11 November 2009

A case for pleasure reading

Stephen Krashen has done a ton of research on what he calls Free Voluntary Reading. Catch up on his research by checking it out on his website. Basically, the premise is that kids learn more (and language learners acquire more vocabulary) when reading at an appropriate leve and something that is pleasurable to them. I was so won over by the research in this area that last year I decided my students were going to read a fiction book outside of class. Mi criteria were that the book had to be related to Latin culture in some way, preferably by a Latino/a author. As a result, my students read Cajas de cartón in the fall of Spanish 3, Esperanza renace in the spring of Spanish 3, and Ciudad de las bestias in AP Spanish. Watching my AP Spanish students read now, after reading the two books last year, I can see how much their reading comprehension has jumped. Also, they could tell you countless stories of how certain vocabulary are imprinted in their memories because of reoccurrences in context in the books, which they like.

Last year I had them read the chapter and then take an open-book quiz in class the day the chapter was due. There were some problems with that, especially that it was very time-consuming and I value my in-class time too much. So this year, they are doing reading guides instead, and this has worked wonderfully. As a taste, here is the list of Palabras Claves and here is the Reading Guide for Chapter 10 of Ciudad. I'm a firm believer in not reinventing the wheel, so if you want any or all of the reading guides (and vocab lists) message me on twitter at secottrell and I'll upload them all to my Google Docs.

Get kids reading level-appropriate fun stories--it works!


Walking Queen said...

Fabulous! I've been working with teachers lately and they have been telling me that over the past couple of years that their school districts have been throwing out reading materials and telling them to only read what is in their scripted curriculum. They need to read, read, read!!

Bethanie said...

Could you elaborate on what you do with the reading guides/palabras claves? I would like to incorporate more long reading into my classes in addition to the shorter pieces I already use, but struggle with some of the same things you mentioned.

Also, if you could select books for levels 1 and 2, what would you pick?


Sarita said...

Hi Bethanie! Now I just hand the students the guides/palabras claves and they turn them in on the due date. A couple of tips that are important, I think, are 1) to reduce frustration, read together at first to teach them how to find the important things without looking up every word (make sure you understand subject/verb, leave the sentence as soon as you have the gist of it, leave the paragraph as soon as you have the gist, understand every part of a sentence when you know the answer to a ? is there); 2) give them the page numbers of the answers to the questions and make sure they're chronological; 3) give a list of high-frequency words from the chapter that they're not likely to know; and 4) rehash the chapter in a TPRS/circling way when they turn in the guide to gauge who understood what.
As for books for lower levels, have you seen the TPRS books by Blaine Ray et al? You can start here. Good luck!

Bethanie said...

Hi Sarita,
Thanks for your response. I have a few of the Blaine Ray novels, and I think they are a great idea to consider. I find teaching this type of reading to be a greater challenge at the lower levels (1-2) than at the upper levels (3+), so I appreciate the ideas that you've shared.

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