Book review: Speed readings for Spanish Learners by Eric Herman

eric hermanThe day that Eric Herman sent a message out to everyone on the moretprs listserve I happened to be online and I rushed to place my order. Today I received my copy and I have to say, I really like what I am reading.

Speed reading is a concept that is new to me. Briefly, the idea is to encourage students to read for comprehension, not decode. They have a 400 word reading and try to read it as quickly as possible (maximum six minutes). The vocabulary is high-frequency so that students should not be encountering new words in these readings. Afterwards they complete a multiple choice quiz to measure their comprehension and they mark their results on a chart marking both speed and grade. Over a suggested ten week span the students take three quizzes per week and try to read faster while maintaining at least a 70% comprehension grade. Like fluency writing, this activity trains students to avoid inefficient approaches such as translating everything.

Eric has done a great job putting together these stories. They are amusing and feature a variety of recognizable characters that add interest. Now for the heart-breaking part: in order to use this book as intended you need to buy a class set. For me, with California-size classes, that would be almost $400. Happy you if you can afford that.

I did not realize that when I bought it, but now that I have the book I am brainstorming how to make the best of it. I can see that this would be especially useful for the one or two students I have every year who have demonstrated thorough acquisition in class yet still insist on translating stories word for word. That actually happens, so now I have another feather in my differentiation cap.

Outside of the original purpose of the book, I may use the stories for read-alouds. If you can afford a class set, you may be very excited about this purchase. If you cannot afford a class set, this might be worth purchasing just to see how Eric has put this together. I am already planning on developing my own set of speed readings suited to my curriculum.

By the way, it follows the LICT curriculum. As I read the stories there are occasional words that I would not have taught my level 1 kids (desilusionado, construir, toboganes), but apparently if you use LICT then the vocabulary is 100% transparent. Follow this link to Eric Herman´s website for a much more detailed description of this speed reading program.

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