After watching Paul Kirschling last year, I was inspired to figure out my own system for beginning Free Voluntary Reading. For me, this was extremely scary! Middle schoolers can be really reluctant to start something new, so I knew that I would have to set it up in a spectacular way in order to ensure success.
FVR is something that I used to do every other week for Do Nows, starting about a month or two into the year. However, FVR is MOST effective thing that students can do in acquiring language, so, I decided I needed to start doing every day. At this point I was nervous. I was nervous that I would get push-back from the students and that the push-back would lead to reluctance, and the reluctance would lead to kids not reading, and then not reading would lead to me fighting with them, the fighting with lead to them not liking my class and/or me, and this would lead to broken relationships and higher affective filters. (I feel like I am creating this commercial!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
Ok, so that would be the worst case scenario. Best case scenario, the students have a chance to learn new vocabulary, read new books, be inspired, and on and on and on.
One of the first things that I did was to use Bryce Hedstrom’s resources to add proficiency levels to my books bins. (If the books are not available on his list, you can also look on the back or the inside of the book to see which proficiency level the author and/or publisher thinks that the book is.) My students track their proficiency levels in their BOE (body of evidence) folders throughout the year, so they are fairly knowledgeable about them. Some of my students actually look at the levels of the books, while others pick a books based on the cover (which I think is fine too. The leveled readers have footnotes and glossaries that even if a student is reading a book beyond his or her level, they will still be able to acquire some vocabulary.)
Next, I thought about my speech. What speech, you ask? The speech that I would give to the students as to why I am adding a routine to their lives. The end result included the following statements:
- There are many different levels of learners in this class.
- You all have different interests, and when I’m teaching, I’m not necessarily talking about something that you are interested in every moment of every day.
- You learn and read at different rates.
In addition, next to my FVR library, I have my favorite reading quotations (also from Bryce Hedstrom’s website) including my favorite from Dr. Stephen Krashen, “Picking up word meanings by reading is 10 times faster than intensive vocabulary instruction.”
After prepping both my books and my speech, I thought about what middle schoolers really want, and what middle schoolers really want is an incentive. They love to win stickers, erasers, candy, free seating, and best of all games! With this in mind, I devised an incentive-based beginning of class routine. It may sound slightly complicated, so I’ll do my best to explain it. (If you’ve questions, you can always email me for more information!!)
Here are the steps for my incentive-based FVR program:
- Students line up in the hall before class.
- I welcome them into the room and then walk directly to my desk.
- When I reach my desk, I start a timer on the Promethean Board for 10 minutes counting down.
- As soon as all students have a book in hand and are silently reading, I write down the time from the countdown clock (i.e. if 1 minute and 10 seconds have lapsed, I’d write 8:50). We read for five minutes, so I also write down the end time from the countdown clock (in this case 3:50).
- When the clock reaches 3:50, I change to my Do Now slide for the day. Students write down the homework, answer the Do Now question, return their books to the back of the room, put everything under their desks, and then sit on their desks to let me know that they are ready for class. (This insures that students are putting away books at intervals not all at the same time.)
- At this point, I throw a ball to the students sitting on their desks, and they get to play silent ball (just like it sounds- they toss the ball to each other but if they talk they are out) until the timer runs out.
There are absolutely disadvantages and advantages with this system, but it worked it worked for me as a tool to implement FVR and include an incentive as well. This year, I changed my system to look much more like Paul’s.
Here are the steps this year:
- Students line up in the hall before class.
- I welcome them at the door saying hi to each student.
- As students enter the classroom, they take a book of their choice off my bookshelf and grab their notebook and folder out of their cubbies.
- Students put everything under their desks except their book and begin reading without me asking. (I try my hardest NOT to nag them about getting their books and beginning to read; it’s just a habit they do without instruction.) **My rubrics for FVR can be found here.
- Students read for five minutes (I usually start with 3 1/2 minutes in Spanish 1 and four minutes in Spanish 2 and gradually work up to between 5 and 10. You will have to decide what you think is the right length of time for your students.)
- When the time is up, I flip to the next slide and give students 3 minutes to write down the homework and a Do Now question (these are school structures. In Paul’s classroom, when they finish reading, they get up and put their books away and class begins. Again, depending on your systems, expectations of your school, and other factors, you’ll have to discover what works best for you.)
- After, students put the book away and put everything under their desks.
- At the end of the 3 minutes, I begin class!
A few weeks ago, I checked out a Chrome book cart for a week, and students were able to work on a variety of tasks/projects. During this time, I interviewed students one on one. During the interviews, I found out that two of my seventh grade boys’ favorite Spanish class activity is LECTURA LIBRE (FVR)!!!!!!!!!!! Now, my seventh grade classes are where I feel that I have the most success as far as having fun and being comprehensible all the time, so you can imagine my surprise when FVR was their favorite activity…….surprise and elation!!! I also found out during these interviews that one of my seventh grade girls was bored of FVR. She said that she read the same book every week in class. I asked her which book she was reading because I knew there was NO WAY that she has read all of my leveled readers. I have SIXTEEN DIFFERENT LEVELED READERS available to them every day. It was then that I realized that she was reading the classroom stories that either that my classes or students made up (they’ve been edited, illustrated, and bound in a folder). She said that I need more variety. Instead, I decided that I needed to pull them off the shelf! So, for third trimester, the classroom stories aren’t going to be an option for FVR. I know this wasn’t the solution that she had in mind, but I think that it’s better this way. Next year, I think I’ll probably yank them even earlier!!
So…. There you have it. Two different FVR set ups with inspiration and support from fellow teachers Bryce Hedstrom and Paul Kirschling. Happy reading!