9 STEPS TO FREE VOLUNTARY READING, or
HOW TO GET STUDENTS TO READ… AND LIKE IT
Students can begin to read on their own faster than you might think with these steps:
1. GET A VARIETY OF READING MATERIALS
Students need variety. They have different abilities and interests, so they should be reading different things. Provide plenty of reading materials that are comprehensible, interesting and (when possible) culturally relevant.
High Interest Easy Readers – This is a list of language learner novels in Spanish organized by reading level and time of the school year in each class.
Try to get five copies of as many different titles as you can–that way students can read what their friends are reading.
2, HOLD THEM ACCOUNTABLE… LIGHTLY
Lightly hold students accountable for their reading. Check to make sure they are understand what they are reading, but not every day. Do not check for comprehension every time they read. Of course you need to put grades in the grade book. Of course you need to hold students accountable, but don’t measure their reading all of the time. If you give them a grade every time they read you will kill the joy of reading.
READING REFLECTION – This form is short and simple and it is a helpful tool for getting students to enjoy reading — because they get to express themselves. Checking reading comprehension occasionally corresponds to the ways of assessing reading explained in Free Voluntary Reading by Stephen Krashen and in Readicide by Kelly Gallagher.
DUAL ENTRY JOURNAL FORM – Medium level of accountability. This shows you care and are aware, but it doesn’t smother students with too many detailed questions about their reading. DO NOT use this form every time they read.
There are many more forms and ideas for checking reading comprehension here:
3. TEACH USEFUL VOCABULARY
the majority of speech consists of just a few verbs and function words. 65% of speech is just 100 words. Teach those high frequency words first to fill students with useful language.
A) High Frequency Verbs: IMPORTANT VERBS – These are the verbs language learners need to know. Teach the Essential Verbs, which are high frequency, with classical TPR gestures in the first 2-3 weeks to get them able to read earlier than you might think.
B) High Frequency Function Words: PALABRAS IMPORTANTES – The function words are some of the most important words for language learners to know. These are the short, abstract words that carry the grammar of a sentence. I would be hesitant to overtly test students on these for a grade, but they should be familiar with these words. These function words should be clear in the teacher’s mind to be sure they are being used, particularly if you are not a native speaker.
C) Teach Grammar as Vocabulary: In upper level classes it can be useful for students to be consciously aware that the high frequency verbs are mostly irregular. THE USUAL SUSPECTS – These are the most used verbs in Spanish. Most of them are irregular, so to novices they sound like different words.
4. MODEL READING YOURSELF
Most students never see anyone reading for pleasure. You need to model the importance of reading by reading to them and by reading in front of them. You are convinced of the value of reading, but you are going to have to be explicit in demonstrating those values to to your students. Here are some quick tips on teaching reading to share with your students: Language Acquisition and Reading
5. READ ALOUD TO THEM
Reading aloud immerses the listeners in the book. It binds them to you emotionally when you share the experience. It forms connections at a deep level as they hear our voice sharing a story that you are all immersed in. Reading aloud shares love.
6. TEACH HOW TO CHOOSE READING MATERIALS
Some students will just robotically go a grab a book, feeling that they are forced to read. You will need to explicitly teach them how to go about choosing a book that they can joyfully read for meaning.
7. TEACH THEM HOW TO READ
Comprehensible and interesting are the words you cannot repeat often enough. In most schools, reading has become little more than a chore to prepare students for high stakes tests. That’s not how to create enthusiastic lifetime readers, and it won’t get students to acquire language joyfully, subconsciously and fluently. When you teach students that they are supposed to be reading something that they can understand and that they enjoy they will like it. They will begin to say, “You know what, señor? I don’t like reading in English, but for some reason I like to read in Spanish.” I have heard students say versions of this quote many times after teaching them to read for meaning and enjoyment, instead of because they have to, or because they think they should.
Summer Reading This is a list of books my level 3, 4 & AP students have said they enjoyed reading in Spanish over the summer. It also explains why reading novels is important and includes reading levels for novels to help guide students into picking something comprehensible and interesting.
8. MAKE READING A PRIORITY
Make reading a regular part of the routine in your classroom and enforce it consistently. Schedule reading regularly in your lessons plans–and do it at the beginning of the period and not at the end, as if it were some kind of add-on.
9. SHOW THEM WHY WE ARE READING
Continually point out why we are reading (like, every single time they read, until they can say it to your first). Because students are not expected to read in other classes, they will be hesitant and maybe even resistant to buy in to reading. Be prepared to head off the constant question of, “Why do we always have to read?”
QUOTES ABOUT READING Print these out, hang them around your classroom and shine your laser pointer at them when the “Why are we reading again?” questions start. they will eventually get to the place where they say, “I don’t really like to read in English, but for some reason I like it in Spanish.”
Why Use Materials & Training by Bryce Hedstrom?
Because Bryce’s materials and presentations can train your teachers in techniques that will connect with and engage students! Teachers will be happier and students will learn more! He also offers a variety of workshops to train teachers at all levels and in all subject areas in your department, school, district, or region. Teachers are raving about the results.