Hi! This blog post is the second in a two part post about starting free voluntary reading (FVR) with your heritage classes. You can find the first blog post here, where I discuss setting up your room to maximize FVR, where to look for funding for books, and suggested titles for starting your library.
How to roll it out to students and get started at the beginning of the year
I usually try to get FVR set up by the end of the first week of school, so that by the second week of school kids are reading. One of the biggest reasons I do it so soon is because it is the best beginning of class routine I’ve ever had, and so I want to get it started as soon as I can. Also, students are especially willing and more flexible at the beginning of the year, so I find that to be the best time of year to set up the expectation for starting every class with reading. If you for some reason have to wait a few weeks, or you are starting in the middle of the year, one thing you can do is start to talk up reading and try to get kids excited about it. You can mention the book you are reading, and set out books on your whiteboard ledges, etc. One trick is emphasizing that there is not many copies of a book, so kids will need to act fast to get that cool book they’ve had their eye on, they’ll need to pay attention and act fast.
Either the day I do the book tasting (which I’ll explain next), or the day before, I like to talk to my kids about reading books that are easy and feel fun to read. A great way to do this is to show your kids the slideshow called “How easy is easy” which can be found here. This will only work if you have kids that are pretty fluent in English; the goal is to show them how quickly comprehension breaks down when the book is too hard. If your kids are more Spanish dominant, then I might avoid this presentation, but instead talk to your students about how most adults read books for fun that are far below their actual reading level. At the end of this conversation, I encourage kids to read at least the first page of a book they might be interested in. If they don’t know more than 1-2 words, they probably need a different book.
A big part, for me at least, of rolling out reading is doing a book tasting. I follow a bunch of English teachers on Twitter and I saw a picture of one teacher doing this and I was hooked. She had piles of like 6-8 books on every student’s desk, and they got to check out those books for about 5 minutes. Then they passed the books to the next student (or they stood up and moved to a different desk). I like to give my students a little sheet where they can either check off all the books they “tasted” and whether or not they were interested in them, or where they can jot down the titles of a few books they are interested in. You can see a few examples of my interest sheets here and here. If you are worried that students aren’t taking it seriously, you can ask them to jot something down about each book whether they are interested or not (although this kind of kills the joy).
The next part kind of depends on your classroom and how you want to approach reading. It involves choosing a book students are interested in and “claiming” it so that they don’t have to fight for it next class period. I would handle this process differently in a Spanish 1 or 2 class, but in Spanish 3 and up, and heritage, I like to make a big deal out of students choosing books and laying claim to them. This is a picture of the first day we did book checkout the first day I had my Kindles!
So the next thing I would do is have all the students return the books to the shelves, and I would shuffle my stack of index cards with their names on them. Then, I call up students in a random order to…(cue fun music)…choose their books! This is a fun process and students are usually watching carefully to see if anyone takes “their” book. I usually use different colored post-its to keep books in different classes straight; in 7th hour, for example, students have blue post it notes with their names. If a student wants a new book, they can browse the shelves and choose a new one, but they cannot read one with a blue note in it. Each period has a different color of sticky note. The sticky notes encourage kids to continue reading a book they’ve been enjoying and minimize book switching. Last, but not least, I have them read for 10 minutes after all the books are checked out that day to practice the routine and actually get a few pages into the book they chose.
After we read that first day, I hand out the reading logs (you can see the one I use in heritage here or purchase it here, or the one I use in regular Spanish classes here) and I set the timer. I give stamps out right away, we read, then they fill out the stuff on the log for the first day. Then I explain that the next day, we will start class with reading. I tell them what the process will look like (“I will leave your reading logs on the counter” or “You will grab your binder and book, go to your desk, and open to your reading log.”) If you are on block like I am, you can probably do the book tasting, the book checkout, and the first 10 minutes of reading in one day. The next day, we do the first official day of reading. It’s always a little clunky, but it will get easier.
Setting up classroom routines that are reading-friendly
Even though I haven’t yet told the kids the actual “rules” for reading time until the second day, I will enforce them right away. I stamp at the beginning of reading time…I start in a random place in the room, and I only walk by once. You must be in your seat, with your reading log, with your book open, actually reading when I walk by. You may not write during reading time, and you can’t be out of your seat. I take attendance quickly after stamping, then I start the timer (basically I snuck in like 3 more minutes of stamping and attendance) and then...I READ TOO. Probably the biggest challenge of my life not to put in grades, grade papers, answer emails, etc. But also probably the most powerful part of reading for them…an adult that reads! My message is, I want my Spanish to get better too 🙂 After we read the first day, I give them several minutes to fill out their reading log (this is a great time to take attendance too) and then I’ll revisit the rules for reading time. Basically they are: you can only read (you can’t write), you shouldn’t be out of your seat for any reason including the bathroom, and you can’t switch books during reading time (although I usually let them switch if they want, at a better time).
The next day, it gets better, and smoother. I go over the rules one more time after reading time is over, and that’s pretty much it 🙂 It handles itself. I continue talking about a different book each day, and sometimes I encourage kids to talk to a partner or share with the class what they are doing. Every once in awhile (maybe once every two weeks), the kids will do some sort of written response about the novel they are reading. I have a few of my journal ideas here. But really, it’s more for them to feel like their reading matters (I already know it does) and to practice brief, structured writing with correct accents :).
With regard to reading time…if you have middle school students or a 9th grade class that has literally never read anything in Spanish, 10 minutes of reading time is probably a stretch. I think it’s ok to try it the first day, but if they get restless I would just stop early and take note of how many minutes they read for and then try to keep bumping it up. If they only read 6 minutes, then do 6 minutes for a week, then go up to 7 minutes for a week, then 8, etc. I usually don’t do more than 10 minutes, but I think you can push it a little bit if kids are really into it or if the class got a late start settling down.
I already mentioned the use of reading logs just to track students’ reading (I also really like that they write down what page they were on in case they lose their place). I also use reading logs to track absences. For the regular logs, I have kids write “absent” when they are gone…so essentially I am stamping the exact same place on every kid’s paper. It’s a great visual to me to know if a kid has been gone for several classes. On the heritage log, I usually write “ausente” on the line for all the kids who are gone. That way, everyone finishes on the same day and they are held accountable for the days they were gone. On the regular reading log for regular classes, each day of reading is worth 5 points, 50 points total. I usually excuse 1 day in case of absence, so I make it out of 45 points and kids who are there every day can get 50/45. For the heritage log, I usually give kids 10 points each day for reading, so that log is easily over 100 points, and I excuse one day as well. Kids who want to make up the points from missed reading just come at lunch or to the beginning of another class to read with them.
A note about electronic books
Like I mentioned, I have Nooks. If you are interested in these as an option, please reach out to me and I will share with you all the nitty gritty tips I learned doing it this way. They are VERY economical and attractive to reluctant readers, but they have their cons as well.
I can say without a doubt that reading is one of the most powerful tools in all my classes, especially my heritage classes. It is my most favorite part of every class, and I love giving students a chance to simply read without a lot of accountability or final projects. My hope is that you will also experience the power of reading in your heritage classes. Keep on keeping on, my friends!