FVR reading journal

Comment Dec 1, 2017: My practice continues to evolve since publishing this post. If you are going to read this, then please also read Struggling to hold students accountable for reading? Thanks!

bitacoraIt 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 ).

I do a lot of FVR with my heritage speaker class, and we keep a daily reading journal. In my mind, FVR is the most important thing we do in our heritage speaker classes and I want to communicate that to my students. I teach the lowest level for heritage speakers, who come to the class as reluctant readers and speakers. Nonetheless there is a tremendous range of reading levels. FVR is a great way to differentiate effectively. Here are two student samples. The first is from a student who self-identified as a very low-level reader when she first came to my class five months ago (click on it to enlarge):

student reading 1She is reading TPRS novels designed for non-heritage speakers and her writing gives me a lot of feedback on structures that I will recycle in class (several of my students from this class wrote “cave” instead of “acabé“). She also reads slower than many of her peers; I can see that she reads about 5 pages in 20 minutes, and I know from observation that she is not distracted or staring into space during our reading time. I have no idea what a “normal” reading speed is, and I am pretty certain that I do not care when it comes to this class. What I do care about is that, when I observe her in class, she is engrossed in her reading. She enters the class smiling and goes straight to the class library to grab her current book. She is a success story.

In the same class another student, who self-identified as a non-reader at the beginning of the school year, passed in this response sheet (click to enlarge):

student reading 2She clearly reads with much more ease. She has picked “authentic” literature, meaning novels originally written for native speakers. Even when she takes a break and choses children’s books for the last two days, in her evaluation she identifies the rhyming pattern to be a source of pleasure rather than just saying it was fun to read. Non-reader? I don’t think so. Perhaps she came to this class last August with an affective barrier built up, perhaps she did not want me to judge her, perhaps she purposely portrayed herself as a non-reader to get into an easier class. Whatever the case, at this point (in February) she is challenging herself some of the time with some difficult reading choices, and just enjoying reading easy books at other times. Lots of intelligent, literate adults read books below their reading level for enjoyment. She is another success.

I have an unusually privileged position in my school because I have a full “Spanish for heritage speakers” program, yet I still have such wide variety of skill levels in each level that I have to radically differentiate the reading program in order to effectively meet my student’s needs.

There are students who are not reading. Some of them pass in journals that are complete because they think that filling out the worksheet is all that is required of them. If you adopt a reading log, don’t let it turn into a worksheet! I sit next to students during reading period, reading my own book, and I like to sit strategically. I tell them that their work is to read, filling out the journal is just a reflection of that work but if I watch them in class and they are not reading then the journal means nothing. I separate friends if need be, and I always tells them respectfully that it is because they are not reading. I think that articulating, over and over again, that reading is the most important thing we do strengthens the will of the entire class. We joke, play games, and watch movies during the second half of the class, but the first half of the class is sacrosanct.

I currently do not have my non-heritage speakers record anything… we just read (2-3 times per week, between 10-15 minutes each session). With my non-heritage speakers I also want to communicate that this is an important component of the class; without something being passed back to me I wonder how many students are actually reading for comprehension.

Update May 26, 2014: During the second semester I did require a reading log from my Spanish 3 students (non-native speakers). This was a quick feedback so that I could identify kids who were rebelling against the activity. It also led to accountability; so many kids were being dismissed for sports or extracurricular activities in the middle of the school day (a serious problem in my district) that I needed some mechanism to pull them in during lunch or after school. In the end, this was one of the most successful things I did this year! Read my end of year blog post by clicking here.

Click here to download the form that I currently use .


  1. Hi! I want to do more FVR in my spanish classrooms. I had the idea of have everyone read the same book (I have a class set of Noche de Oro). All of them have read Robo en la noche. Do you have any experience having students read the same book for FVR? any advise?

    1. What you are doing is a whole class novel. Independent reading (FVR) can work without pre-teaching vocab because students self-select the novel: if they choose something above their reading level (or interest level) then they can just abandon the book and choose another. What you are doing is a little different; by asking them all to read the same novel you are taking on the responsibility of pre-teaching vocab and, I think, you should be doing comprehension checks and arrange some activities to help students develop interest in the book that you have chosen.

      I am not against whole class novels, in fact all of my classes are currently reading a class novel. While I do have students read the chapters quietly to themselves, the preparation is important. I like to do a lot of PQA before even starting the novel, targeting specific structures they need to understand, and then do a little pre-reading chat before they read the chapter on their own. Sometimes I read a passage aloud or we do readers theater where the students act while I read, but my preference is to prepare them well ahead of time and let them read when I know that they can do it successfully.

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