I don’t think that this is a one answer fix; you have to know your students and build that relationship to see what catches them. I do firmly believe that free reading, use of novels, and embedding authentic TV series into the curriculum are key elements to helping the students toward natural acquisition; that is learning, retaining and applying. This semester I learned, with the help of my students, other teachers and twitter, how to incorporate free reading time.
When I say free reading, it is just that: free from tests, free from worksheets, free from projects...free and relaxed. Students are allowed to choose what they want to read. I have worked very hard at building my free reading library this year. TPRS books by @fluencymatters have been instrumental at building the confidence of my novice to intermediate readers. Also stocked in my library are El Mundo en tus manos by @martinabex. These current event newspapers are priceless and some students made these their go to. Of course there were my students who always wanted a challenge, so best sellers and lexile leveled chapter books were available for them. I even have a stack of People in Spanish magazines and the Scholastic magazines Ahora and El Sol. Lastly, the discovery that Duolingo offers books on their website was a hit; especially for my readers that needed a bit more scaffolding.
So, how does one facilitate true free reading? While there are many way here is what worked for our classes. Three simple rules: 1. Find your level. 2. Find your interest 3. READ. After MANY trial and errors and with the guidance and patience of my students we decided that Mondays at the beginning of class was a great way to start the week and class. We all read for 20 minutes then opened up a Padlet to share out 4 things: Name, name of the reading or type, how much we read, and summarize what we read. To facilitate our share outs, we first tried several options. The first were booksnaps which soon just became busy work that the students would just take out of context. The second was a small group verbal share out where each would take notes on what the other read. Better, but still time consuming in class. I wanted something seamless and quick. Third, came the use of Flipgrid.com. Much better, but also time consuming since they needed a quiet area t o record. The last was the winner: Padlet.com This allowed all the students to see each others’ book summaries while being quick. It soon became so routine that it was a seamless transition for all of us. Notice that I said WE. This is so important. I fully participated, too, in free reading, share out and all. This showed the students that I believed in the process and was also using it to grow.
Next how do you get students to buy in? This took time and trust. We related the reading to what they have always been told in English: the more you read, the better your vocabulary, grammar, and writing. I guaranteed them that this also applies to Spanish. While I did receive quite a bit of resistance at first, they slowly started to show progression. I would have students comment how they are looking up less words and how they are able to read faster and comprehend more. Now, at the end of the semester, part of the final is to read a short novel on their own. After overcoming the “oh no, I have to read a novel”, I now hear ‘Hey we can read a novel!”
On the agenda for next semester is to have the students create small book reviews that will be taped into the books after they have read them. These would be for extra credit. Also, I want to take pictures of the kids who first read a new book and tape their name and picture in it! I am always looking for news things to add and news ways to facilitate, so please leave any helpful ideas below! I truly believe reading is an integral part of language acquisition. When your students move from “we have” to “we can”, I call that success.