2) about what is going on in the world; they will be able to read fictional stories from Revista Literal, leading to discussions about stories and why characters do the silly things they do in TPRS Stories (and may lead some of them to write their own stories to publish); they will be able to read stories written and/or developed by other classes with madlib stories and OWI stories; and they will be able to read novels on their own, leading to discussion of why they like or dislike them along with the questions that will come up through reading about other cultures.

When we are able to talk about different kinds of things, we will be able to use different speaking skills and reach different interpersonal benchmarks and indicators.

Conclusion: The students are getting really far along the proficiency path in one area, but not as far in others. If I spend more time focusing on other areas, they might not get as far in one level, but overall their results will look more consistent and they’ll be able to do more in all the areas on the benchmarks and indicators.

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