THEY FINISHED READING THEIR NOVELS

I have asked my Spanish I students to do Light Reading in the first semester this year. In the past, only students in levels 2-AP were required to pick a novel and read it that early, but this year the novices were included. Most of these students are 9th graders and most have not had any Spanish before. I provided them with a variety of materials and time to read, and we all sat and read in class. They were allowed to choose anything they wanted as long as it was comprehensible and interesting to them. I explained the “comprehensible” and “interesting” concept over and over until all of the students understood it and could put it into their own words. During September and October I purposefully used many high frequency expressions that they would see in the novels so that they would be prepared to read when the time came.
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In September they were allowed read any Spanish materials available that caught their fancy and that they could at least partially understand, but beginning in mid October I asked them to choose their reading from novels only. Again, it had to be something that they could understand without too much difficulty and it had to keep their attention. If they had to look up too many words or if the story didn’t keep their attention, they should consider reading another novel. I checked with each student in each class to be sure that they had picked something appropriate.
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In November they read the novels they had chosen. Students read in class and wrote their reports in class, but several asked to check out their novels so that they could read more at home. Many students read more than one novel during the assigned class time. Just before Thanksgiving break I asked them to rate their books. They also had to explain why and give a few examples from the book. They used the Light Reading Book Report #5 form, available for free download here: https://www.brycehedstrom.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/LIGHT-READING-BOOK-REPORTS3.pdf
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I was pleased with the students because:
• Most enjoyed reading these books
• They were proud of themselves for reading an entire book in Spanish
• Many asked to check out books so they could read at home
• Several read more than one book
• Some chose books that were at a higher reading level than I had assumed they could read on their own
• The examples and explanations in their papers showed that they had actually read and understood the novels
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Here are some unedited reactions to the novels that these Spanish I, semester I students read on their own in class:
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Novel: Tumba by Mira Canion
Student commentary: I like this book for its detail. Like when it was describing the decorations for the Day of the Dead. For example, “Hay papel picado, flores anaranjadas y amarillas y figuras de esqueletos.” That section gave a perfect image in my mind. Also, when they explain the diagram of the cave. Very well done.
Some other passages that stood out in my mind were:
“Max es inteligente, sociable y simpático. La clase de arte es su clase favorita. Le gusta dibujar y es un artista talentoso.
“A Sergio no le gusta el comentario de Alex. Rápidamente Sergio le pega en el brazo. Alex no responde, porque Sergio es negativo, explosivo y violento.
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Novel: Las Aventuras de Isabela by Karen Rowan
Student commentary: I give this story and eight because I liked the details and how I learned words I didn’t know before. I loved it, and overall it was interesting. I loved how Isabela, an eight and a half year old who has blond hair and blue eyes, loves traveling with her mom, Elizabeth Huffman for her job. Isabela loves taking pictures of everything she sees on her journey to Guanajuato, Mexico. Isabela is very patient and caring because in the book chapter five is all about how her mother has a fetish for shoes and Isabela tells her mom that she already has enough pairs and that she should give them to the family of five that has no shoes. So this is showing that Isabela is considerate and also kind to others. This story also shows that Isabela and her mother see a bakery on the side of the street and Isabela wants bread so her mother buys her some and her mother talks and talks so Isabela has to sit down and be patient for her mom to finish talking. In chapter seven Isabela has another adventure where she and her mother go out to dinner and have frijoles, but Isabela like ice cream better. This story taught me to be more patient, understanding and considerate of others. This book overall was fun to read.
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Novel: Berto y sus Buenas Ideas by Magaly Rodrigues
Student commentary: The book I read is about an eleven year old boy named Berto who is a student in Madrid, Spain. Berto doesn’t like school, and he thinks that it is horrible and that all of his teachers are boring. So instead of paying attention during class, he thinks of things he would rather do and that he is good at so he doesn’t need school. At the end of the story he changes his thoughts and he decides that school is no longer boring and that is actually fantastic and interesting. I thought this book was interesting and funny because of some of the ideas he came up with. For example, I thought it was funny when he said he has “more talent than David Beckham.” I also thought that is was interesting when at the end he changes his mind and decides that he likes school and doesn’t think all of his teachers are boring anymore and that he actually misses them. I do wish that at the end of the story they told the reason for him changing his mind suddenly, instead of him just liking school all of a sudden, but other than that I enjoyed the story and was able to understand most of the words being used, and I was able to look in the glossary for the ones I didn’t, so for these reasons, I rated the book and 8 out of 10.
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Novel: Agentes Secretos y el Mural de Picasso by Mira Canion
Student commentary: I liked this book because it was understandable and around my level. Also, this book is a historical fiction with some history mixed in with the fantasy. One reason I both liked and disliked the story was that it was slow moving and slightly repetitive. Overall it was a good choice for me to read at my level. With this in mind, I would enjoy a more challenging book. The book mentions Francisco Franco who was the leader of a political party (Fascists) in both the book and in real life. In the book Paula and Luis repetitively get almost caught by Mario and Javier. The story was also very predictable. Paula and Luis find a clue, are followed, find another clue, are almost caught, find the spear, are followed, seemingly lose the spear, and end up with the only part of the spear that matters.
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Novel: Patricia va a California by Blaine Ray
Student commentary: (This book was above the reading level of this student, but she wanted to read it, so I let her continue because she seemed to be getting the story. She did not complete the book, but that was OK—not bad for reading on her own in the first semester of Spanish I.)
I gave this story a 10 because it wasa very good book yet it was very challenging. It was somewhat repetitive and personally I think this helps your vocabulary and the way to comprehend the words. The story starts off with a girl named Patricia who lives in Guatemala who wants to visit the United States: “Quiero ir a los Estados Unidos por cuatro meses. Quiero asistir a una escuela en los Estados Unidos.” It is very comprehensible for someone who is barely learning Spanish. It truly shows how in other countries it is a big sacrifice to take on something new like this: “Bueno, Patricia, es un sacrificio muy grande para nuestra familia pero tengo dinero extra en el banco. Tú puedes ir.” The story tells about a girl wanting to try something new and something she really wants. Her father buys in and lets her go. We can all relate because when we want something really bad our parents sooner or later give in and give us what we want. “Toda la familia le da abrazos y besos. Patricia está contenta de estar en Guatemala de nuevo.” It is a good experience to read about someone’sadventure that travels to another country, especially since we haven’t got to experience it. It is very clear in the text that she has fun and occasionally had a bit of struggles, like with Debbie Martin.
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Novel: Patricia va a California by Blaine Ray
Student commentary: (This book was above the reading level of this student, but she really wanted to read it because her friend was reading the same book. I let her continue because she seemed to be getting the story. She did not complete the book, but that was OK—pretty good for Spanish I, semester I)
I rated this novel an eight because it and a lot of words I did not know and had to look up, otherwise this book was interesting, and adventurous, taking a trip to experience a different country compared to her home town.Out of many Guatemalan kids, Patricia has the opportunity to visit a different country than hers. Her family, as she describes it, is poor compared to the United States. But family is very important to her. As said in the book, families in the book, they sell goods on the street to support their families. Clothes are pretty limited too. Only one to two pairs of outfits are provided for each gender. But Patricia is able to have a greater opportunity to experience a better future. She wants to have a great education so she asks her father if she could go to the United States to get that and so she does. She heads to California on an airplane. Patricia really enjoys her experience in California because she seems to meet many friends. But as she goes from class to class, one girl stands out to her…being very rude to her. Her name is Debbie. “Why are you here?” Debbie asks. “We do not need any more Mexicans here.” She says. That saddens Patricia. She wants to cry because how she feels as if she no longer belongs. She goes to her real friends, Lisa and Diane; they explain to her that Debbie is a nothing, just one who seeks popularity. Feeling better, Patricia writes to her family about how she is bound to learn in just a short time.
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I feel this story was very realistic because of its real-life events. This story had a great adventure going to another country, seeing different things from her home Patricia experiences gaining friends and others she doesn’t want to become friends with. This story gives a good prediction of what happens next and also leaves you guessing. Unfortunately, it took me a while to understand everything completely, giving this a rating of eight.
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Novel: Tumba by Mira Canion
Student commentary: Tumba, written by Mira Canion, is a compelling story of Alex and his friend David fighting for the riches of their ancestors simplified into a 3,500 word book. The plot and storyline was actually rather brilliant, but was quickly shot down by a lack of elaboration and details throughout, leaving me a little unsettled about main points and the ultimate resolution. The first slip-up that caught my eye was when his grandmother was translating the message to Alex. She tells him to find his grandfather’s money, which is guarded by an evil spirit. If Alex is so terrified of spirits, why is he taking directions form one and why would he go encounter an evil one? This requires an explanation. Also, at the end, when Sergio is in the hospital bed, he ends up being a good guy. What? Where did that come from? He’s been a jerk his entire life. What changed? Sure, he broke his foot and they saved him, but that wouldn’t change his whole personality. They only person he was nice to before was Nora. He was a jerk to everybody. Finally, the last line stated that Alex was no longer afraid of the Day of the Dead. This I do not understand. Nothing happened in the story to influence that resolution, besides finding his grandfather’s money. Overall, I give this book a 6 out of 10.
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Novel: Las Aventuras de Isabela by Karen Rowan
Student commentary: I gave the novel Las Aventuras de Isabela an 8 on a scale from 1 to 10. I gave it an 8 because the book was interesting. It was also very understandable. I could read the book fluently and smoothly. Every once in a while I would run into a word I didn’t know and I would have to go into the vocabulary and look up what it meant. But other than that I had a very easy time reading it. I like how the book also uses words over and over again so I can understand what they mean. One of the words that was used a lot was “fotografías”. Now I know what this word is. It also used a lot of the “Palabras Importantes” words from class, so I got to learn a lot more of those words and understand what they mean.
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Novel: Pobre Ana by Blaine Ray
Student commentary: I thought that Pobre Ana was a pretty good book. I gave it an 8 because as I kept reading it, I continued to like it more. I like in the book how when Ana gets the chance to go to Mexico she does, even thought she feels like she has big problems of her own. And also how she makes new friends and they help her realize that her problems aren’t nearly as big as those that some people have to deal with. And that she doesn’t just leave it at that, she has a fundraiser to help get clothes for the people in Mexico that don’t have as much as her.
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I think that the author wants the reader to get out of this story is that we might have problems of our own but if we open our eyes to the world around us, we will see that there are people with much greater problems than us and that we can create new friendships with people, but also that we all have the power to help someone in one form or another.
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Novel: Pobre Ana by Blaine Ray
Student commentary: I gave this novel a 6 because it has a good moral lesson to the story. This book taught you to be grateful for all that you have. The book starts off with a young girl in high school named Ana. She has a lot of problems in her life. She feels miserable. She wants fancy clothes and a bifg house, like her friends have. Ana is jealous of them. Then she becomes an exchange student and goes with a nice family in Mexico. When she gets to Mexico, she realizes that she actually has it good in California. When she arrives, Ana knows very little Spanish, so she says as little as possible. She goes to their school and meets a girl named Patricia and they become friends. She also meets someone named Ricardo. After some time, she begins to realize that these people have less than her, and they are happy. When she goes home she has a different point of view and is grateful. For everything she has.
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Novel: Pobre Ana by Blaine Ray
Student commentary: I gave the story an eight because I found the plot of a Californian girl living in Mexico rather interesting as her changes became known throughout the text and taking this journey was rather exciting and thrilling to delve into the psychology of this girl watching her grown as an individual. It shows this in the text on page 35, chapter eight: Ana se sube al carro de la familia y les dice: -Me gusta el carro. Estoy feliz porque mi familia tiene un carro. Estoy muy agradecida por todo.” Going from the beginning of the story were it says: “Tiene muchos problemas. Tiene problemas con sus amigas y su familia. Es una chica normal pero tiene muchos problemas.” You find that as the plot kicks off that she longs to be free from thetyranny that plagues, or that she thinks plagues her. Upon her escape within the story she almost seems like a new born, excited but frightened of the world around for it is interesting and beautiful, but unknown and vast. You can tell too how much Ana can comprehend and how fast she learned. For example, the point in the quote: “La familia le explica a ella por qué ellos no estaban en el aeropuerto pero Ana no comprende nada.” Once she finds her feet she realizes her enjoyment in Mexico that she creates friends and has a deeper connection with hersurrogate family. She goes dancing and meets a boy named Ricardo. Such a time of adventure and change engulfed this girl Pobre Ana became not rich in dinero, but rich in world experience.

7 Comments

  1. gerryw December 7, 2013 at 8:04 am

    You continue to push the possibilities of foreign language acquisition, Bryce. It’s inspiring and I have to watch out for feeling like I’m overwhelmed by your skill and somehow not capable. I know now that that is a matter of mindset and I also know that I have been fairly effective with your “la persona especial” invention. I wish I could have you tutor me in some of my basic skills, but the work we’ve already done together has helped me a lot.

  2. Bryce Hedstrom December 7, 2013 at 1:08 pm

    Gerry, we are all learning and trying to get better. I have been doing this in one form or another for several years, starting off with relatively easy AP students and working down to level I this year. This activity happened to turn out well and I think that some elements of it could help other teachers. Maybe we should all share our struggles more so that we don’t intimidate teachers that are not there yet.

  3. mshellhawk January 5, 2014 at 7:08 pm

    Inspiring! I’d really like to implement SSR in my beginning classes. A few questions:
    1- How did you find time in class to check with each student on the appropriateness of their reading?
    2- What kind of varied materials did provide them with? I’d assume TPRS novels and books such as the ones listed in their reports, any others?
    3- When you explained “interesting” and “comprehensible” did you do so in Spanish or English?
    4- How did you familiarize yourself with/memorize the high frequency expressions that they would see in the novels?
    Thanks so much for blogging!

  4. Bryce Hedstrom January 5, 2014 at 7:29 pm

    Good questions, mshellhawk,

    1) I mostly read a novel while they were reading, but every so often I would get up and walk around. I would ask if they understood what they were reading and if they enjoyed it. I could tell with most kids by their body language if they were really into it or not. I mainly talked to the ones that were not and then helped them to find something more appropriate.

    2) For this assignment, the typical TPRS novels. Beforehand they could read anything they wanted if they could get the language and if it appealed to them.

    3) I explained “interesting and comprehensible” in English, in many different ways and repeatedly–almost every day that we read in class. It is a different concept because most of what they are forced to read in school is not interesting and not comprehensible to them.

    4) With the TPRS novels there is a lot of overlap, based on high-frequency expressions, on words that students find interesting, and on usefulness in a language class.

  5. […] It is not an assessment, but rather a record to keep track of student reading habits. On the moretprs list there has been quite a bit of conversation about how to run a FVR program. Some argue that there should not be any written work at all attached to the reading (otherwise it would not be pleasure reading). Many teachers feel they need some sort of record; I really like Bryce Hedstrom’s work because it is clear that his “book reports” seek to foster the love of reading and discussion of good books ( follow this link to read a recent blog post of his ). […]

  6. […] finished reading their second independent novel (See the reflections from their first novel here: https://www.brycehedstrom.com/2013/they-finished-reading-their-novels). Once again, they chose a novel they wanted to read. The only constraints were that it be […]

  7. mshellhawk May 6, 2015 at 7:52 am

    Thank you for answering my questions and making my adoption of this program so successful in my classroom.

    I’ve been loving the FVR program in my Spanish 3 class. One thing I think I’ve failed to do is emphasize the WHY of SSR. I think if they knew the point was to acquire more vocab they would do so more effectively.

    I’m going to continue it on when I teach level 2 next year, but I’d like a way to measure their progress. I know they are gaining a lot from the practice, but I’m not sure how to design interpretive reading assessments to provide evidence of their growth from SSR. Ideas?

    Again, I’m a believer in “Extensive Reading,” but I’d like a better way to show exactly what skills they are gaining from it–rather than a theme-focused unit assessment or book reports.

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