FVR (Free Voluntary Reading) in my class

I have been building my library for a few years. Spending my own money, little by little accumulating more books. I did a Donors Choose project over the summer to add 44 new books to my library, and it was a great success! I now have over 100 books in total, about 50 or so different titles.

I started off pretty early in the year in Spanish 2 doing Book Speed dating.  Students spent 2 1/2 minutes with each book. One minute to write the title, and read the back of the book to see if it was interesting to them, then a minute and a half to try to read the first few pages to see if they were able to read the book. Then they moved on. In a class period, given distractions and managerial work, I think we got through 10 books each. Over time we did more speed dating. Students still haven’t gotten to review each book, but that’s ok.

I also show students THIS presentation, and have a discussion (in English) about how easy reading needs to be in order for us to be able to make inferences, and learn new words. We then talk about their experience as readers (I really recommend Readicide).I tell them the reading needs to be: Interesting enough so that you want to continue reading, or easy enough so that you can feel successful, but hopefully both.

The very first time that I asked students to do FVR I gave them the instructions that Bryce Hedstrom gives. “Five people at the library at a time, find a book, if you’re not sure what you want to read, grab a few different books. If you have trash hold on to it until we’re done. If you think you might need kleenex, grab some before we start reading. We are focusing on reading, not pretending to read”.

That day we read for five minutes, and it flew by! Most students said that it wasn’t enough time. I was in awe. That was a Monday. On a MONDAY students were willing to try something new (read a book in Spanish), and said it wasn’t enough time. I decided then, on Wednesday to try reading again. I ask students how long they want to read for, most said 10 minutes, so we did just that! Students read for 10 minutes, and it was so peaceful and quiet, and I could see them focusing on trying to make sense of the words on the pages of the books.

As my students read, I read in French. On reading days (we’ve been doing MWF for 10 minutes) it’s the first thing that we do after the bell ringer because i want to show students that it’s a priority to me. Today, actually, I almost forgot and we started to move on, but I stopped what I was doing so that we could go back and read, pointing out to students that it is a priority for me.

The research is inconclusive on how many exposures to a word we need before we acquire it. Some studies have shown 8 exposures allows us to recognize the words, but as far as how many exposures we need to be able to produce the words we don’t really know. There is no magic number. We can’t say “I’m going to give my students 154 exposures to the word and they’ll be able to use it, but if I only get 150 they won’t be able to”.

After reading we have a little meta discussion on reading. Because I’m learning French through reading, I tell students what is going on in my head, I tell them any new words I learned (or maybe “I learned the word for Drink, but I don’t think I can say it yet”), and ask them if they learned any new words, and if they feel they can use any of those new words yet.

Reading has been going great! I’ve even seen some words from what they’re reading show up in quick writes! Words that I’ve not used, they just picked them up.

I do have one student reading Crepúsculo (Twilight), and she’s really invested in it. I allow her to use a dictionary while she reads, thus invoking the input load hypothesis (Hulstijn and Laufer, 2001). I’m especially interested to see how acquisition of vocabulary works with this student as she defines the need, search, and evaluation of what she’s reading.


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