Tuesday, September 19, 2017

FVR: Hallelujah!

After seeing so many inspiring posts from teachers using FVR(free and voluntary reading) in their classrooms, my interest was piqued and I really wanted to give it a try. I mentioned recently that I'm over working when it comes to comprehensible input(CI) and I know that reading is important to language development--both reasons to speed up the FVR project in my class.

One (perceived) roadblock for me was the length of my classes--we're a FLES program with 30 minute class meetings, three times per week. I was thinking that the 30 minute meeting time was too short for FVR, and so I'd put it off. However, during summer set up, I started looking through our collection of books in Spanish--it's pretty substantial with a wide range of levels and genres, so why not use them?

What I did:

I set up this little area in my classroom, putting out books that range from three words on the page to novels like Esperanza Renace and short graphic novels for my heritage speakers. Topics include content they're learning in class--biomes, animals, etc(in #earlylang, animals and their babies are king) to story book biographies and short fiction.

I'm in the process of creating booklets of short news articles from Newsela and elementary appropriate articles from Martina Bex's El mundo en tus manos to add to the shelf, and plan to add a basket to include books on loan from Chicago Public Library, as I get to know the children's interests better.

Part of my teaching better, working less project involved creating class opening routines AND sticking to them. (Monday/Tues: Music, Wed/Thur Writing prompts and Fridays start with FVR. So this Friday, I greeted each group, 4th-6th graders, at the door speaking very quietly,  using postcards a la A.C. Quintero 's suggestion for seat assignments. There was quiet music playing inside the room and the children entered and sat down calmly and peacefully listening to the music(I wanted to set a very chill tone in what is usually a very energetic environment).

After turning off the music, I quietly explained that we would be doing FVR(referencing D.E.A.R.-Drop Everything And Read) with which they're already familiar.  Then, thanks to the suggestion of my colleague Siobhan, gave some guidance on how to approach reading in Spanish, highlighting:
  • Choosing material that feels like a right fit and is interesting to them
  • seeking cognates to help make meaning
  • using pictures and illustrations 
  • changing books if it doesn't feel quite right 
Then, children chose their books, I set the timer for five minutes and away we went.

How did it go?

Day one was a huge success.
  • It was a solid block of quiet, engaged reading across the board.
  • Almost all of the children asked for more time.
  • I asked the students to reflect and give me some feedback on FVR--the overall theme was empowerment and BEING ABLE to read in Spanish(they can understand more than I thought).  The children also overwhelmingly enjoyed being able to choose their own reading material. 
  • I felt at ease and enjoyed sitting and reading with the children--it was a nice change that allowed me to simply BE with, and observe and learn from them .
Here are some highlights of the feedback:
 Going forward:

  • For older students, allow/encourage the children to use their notebooks to add to their personal vocabulary lists(a few made the request).
  • Build in some time for the children to share what they were reading with their classmates(maybe this will lead to a commercial for their book, in Spanish)--after observing them in action, I could see there's a strong desire.
In the end, I think this is a high impact, low prep activity that's allowing me to teach better and work less. 

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