Episode 2: FVR

Dec 28, 2021

Click here to listen to this podcast on my website, or simply click the link above to start listening now! Alternatively, the transcript is below! This episode is available on Spotify, Google Podcasts, and Apple podcasts! Subscribe so you're notified of new episodes!


Mary Overton's blog on Donor's Choose for Funding Class libraries


Here are some resources to find comprehensible "readers" for your classroom: 

Watch one of Amy Marshall's Book previews here. This one is based on Mira Canion's Capibara con Botas.

Watch the Serpiente Brain Break in Action!

Click here to connect with me on Instagram!

EPISODE 2: FVR Transcript:

0:01 INTRO
Two days before break before we let out for the winter holiday. A timer went off in my sixth grade class signaling the end of FVR time free voluntary reading. And 10 of the 17 kids in my class immediately started chanting more time, more time, more time. And my heart raced thinking, oh my gosh, I'm two days from winter break. When things are mayhem and motivation is low, and everybody's exhausted and just burnt out and I have kids begging for more time to read in Spanish. This is it. This is what teaching dreams are made of, this! This moment. Today on this podcast, I want to talk to you about what I do to build up to free voluntary reading and all the ins and outs that go with it. Welcome to episode two of teaching la vida loca.

1:04- Podcast welcome
Welcome to Teaching La Vida Loca, a podcast for world language teachers seeking inspiration, unapologetic authenticity and guidance in centering and joy and facilitating language acquisition for the people who matter the most, our students! I am your host. La Maestra Loca, my name is Annabelle and I'm a teacher just like you and inspiring educators is what I do! Thanks for joining.

1:34- WHY FVR and HOW much should be Comprehensible.
Dr. Stephen Krashen once said people acquiring a second language have the best chance for success through reading. And if you know Dr. Stephen Krashen. He didn't just say one time, he's probably said it a million times, he tends to repeat things when he is talking about what he's an expert in, which is language acquisition. And we know that our students and people in general have the best chance of success through reading and not just reading, but reading for pleasure reading for enjoyment. And that's where free voluntary reading comes in. Some people call it fer other people call it SSR, silent, sustained reading, whatever you choose to call it. The principle behind it is that students are choosing a book that they want to read choosing something that they want to read, and then reading for enjoyment. Now the key to this that I believe is the most frequently missed point when it comes to fer is 95% of the words on the page that the student is reading have to be comprehensible. Whoa, that's a really high number. Are you sure it isn't closer to  80%? No, like 85% is work. If you only understand 85% of what's on the page. It's work. And I want you to think about it from a standpoint of you reading for enjoyment. Now most of the teachers I know in my life, most of my friends really enjoy reading, I have a confession, I am not a reader. I don't I don't do that for fun. It's not a way that I unwind. But I would say a great 80 to 80% or more of my teacher friends love to read. You don't love to read books that you have to work the entire time you're reading you have to look up words the entire time you're reading, you enjoy reading books that you can read with ease, and fluidity and bring you enjoyment because you're not sitting next to a dictionary looking everything up. So when you think about it from that perspective, it's easier to understand why it's so important that 95% of what is on the page has to be comprehensible. And it's even more important with our students because I don't know about you, but I have lots of low readers in their first language coming to me, I have students coming to me who say that, who say that they can't even read in their first language. They can't even read an English Why would I think that they can read in Spanish. Right? So if they're already predisposed to believe that they are poor readers, or they are lacking, then for me to just give them a book and expect them to take off and like read for enjoyment is laughable.

That brings me to my first point today I really want to walk you through the ins and outs of free voluntary reading. What does it look like? When do you start it? How do you start it? How often do you do it? What do you do during the reading? What do you after the reading? Really all the ins and outs. But it really starts with when do you start doing fer in your classrooms? When do you introduce it to students. And this is something that I have grown and changed over time. If you asked me in my first three years of teaching, I would have told you, oh, I start free voluntary reading right away, I want to instill a love of reading right away in my classes, and make it part of our routine and just part of something we do in Spanish. And now looking back, I would be screaming at my younger self saying, Please no, don't do it. Don't do it. Because it is so important that we are scaffolding and building up to free voluntary reading, building up to a place where we can trust that our students, each of them, can select a text on their own and confidently sit down and read for a sustained amount of time. And we really have to scaffold up to that for that to happen, we need to make certain that our students who are struggling readers in L1, don't feel that way about reading in L2 in their second language, when we go in transition into free voluntary reading, and setting them off on their own to read and select texts, and then sit for a sustained amount of time and read those. So my push for you before you begin is to really consider: What do your students feel about reading in the target language in a group setting? before you transition to individual reading. And I can't tell you what timeline because your students are different from mine, your school is different from mine, each of your classes is different from each of my classes. So it's going to look different for each of us. But really consider how you are scaffolding reading up to the point of setting them to do it on their own. And that looks like lots and lots of group reading projects. That looks like lots of choral reading. I do reading every single day in my classes. It not in not just fer like group reading, at reading activities, because I know that reading leads to acquisition. So we're reading all the time in my classes. And I really want to push you to do lots of that before you introduce free voluntary reading.

The next piece is the how how do you introduce it? Well, the first part of this, I believe, is that you have to be motivated and pumped up and excited about this. So I do free voluntary reading at the beginning of my classes every other week. And since I actually only see my classes every other day, I've decided this year, just space it out two weeks. So since I have an ad schedule, for example, one week, I will see my students three times and then the next week, I will see them twice. So for two weeks, we will start our classes with free voluntary reading instead of a do now. So instead of coming in and getting out their journal and doing a written do now, they come in, they select their free voluntary reading book. And then they sit down and they read. They read for a total of four minutes right now. And each time I'm going to extend it a little bit, my sixth graders have begged and begged and begged enough to where I've already extended it to six minutes. And even the students who aren't as excited about it are still reading that entire time, which is a huge win. You showing your enthusiasm for starting free voluntary reading is important when you introduce it. The way I do it as I line up all the books behind me. A lot of people have really fancy free voluntary reading libraries, you can go if you're in any of the Facebook groups for acquisition driven instruction, you can just in the search bar search free voluntary reading or reading libraries or libraries. And it's going to come up with a plethora of amazing, beautiful classroom libraries. Mine is very simple. I have six buckets. And each bucket has a different kind of reading material for my students. So I like to go through the buckets and explain to them each one, what is available to them and tell them my favorite in each bucket and why it's my favorite. So my first time introducing it, it does take me five to 10 minutes and a lot of it is speaking in English. But that's okay because I am setting them up for success. And I'm also helping them know where to start and how to choose.

9:33 What are they reading? 
In my six buckets. I have the first bucket has novels and novels at a very novice level novels that have a very limited amount of unique words and tons of cognates. So I know that students can confidently read those. The second bucket has Level Level novels again, but still at a very novice level just slightly higher. And they explained that to them. I also To explain this idea of 95% known words, I say if you pick up a book and in the first three sentences, there are several words that you have to work to make meaning of that you have to use context clues, or maybe even look it up in the glossary in the back, then pick a different book, just stand up and pick a different one. And I create that culture that I think is very important of, if if you don't understand enough on the page, just pick a different one. There is no shame in not understanding, there is no shame in changing your mind. There's also no shame in picking up a book and going live, this really isn't for me, and putting it back and getting another one. And creating that culture where kids don't have to be worried about being seen as standing up and choosing something else if they don't understand. That's okay. Now, the third bucket has graphic novels. I am a big singer, Willie fan. So are my students. So I have lots of his graphic novels. There are two classes that I don't let read those, because we are about to read them together as a whole class novels. So that is annoying for them. I can tell. But I definitely love the bucket of graphic novels. And the kids. I have one class in particular that has already read look as an 11th Easter as a whole class. And there are kids who are choosing that book to read again. Is that okay, absolutely. More input. Okay. I'm not stopping them. I think that's great. Especially because that's showing that they really enjoy that. And I know that they're going to get more out of it. If they're really enjoying it. So go for it, choose it again. The next bucket has newsELA, a lot of people say Newsela. I don't know which ones, right? But NewsELA articles. I love that I can change the Lexile level and then really create embedded readings myself. It does take a little bit of work. But there's already pictures. I have students who love real things, current events, things that are tangible. So they really enjoy those. The fifth bucket has class created books and student created books. So these are things like our ONE WORD image stories or stories where we had actors up TPRS stories that I had students take pictures, and then we typed it up and put it on pages, and then laminated it each year this library grows. It's also something that I add student created, like free rights to if a student writes an incredible free write during a summative assessment, I'll approach them and say, Hey, this is awesome. Do you mind if I type it up? And then you can illustrate it or you can put pictures that you find on the internet to illustrate it, how do you feel about that? Nine times out of 10, they're great with it, they're really excited about it. Sometimes they don't really want to put in the extra work of illustrating. But I have lots of students who are into that and who will for us and if they know that it's going into a classroom created library. The thing that I love most about this is I have books in there from when I worked in Denver with Mary Overton at Skinner Middle School. I have books in there from my last school that I was at New Orleans. And it's really special to see, oh, that kids graduating this year. And here's the story they wrote for me when they were in fifth grade. The last bucket is full of magazines, I have a magazine subscription that a parent at high school bought me. And each month they're sent to my house so I can just preview them and then I stick them in the magazine bucket. And this is the only time that I really divert from that 95% No more words, because there are lots of words I don't understand in these magazines. But the commercials, I guess are not commercials in magazines. What are they called ads, advertisements in magazines are very comprehensible. And I have some kiddos who love choosing the magazine every time. And that's great. They're reading they're engaged in the text the whole time. And that's what's important.

14:02 Don't make this mistake!
Now, when I started doing free voluntary reading, I made a huge mistake. That is another big thing that I think way too many people do. I had my free voluntary reading shelves stocked to the brim with children's books in Spanish. Hey, again, when we go back to thinking about 95% known words on a page. children's books do not meet that. Most of the time. They don't. The pictures are cool. It's compelling. A lot of people will say, well, a lot of kids have read those books in English, so it's great for them to see it in Spanish. Sure, sometimes, but honestly, I would rather maximize that time and know that my students are getting the most possible out of those minutes of reading. And I know the way that they're going to get the most possible is understanding 95% Have what they are reading. So that's my inputs on using children's books in your FVR library. As I said before, I tend to alternate free voluntary reading with written do now, you can choose to just do free voluntary reading every day, as you're do now you don't have to switch back and forth, I just do that for the novelty. I do have a friend in Colorado named Jenny Wetzig. She is phenomenal. And when she was teaching AP, she would read with her students 20 to 25 minutes per class. Right 20 To 25 minutes at the beginning of class, that's how frequently or that's how much time her AP students spend spent reading. And I'm just saying you should check out her AP scores out of this world, mind blowing incredible. And I've already seen results after just a few weeks of reading with my students. I've already seen the results. I had a seventh grader. The week before break, we were helping the music students move to the theater. So they were going to use the stage which is where I'm teaching this year. And then we were moving to the music room to allow them to practice for their performance on Thursday. And my students were helping transport all of the stands and all of the instruments. And I had one of my seventh graders say, Maestra nos quiere matar, and I was like, I have never taught the word matar. And the fact that he said, nos quiere, for those of you who don't speak Spanish, he said, Maestra wants to kill us. Grammatically perfect, by the way, like, what is this? Where is this? I looked at him and I said, Where did you what, what? And very dramatic like very excited. And he said, he learned it in a book I'm reading about, he said, It's called Dangerous Island or something like that, like la isla más peligrosa by John Sifert, my friend. And I was like, that's awesome, Jackson, you just spoke in Spanish, you used something that you acquired by reading in context. And he said, it's because it's true Maestra because I was having them march, the stands up and down the stairs. But just mind blowing results already. And we're barely into starting it to beginning our journey with free voluntary reading. It's incredibly exciting.

17:28 What to do while they're reading!
So from there, I want to talk about what do you do during reading. And teachers all have different opinions on this as well. What I do during free voluntary reading is I read, I read with them. Right now I'm reading the El Nuevo Houdini, but I'm reading it in French, because I've read it in Spanish. And I really enjoy it. And I'm trying now to read it in French because I'm desperate to acquire French myself. But my students always see me reading as well. I think that it's a wonderful time for me to show that hey, I'm reading to. I mentioned before that I'm not a reader, but this is my opportunity to grow in world language as well. I also love to read in Spanish because I am always looking for ways to improve on my own Spanish. As a non native speaker, I think it's really important that I'm trying to keep it up in some way, whether that's through podcasts, reading, speaking to people. And reading is a very easy way to do that. And having this time that's already built into my day to read with kids is important. My friend Liz in La Familia Loca, talked about how she was observed the other week, and didn't know it was going to happen. And then they walked in and there they were reading and she was reading with her students. And she got up and asked, you know, this is the plan for right now. Is this, okay? And they said, yep. And that's what they observed. They observed students reading and their teacher reading. And the kids were engaged and immersed in their books. And that is what matters. So other teachers I've heard, do circulate and with a clipboard, making sure kids are engaged in their books. But I have found that my kids are far more likely to be getting engaged if they see that I am. And every now and then I look up and I give them the eye, there's one student in particular, I'm like, "Come on, man." But when it's just a couple and they see everybody else's engaged, eventually they give in and get engaged in their books as well. And if I'm worried that it's still happening, that they're still struggling and not very focused, then what I can do is I can look at the book they're reading, silently get up, pick a different one that is at a better level for them, and hand it to them and say why don't you try this one instead? And take the other one? Because it could very well be that they pick something that was way too hard. Way too challenging is very challenging to get involved, engaged and immersed in a book, if you don't understand what's on the page.

20:07 What do they do AFTER reading? 
What do you do after reading? A lot of people reached out to me on Instagram, I posed a question. I said, What do you want to know about free voluntary reading? And three people asked, What do you have them do after they finish a novel? If they chose a novel? What are they doing after to show that they actually read to show that they understood to show that they actually finished the book? My pushes? Why? Why do I have to make them do anything? Why not just have them read another one? Personally, I don't have them do anything. I used to have them do something I learned from Alina Filipescu, which is really cool. And her classroom looks amazing with it. She has kids fill out a sticky note or a note card. And they have to say the title of the book, what surprised them or something that they liked and give the book a rating? So I used to do something like that. And then I filled my walls. But I because I have very limited wall space this year, I decided to not do that this year. But my pushes again, why do you have to have them do something at the end of reading? Do they have too? Or could they just keep reading. Another friend of mine, Amy Marshall, has students create book trailers, I will paste one of her amazing book trailers as a YouTube link in the show notes. But this is a really good idea if they have the time or the tech to do it, because iMovie is really simple. And if your school has iPads equipped with iMovie, you could have kids make book trailers to invest time into that because kids could then you could show that to future students saying this might be an interesting book, and then you can show the trailer. And these movie trailers can be incredibly compelling. Wait till you see the one that Amy made with her students. It's so good!

22:00 Building your Classroom Library!
What to read what to read, let's talk about books. What are the students reading, I talked about the options I have available. And what happens if you are at a school with little to no budget, or little to no support from admin to get what you need to fill your classroom library. Right. That was me. At one point, I had five novels total. And I had nothing to build a library with. So I did what I just told you about earlier with Mary Overton and I built classroom libraries from student created books, student created projects, I took stories that we made together in class, I printed them, I laminated them, I bound them together with ribbon that I bought from Michaels. And it was a lot of work. But that's how I created them. And I knew that what I was stocking my shelves with was absolutely comprehensible. In fact, it was going to be great because a lot of times kids we're going to be picking up class books that they created with their class. And that comes with a certain sense of pride and excitement, because they know they were part of creating this class story. So I understand that that can be a struggle. But I also know that there are ways to get funding outside of your administration for class libraries. I will put a link in the show notes to a presentation that my friend Mary Overton, I've sent her name a few times in this episode did at CCFL tea in Colorado, in 2017, or 2018, I believe. And she talks about how you can start a Donors Choose project and get your classroom library funded. She's done this many, many times. And I believe in the link in her blog, she also shared examples of projects that she's created. So you can go and take a look at those and see how she's worded it and see how she set it up to get ideas for yourself. But there are definitely ways to do that. And I'm sure if you reached out to Mary, she would be happy to give you more advice on how she has gone about it because she's had great success with that. I've also just mentioned to parents before Oh, I'm looking to read this novel with my students or I'd love to build my classroom library more than you never know what could come of that. And it doesn't hurt to re ask admin, tell them about how excited you are. Tell them about how the power of language acquisition through reading tell them that you're so eager to provide that for your students share success stories from from me or from other teachers where you've seen it be successful and and hopefully, they'll have a change of heart. I know how hard that can be especially third year into the pandemic and funding being very different from what we imagined. That's really the ins and outs I have for you on free voluntary reading before we go we should do a Brain Break!

I call this one serpiente, serpent it is one of my favorites. I really enjoy it. And if you've ever been to a workshop with me, you have probably experienced it firsthand and probably love it as well. So people who know me know that I love the traditional rock paper scissors. Of course, students should not say rock paper scissors in the target language because the whole point of a brain break is that you are chill and not worried about acquiring the second language. In this moment, you are taking a break from the rigor. So students instead say Uno dos, tres dale! or un dou trois voila! anything that is very simple counting 123 and then okay, or let's go or something like that in the target language. So students start playing that, with an opponent opponent. And then the winner with you, says their name in case the student doesn't already know their name says their name. Let's say I play with Bertha. Uno, dos, tres dale! and Bertha wins. I get behind Bertha and I start chanting her name Bertha, the Bertha Bertha. While Bertha goes around the classroom tries to find somebody else to play who likely has somebody behind them chanting their name that plays Roy. Uno dos tres Dale! Bertha wins again. Now Roy and Julia who was following Roy is behind they are both behind me. And we're all chanting Bertha, Bertha. Now Bertha has four people behind her all chanting her name, I guess it's only three people, three people bad at math, not a math teacher, Spanish teacher all the way. Now that that has three people chanting the name behind her. And we continue following her around the classroom chanting her name, until hopefully, we have a huge snake behind us of people chanting her name. And she has one final opponent in class. The key to this one is that after you have the winner, because at one point, you're just going to have two names being chanted in the classroom. I think it's really important to say muy bien, get their attention, call attention, and then applaud both kids who were at the front because it is a huge letdown if we get to the end of class. And there's 10 people behind Bertha and 10 people behind Robert, and they go uno dos tres dale! and Bertha loses. It feels like crushing blow to everybody following her and Bertha, as you can imagine. So I always make it a point to applaud both kids who were the winners of serpiente (uno dos tres dale!). So yea, this is a really fun one. And also important to note that your next door neighbor may not like you very much to the point of you might get relocated to the theater where you can make as much noise as possible without bothering anybody around you. But it's such a fun one, you can also modify it and ask students to whisper names. I definitely think the first time you play it, doing it the way it's intended is so epic and so fun. I'll post a video of this one in the show notes.

28:34 Closing!
Thank you so much for joining me today. I hope that you feel inspired to try free voluntary reading with your classes. Please remember that it's really important to build up to it to scaffold up to it to make sure that your students feel a great sense of success when they try this for the first time. Because you want to maximize that time that you do have them in your space. And you want to make sure that everybody is finding that joy of reading that we so desperately want for them. Don't forget to share your favorite takeaways on social media. Make sure you tag me. @lamaestraloca Thank you so much for joining me today and listening to my second podcast all about free voluntary reading. Until next time, I'll be teaching la vida loca and I'm sure you will be too. Take care

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Stay connected with tips, tricks, and inspiration!

Join my mailing list to receive tips, tricks, strategies, activities, and inspiration straight to your inbox!

Get inspired!