With the change this year to block I implemented something
I’ve wanted to implement for years:
SSR. I have about 40 different
titles of novels in Spanish. They start
at a 100 to 200 word level and work up to 500 + word level. These novels are based on word lists of most
frequently used words in daily language use in Spanish. When a student works their way up into the
more complicated novels, they still see many of the same vocabulary words as in
the lower level novels, however in more complex sentences, richer contexts and
accompanied by new words.
How does the program
Students self-select the books they will read. There are two criteria: 1) It is at least mildly interesting to
them. An un-interesting book equals low
language acquisition value. However, I
point out that they need to be patient: A limited vocabulary book is not going
to be a best seller. 2) It must be comprehendible. A good percent range of known words is between
80 and 90% comprehension of the words.
We currently read 10—15 minutes a week. The Spanish program includes a lot of reading
so I didn’t feel the need to make this daily reading.
When a student finishes a book, they write a short book
report. The questions ask them to
summarize the book, talk about their favorite part, write an advertisement for
the book, and rate the book from 1 to 5 stars.
In 7th grade they must read 2 novels per semester. In 8th grade it is 3 novels per
They receive two grades:
1) for reading. All they have to
do is read. As long as they are not
distracting themselves or others, they have an A for this effort grade 2)
writing a book report—a reading grade.
Let’s start by seeing what the experts say:
Incidental learning of words during reading may be the
easiest and single most powerful means of promoting large-scale vocabulary
— W.E. Nagy & P.A. Herdman Quoted in Extended Reading
in the Foreign Language Classroom
There is overwhelming research showing that recreational
reading in a second language is a powerful means of improving grammar,
vocabulary, spelling and writing ability ― and it is far more efficient and far
more pleasant than traditional instruction.
― Stephen Krashen, PhD
For years I have offered a Free Voluntary Reading program in which students check out the same books now used for SSR to take home and read. As they work through the books they unlock new levels (like gaming) and earn badges. Usually less than 10% of the entire class takes advantage of this reading. However, each year when I have tested a group of 8th graders using an independent testing service (Avant Assessment), students who read even one extra book in the FVR program scored stronger in reading and writing than those who didn’t. (This ACTFL approved test is based on the ACTFL performance guidelines, which include the California Standards). Where I used to have the majority of students reading only the three class novels in 180 hours of study, with the SSR program I now have every 8th grader reading 9 novels. Our testing has just begun for this year, but I expect to see an increase across the board in reading and writing for all test takers. Next year’s 8th graders will be even more interesting as they will have read a total of 12 novels.
By: Sr. Stone, 7/8th grade Spanish