…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.
This 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 .