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Maybe… perhaps… the class novel should die

…that is, die a slow death in intermediate levels to be replaced by self-selected reading.

A provocative title? It expresses some of the surprising conclusions that I am reaching in my intermediate and advanced classes.

books 7 smallThis year I have dedicated a significant amount of class time, and financial resources, to developing a recreational reading program in my intermediate classes. My experiences have prompted me to start a new collaborative project: the creation of an online class library starter kit so that other teachers can discover the power of recreational reading without breaking their budget.

Recreational reading is quite different from the kind of reading where a class is tied, like it or not, to one novel for several weeks. For me, the hallmarks of recreational reading are student choice, little or no assessment and giving students the ability to abandon the reading. That may sound like a recipe for “not much will be learned in that class”… or it very well could turn into a highly differentiated, highly student-centered year with a group of intrinsically-motivated students like no other year before.

Let me be clear; recreational reading is just one strategy in a large bag of tricks. But WOW! In the past I have tied my advanced classes to one novel at a time (or one short story, or one poem), convinced that my students needed me to help them learn to read. And they do need me as we read La ciudad de las bestias in AP. However, before this year I did not sense that my lessons teaching them how to read advanced texts does not make them into readers. It prepares them to confront complex texts, each year more and more difficult. On the other hand pleasure reading, losing yourself in the action of a story and not having to stop to complete a written analysis… that is what hooks a student on reading. This year, rather than just being prepared to read, I feel like many more of my students are leaving as actual bona fide readers… in their second language.

If you are interested in developing a recreational reading program in your class and want a source of simple readers to start your class library, please take a look at the new website for the FVR Classroom Library Starter Kit .

9 thoughts on “Maybe… perhaps… the class novel should die

  1. Hi! I would love to see you class library list. Whenever I click on the link, it says I don’t have access. Can I please have access? ūüôŹūüŹĽūüėĘūüėĄ

    1. I closed that website for the time being due to lack of participation… it seemed like a great idea but after two years of promoting it nobody had contributed. I have not deleted it altogether because I am hoping to someday return to the idea and figure out how to make it viable, but I think it would be irresponsible to get you to do the work if no one else is going to contribute.

  2. Can I join the FVR Classroom Library Starter Kit?
    I plan to have my brand new classroom library somewhat set up after break!

    1. I closed that website for the time being due to lack of participation… it seemed like a great idea but after two years of promoting it nobody had contributed. I have not deleted it altogether because I am hoping to someday return to the idea and figure out how to make it viable, but I think it would be irresponsible to get you to do the work if no one else is going to contribute.

      1. All good! Thanks for all that you do!

  3. I am a new teacher (career switcher) who will commence my first year in a few weeks teaching Heritage speakers. I am taking your advice about reading and am traveling to Madrid this week to purchase books. (My last career was flight attendant so I kept the benefits). I have found a small chain of used book stores called Tik. Any other recommendations? Also any books I should buy while there that you can’t buy here in the US? Thank you for your blog!

  4. I’m going to experiment with this in one of my upper level classes this upcoming school year. I’ll let you know how it goes. I’m going to teach the structures that are in the novels but we will not read a required class novel together. They will pick their own novel and read it during class time. We will still do some of the themes that are in the novels like Spanish Civil War (Hija del Sastre), El Salvador and MS-13 (Vida y Muerte). I won’t require the entire class to read the novels but they certainly can if they want to. I was brainstorming about this at iFLT with some people. We’ll see how it goes.

    1. Please do, and I am sure to blog about it as well.

  5. Excited to see that you’ve gone public ūüôā

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