Self-selected reading time is not going to go smoothly all the time, it’s just a fact. Some of us are self-professed control freaks and would shudder at the thought of 39 adolescents reading 39 different books. But for me it is the only way to go. I shudder at the thought of trying to make the same chapter book come alive for 39 adolescents at 39 different reading levels and with 39 different interests as readers! BUT that does not mean it always goes off smoothly and without a hitch.
If we can reframe the challenges and classroom management debacles and issues and problems and frustrations, headaches, pains-in-the-neck, and such, if we can reframe them as teaching points, we can build stronger readers not just in world languages but generally. It is worth it to look at the issues in a diagnostic light, and think,”What are these students asking for me to teach them?”
We can mine the class’s struggles for possible teaching points, teach into those, and then follow up with the readers who most need our support in individual reading conferences.
In reading workshop, a teaching point is the heart of a mini-lesson. In my French two class, these mini lessons re delivered in English. It is a SMALL price to pay for the amount of language input they will get once we get the reading train chugging smoothly down the tracks. I would NEVER want to try to run a free-choice reading-workshop-inspired world language reading program without some mini-lessons in English.
Also, these mini-lessons are MINI. They take about 6 minutes.
Also, they have a safe and familiar structure. The way I learned Reading Workshop from Lucy Calkins and crew at the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, there is an “architecture” of a mini-lesson. The lessons the about 15 minutes. But of course, they are delivered in the language the students are there to acquire (generally English as this is generally practiced in English Language Arts classes).
In World Language, the students cannot generally understand a mini-lesson delivered in the language they are there to acquire. Therefore, for the sake of maximizing students” exposure to the language we are there to acquire, we deliver the mini-mini-lesson for about 4-6 minutes, in English, then have them work in their independent books to apply the strategy we just taught them.
The modified architecture of a World Language Reading Workshop mini-lesson that I find myself using is:
1. Tell a story (a personal story or describe what is happening in our class)
2. Tell them “Today I want to teach you that strong readers” and name the teaching point, and why it is important.
3. Jot some strategies (1 or 2 maximum) on an anchor chart (a paper that hangs in the room so they can refer to it as they work).
4. Follow up in conferences. Check in with the kids who really needed that lesson. Mayne even take notes on a conference record sheet.
Here is an example. I do not generally videotape reading time but I might start. Monday in eighth grade (my only non-first-year class and therefore my only class that is currently reading as first-years start in November) there was a general lack of focus. I decided to teach them on Tuesday a lesson on Trying on a Book.
1. Story: Hey guys, I noticed in class yesterday that there were some things going on. A shoe ended up in the trash can to much hilarity. It took us multiple tries to get down to reading and I had to keep restarting the timer cause people were talking.
2. Teaching point and why it is important: Today I want to teach you that strong readers make sure that they have a good book that is interesting and understandable, so they WANT to read it. Research shows that the most efficient way to learn more words and become stronger writers is to read. So finding a book that you WANT to read and can focus on, even in a huge class like this, is important.
3. Strategies: You might want to take a little stack of books back to your seat, if you haven’t yet found a book you enjoy. You might try different types of books. Try nonfiction. Try some shorter texts or some different genres.
4. Follow up in conferences: I sat at my desk and whispered to kids, “What books are you trying? Do you think you will stick with it tomorrow?” and made notes.
This is my highly-unscientific reading conference record book. It is one of four pages. They are organized by section on the setting chart. All it has in it so far is the books they have finished and the books they have abandoned. I just started it yesterday. It is crude and yours will probably look more like these.
Cause you’re awesome and I am a Pinterest failure, LOL!
You could also use the amazing app Confer, which was designed by a workshop teacher in Washington State, just for reading and writing workshop conferences.
Here are some potential teaching points for common problems that are related to engagement and book choice. I will be working on more documents to include in the resource book that will be part of the curriculum at the upcoming World Language Proficiency Institutes. Ben and I are super-excited, happily planning a week of PD devoted to Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills (BICS) using stories and characters, and a week devoted to Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency (CALP) using content-based instruction and higher-level reading and writing work.
May I just say in closing here that working with Ben Slavic after eight years of reading his blog and watching his videos has been a major turning point in my life. It’s not always the smoothest ride, we do not always see eye to eye on everything, our styles are very different in many ways, but at the bottom of all that, we practically share a brain when it comes to this work. The best part is, though, that although we are so similar in the foundational things, we both have very different experiences. Adding his long experience in CI and his long list of inventions and innovations to my training and experience in literacy in ELA and ESOL has been the source of many, many new insights and a-ha moments for both of us. Ben, here’s to us. I am so excited to see how these Institutes develop. I’ve, literally, never been so excited for anything in my head to become reality as I am for these to take shape.