Episode 58: Low-Prep Reading Strategies! YAY!

brain breaks podcast resources Dec 20, 2023
reading strategies

I am SO glad to be back to podcasting and I hope you're excited for some HIGHLY engaging and impactful reading strategies that are LOW prep for you!

Don't forget to leave me a review (yay thank you!!) on Apple Podcasts here.

And, don't miss the opportunity to join me for my workshop on Story-asking Reimagined in January to make the story-asking process more engaging and equitable! You'll LOVE it! Register here.

Here are the people and links mentioned in this episode:

Laurie Clarq
Michele Whaley
Lauren Tauchman
Carol Gaab
Claudia Elliott
Adriana Ramírez
AC Quintero
Giant Fairy Wizard Brain Break
Carrie Toth Freeze Frame
La Familia Loca PLC- Get on the waitlist for the next time the doors open!

Let's connect!

My Blog
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Welcome to Teaching la vida loca, a podcast for World Language Teachers seeking inspiration, unapologetic authenticity, and guidance in centering joy, and facilitating language acquisition for the people who matter most our students, I'm your host, Annabelle, most people call me la maestra loca. And I'm an educator just like you, and inspiring teachers is what I do.


Oh, my goodness, it has been a minute, it took me like 20 minutes to even figure out how to podcast, literally was like GarageBand, like intro, ugh. But here we are. If you're listening, I just want to start with a huge gratitude for you. Thank you for being here. Thank you for listening. This is your first episode, welcome. If this is your 58th, I'm so grateful for you. And I am sorry for needing to take a four-week break. I'm actually not sorry. I'm very glad it might have even been longer than four weeks. I didn't know I was going to take a break. But all I know is that I needed to practice what I preach. I needed to set some boundaries, and I needed to slow down. And so slow down is what I did. Teaching la vida loca is a very wonderful passion project that I am loving. But it is something that I knew when it came down to it. I could put on the back burner for a little while. I knew people would forgive me, and they would come back for inspiration later. So, if you're here, I'm very grateful. If you could do me a favor and share this podcast with somebody and let them know that it's back, let them know that my maestra loca is back to podcasting. If you could take a second to give me a review on Apple, Apple podcasts is that what it is, whatever. You could take a second and give me a review. The reviews like do work. And they mean a lot. They helped me; they inspire me. They helped me to record. And I'm just really grateful for you just being here. Whether it's on your drive to work, on your drive from work, while you're gardening, while you're cleaning while you're cooking. Thank you for joining me, and thank you for supporting me, thanks for letting me support you.

A Much Needed Break 

Okay, so back to it. I will explain a little later why I took a break, it will come in probably my first podcast of the new year. But things have just been busy. And that's okay. It's okay to be busy. But it's okay to know when to step back. As we approach this winter break, I really hope that you're thinking about how you're going to be very intentional about your rest. I'll link to a podcast that I have about rest that I recorded last year. I want you to be really intentional about it this season. And just as I was intentional leaves a couple of months, it might have been like literally two months that I took off. Just as I've been intentional about taking a break. I hope that you're really intentional about your rest this season. School can wait, email can wait. Put that out-of-office on make sure that you are setting yourself up for true genuine rest, so that you can come back refreshed as possible in January, so that you're not even thinking about work. Now some of you listening might be like, Yeah, I don't need help with that. But there are a huge number of teachers that listen to this podcast and that connect with me on Instagram and in my email, who tell me that they don't know how to shut their teacher brain off. And honestly, we're going to lose you, the profession is going to lose you because it's not sustainable. So set your out-of-office on. Do me a favor, do yourself a favor, do your family and friends of favor and disconnect this break, the entire break, you can do it. Everything will be there for you. When you get back. I promise it's not going anywhere. But take your rest of this break. Okay.

3 Awesome Reading Strategies  

Now let's dive into this episode, I want to give you three things that you can use for the rest of this week. If you are still at school, and if you're not still at school, then three awesome reading strategies that you can use your first week back or you can even just choose one of them to use your first week back from break because they are super easy, super low prep, and super-duper. I think you're going to love them. Two of these were strategies that I shared with my community la Familia loca PLC this month. This month, our theme of the month was reading. We've done a quarterly theme and so we focused on reading the last three months and how we can grow a reading program from the most novice of students to our most advanced students. We've had some wonderful guests join us. We have had Claudia Elliot, Adrianna Ramirez. Joined us to talk about reading throughout the levels. And this month in the workshop of the month I shared various reading strategies to to gamify reading at all levels to really ensure that we are maximizing our time with our students and maximizing the engagement that we get from them. These are three of my favorites. And they're my favorites because of how low prep, I love a low prep strategy that is highly engaging. I know that you do too.

Alien vs Predator  

So, the first one I'm going to start with is called Alien versus predator. The reason it's called that is, that's who I learned it. I learned it from, I didn't learn it from an alien, jk. I learned it from Lauren Tauchman from Denver, Colorado, Lauren is incredible. She's an amazing human, very active in the Union, as am I and she's just a lovely, a lovely person. I learned this from her blog. And when I told her about how I play, I was like, thank you so much for teaching me alien versus predator. I told her how I play, and she was like, you didn't learn from that, that for me? And I was like, oh, well, I put my own twist on it. Because everything I do, I like to gamify. I love to gamify things because I know that gamification is directly linked to motivation is directly linked to engagement is directly linked to dopamine in our brains. I'm hoping to have a very special guest on to the podcast soon to talk with me about that. And it'll be a real treat for you if that's the case. So, basically, alien versus predator you pair kids up. One person is alien one versus predator is predator. I use unicorn versus dragon. One of the resources in the month for familia loca is various dynamic Duo's peanut butter versus jelly. Batman versus Spider Man, you know, those sorts of things. And so, you pick two characters, that kids get to choose who they are, you give one of them a whiteboard, the person with the whiteboard, sits facing away from the board, on the board, on your TV, on your whatever you project to you project a text. You want this text to be short and sweet and something that they have seen before. I don't want it to be one sentence. I want it to be, you know, four or five sentences. The kid facing the board is frantically reading it and trying to memorize it as fast as they can. You give them a little time to do this. It should be mostly silent. They're thinking about it. And then you say switch or Gambia is what I say is it Gambia they switch seats and now the person with the whiteboard is facing the board, while the partner who had that chance to read and memorize is now retelling their partner in as many details as possible as much as story as possible. With my novices, I have them retell it in English because they're reading in the target language. So, retelling an English makes no sense because they're telling me what they understood. With my students who are not novices anymore. And they're retelling in Spanish. They're seeing how much of the story they can retell with as many details as possible. The person with the whiteboard is tracking their points now.

Tracking Points 

Do I have a method for how they track points? No, the points are freakin arbitrary, they don't matter. And the kids are going to track them differently. The one reminder I give them is oh, I noticed such and so gave bonus points because they added two extra added adjectives. Oh, I noticed such and so also acknowledged that the student remembered to include every time the person's name was used, I'm acknowledging the point giving more than any point taking because there is no point taking. And I remind them that, hey, your neighbor is about to give you points. So be generous with your point giving. Now, as soon as that round is over, they give the whiteboard over to the person that is still facing away from the board, and you put up a new text. Now the new text might just be the old text with more details added embedded reading style, like Laurie Clark and Michelle Whaley taught us right? It might just be that it might alternatively be the next portion of a text if you're doing a story or something like that. And it goes on and on. And on. The gamification element is the points. It's the whiteboards, it's the like adding an element of like competition, right. But what the real purpose of this activity is reading reading, reading, reading, rereading, right? That's powerful. Okay.


The next one I'm going to give you is called sequence. I shared about sequence on my Instagram today and a Tuesday Tip. Sequence is a super fun, low productivity. And I learned this from Carol Gaab, many, many moons ago. I don't even remember maybe seven, eight years ago. And the idea is you chunk out pieces of the text. For my novices. It was just a sentence, for my kids who have had me a little bit longer today. My fourth-grade class it's a little bit more advanced that was two sentences per chunk, and I had four chunks on the board. Now each chunk is color coded. And next to the color-coded sentence is a shape, a triangle, a heart, a square a circle, is what I use. That is something that I added, because I found that my kids can't see; I have some kids who can't see color. We all have kids who can't see color, right? So, for my colorblind kids, if I include the shapes, they're able to do this activity without any issue and without having to tell anybody that they can't see the colors, without having to be awkward about it or feel guilty because a lot of those kids actually hide that they're colorblind, some kids, we don't even know until they're much older, right. So as a simple accommodation, that doesn't take much work at all.

Working in Pairs  

So, the chunks again, are in random order on the screen. And then the kids are working in pairs with one whiteboard between them to figure out what comes first, what comes second will come third, what comes fourth, and then they're writing those on the board. And I just have them write the shape, because the purpose of the activity for me is reading again. So, if they believe that the phrase next, the heart comes first in the story, they're going to draw the heart first. If they think the circle comes next, they're going to draw the circle. If the sentence next to the square comes next, they're going to draw that and then the star or whatever your shapes are. This is super engaging because they're working together and partners. They may be talking about it in English, but they're reading in the target language. And they are so freaking engaged. As soon as they think they haven't done on their, their whiteboard, they hold up their whiteboard to me, and I'm either giving them a thumbs up or a thumbs down. If I give them a thumbs down. What do they do? They reread because they know they can still get points, they can still get the maximum points, as long as they're reading and talking about it. And trying, because I am systematically going around and awarding teams points for collaboration, for talking for reading for being engaged. That way, everybody's always in the game at all times, right? Everybody knows that they have an opportunity to win because it's always kind of neck and neck, right? Because as long as I'm seeing you engaged and playing with your partner in a respectful way, you're earning points, period. Now if you get it correct on the first try, because you're reading slowly, even more points, so they freaking love it. It's so engaging. Meanwhile, every time I tell them, no, it just makes them reread. So, my students who might need a little bit of extra time can have that extra time if kids are rushing through it, because what are they doing immediately after, rereading?

Sentences and More Sentences

One thing that helps with this is having a few of your sentence sentences be very like, I don't know, not ambiguous, but like, Ooh, there could be multiple possibilities. For example, today, I did all my sentences based off a clip chat, right? So, one of the sentences was like, the new set of students entered the school was feeling sad. Another sentence was the student was new and had no friends. Another sentence was they were so nervous at the front of the class. And another sentence was they sat down. So, the first story could Oh, really be first. Right. But the point of it is to get keep them reading and guessing. And rereading long enough for everybody to get a good stab at it. Does that make sense? I know I'm big subs. It's so beautiful.

Brain Break  

Are you ready for a brain break? Are you ready? It's time for how much have you missed this? I mean, I know it's time for a brain break. I know that you've missed that because I've missed it. Really missed it. This time of year, it's all about novelty all it's a really simple fun brain break is like a different version of rock paper scissors. So, one of my favorites is giant fairy wizard. So instead of Rock Paper, Scissors, you have a giant and you have the students pose with their hands way above their heads are and wizard like their brandishing a wand in front of them. And fairy they just have to flap their little hands next to them like little wings. It's darling. Especially when eighth grade boys are doing it. It's one of my favorite things to witness. In fact, I think in the blog that I wrote about it that I'll link I have some pictures of eighth grade boys doing this in a video as well. It's great. So, if you want to see a video you can do that. Giant beats fairy because it can squish it. Don't think too hard about it so sad. Fairy can beat wizard because fairies are fast and can dodge those spells. Wizard beats giant because Hello giants move slowly. And um, I think has that right. Giant beats fairy. Fairy beats Wizard, wizard beats giant Yeah, boom. So, you have it all you do is own those trays Dolly. And when the students land on the dolly, I have them jump in place, uno, dos, tres, dale! when they land on the dale! they pose as giant fairy or wizard. And if you would rather you could have them face away from each other and then turn around Uno, dos, tres, turnaround giant fairy wizard. There's also a graphic on the blog that you can use to show students what beats What if you want to use that on the first time, you are more than welcome to use the graphic on my blog. That's it for your brain break of this episode, you're so welcome. Can't wait to hear how it goes.

Freeze Frame 

Okay, for my last reading strategy that's super dynamite and super engaging, and incredibly low prep. In fact, the lowest prep of all of them is called freeze frame. I learned this from my friend Carrie Toth. And Carrie explains this very well in a post on her Instagram that I will link, and she has pictures of her high school students doing it which is helpful. Now for this you want to use a text. You might use a text from like a novel that you've been reading, or perhaps a co-created story that you built together.


*Trumpet sounds* Intermission, shameless plug, Oh, yay. One of the benefits to having my own podcast is being able to shamelessly plug workshops that I'm leading. If you are a person who has struggled with traditional TPRS. And story asking and CO-creating stories with your students because it feels like it gets out of control or it feels like you spend the whole time like spinning your wheels and trying to engage everybody and only half of them are engaged, or some of them are completely checked out. Or perhaps you're tired of hearing the same six voices over and over. Whatever it is you're not alone. This is a very common struggle. And it's one thing that I used to struggle with many, many years ago before I figured out how to make story asking and story co-creation with my students more equitable and engageable engaging.

Join the Workshop  

So if you would like to engage more of your students in the co-creation process, and get more students invested in that process and hear more voices while you're at it, therefore making everything more engaging, I encourage you to check out my workshop I'm leaving on January 7, it's going to be epic, it's at a steal of a price is $37, which is nuts, because it's going to be about one and a half two hour workshop with resources included. And so that's a huge, huge bargain. I'm really excited about the price, but teachers are scooping it up because it is at a low price point. So, it's gonna be really, really exciting. You're gonna walk away with tons of strategies to re-engage learners in the co creation process of stories, and you are going to feel more confident in the story asking process itself and not feel like you're floundering. Now, if you're an experienced teacher who's really good at TPRS you're still gonna walk away with tons of new ideas and novel ways to integrate more voices into the story asking process. I'm super excited. For more info, all you have to do is click the link on my bio. Or you can go to tinyurl.com/lmlstoryaskingreimagined. And that'll get you to the right place. I'm so excited, it's going to be so much fun.

Back to Freeze Frame  

Okay, so back to freeze frame, you use any text, it might be a text that you have co created with your classes. Again, if you want to help with that January 6 that's going to out back. It might be a whole class novel that you've been reading. It might be a text from a clip chat, like the one I was using the other day for the sequence activity. Whatever your text is, every kid should have that text in front of them the ability to see it. Now you form your groups of-- when I did this, I did groups of three to four, you could do groups of four to five you could do really whatever you want. The kids choose a section of the text that they want to reenact. And all they do is they get up in front of the class in the freeze in positions to make it look like they're acting out the text. I think Carrie has her students take pictures and then they share those pictures in front of the class. The way I did it is I just had students get up in for the class and freeze in the positions. I don't use the word freeze in front of my students. I use the word pause but they pause in the like positions as if they're acting out a section of the text. No, when I say a section, I mean literally like one sentence of the text. All the other teams are racing each other to on their whiteboards because they only have one whiteboard per group, write down what sentence they think is being acted out. Now, because I'm me, and because points are amazing. I'm not just giving the points to the group that gets the sentence fast enough. I'm giving points for the groups that I see everybody's reading, everybody's looking for those sentences. Everybody's talking, everybody's collaborating, everybody's engaged, they're getting more points, even for doing that whether or not they find the right sentence, right. But the whole point is to try and figure out what sentence is being acted out. The beauty of this is, you hopefully have those texts already created, right? If you co created a story and did a write and discuss or something, then you have that. If you did a clip chat, you have that text written up for other reading activities. If you are reading a class novel, boom, you have that text. And so, it's very low prep, and super engaging. Really, really fun. Really fun to have older kids do it super easy to do with lower, lower school students as well.

Love you!!!

So yay, there's some reading strategies for you. And this is still a surprisingly short episode for three dynamite strategies. And a sales pitch for my upcoming workshop and a brain break. Like how lucky are you? You know what you should do? You should go and get my podcast a review. You really should. I feel like I feel like today is the day. I feel like since there are approximately 50,000 downloads of this podcast. And you are somebody who has not yet reviewed it. You can take five minutes and do that for me. Don't you think? I think you can or am I guilt tripping you? Maybe a tiny bit? Do I feel bad about it? Not really. I'm just love you and I would love that review. Thank you so much. I love you. I'm grateful for your teacher. And I hope that you have a beautiful rest of your day wherever you are listening from and again, I have so much love and gratitude for you. Rest this holiday season whether you celebrate the holidays or not. Rest of this break. Take your break and don't do anything. I love you. Thank you so much for being here. Until next time, I'll be teaching la vida loca but only for a few more days. And I look forward to talking to you very soon. Love you lots, bye!

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