Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Leveled Readers for Second Language

I have typically only used leveled readers in the 4th and 5th years of language studies. In the 4th year we have read "El Abuelo ya no Duerme en el Armario" which is available from Scholastic Books. It has nice, manageable chapters so it is excellent for an introduction to reading longer narratives. In 5th year we have read Lazarillo de Tormes, Marianela (my personal favorite) and student additions of Don Quijote.

One of the keys to implementation is to vary the way in which the chapters are read (whole class, small group, partner, individual) and vary the activities (graphic organizers, alternative ending activities, etc). Reading longer books can be daunting for students and is very time consuming. Mixing things up will avoid that "Groundhog Day" feeling.

My absolute favorite to use with higher level Spanish students is "Cuentos con sazón". I stumbled upon this when looking for a reader for my Spanish 5 students. The novel starts off with a family reunion that turns into each relative telling a story about growing up in various Hispanic cultures. It combines culture, food, morals, and humor to create a great reader. My students read, discuss, and act out the book. For their end of year project, they write their own chapter including a moral, a famous festival in the country of their choice, and of course, advanced grammar. If anyone is interested, I could put together a packet of resources for it. My students loved it! Email me at worldlanguagecafe@gmail.com if you're interested.
For French, I love Le Petit Nico and the readings in Trésor du temps (history based French text).

My students and I have read a lot of the TPRS novels. I try to have one book that we read just for fun in semester 1. This year, Spanish 1 read Los Piratas del Caribe y el mapa secreto and Spanish 2/3 read Piratas y el Triángulo de las Bermudas. The second semester I do a novel study and we really dig into the novels. Right now, Spanish 1 is reading Robo en la noche, Spanish 2 is reading Los Baker van a Perú, and Spanish 3 is reading Vida y Muerte. So far, our novels are going really well this year. Spanish 3 seems to like the themes we are exploring, while Spanish 1 and 2 aren't quite to the meat and bones of the novels yet. Last year I used Esperanza in 1 and 2, but found it challenging for my 1s. For 3s last year, I used La Hija del Sastre and it was too hard for my students. However, I have heard of other teachers using all of these novels in different levels, so don't feel confined!

If you're wanting to start implementing novels, I have a couple of recommendations. First, check out Bryce Hedstrom's ranking of the novels. It's free on his website and fairly accurate on how difficult each novel is for each level. Second, make sure you read the book first. Part of my problem with La Hija del Sastre was I did not read through it first. Third, I highly, highly recommend the Teacher's Guides from the company, but I often still have to add some materials and tweak here and there. Fourth, seek out bloggers who have already taught the novel. Martina Bex, Cynthia Hitz, and many of the authors themselves freely share many resources for the novels. These are such time savers!

level 1 - Piratas del Caribe y el mapa secreto; Agentes Secretos
level 2 - Fiesta Fatal, El nuevo Houdini, Robo en la noche
level 3 - La maldicion de la cabeza reducida; Viva el toro
level 4 - Felipe Alou; Vida y muerte en la Mara Salvatrucha; Esperanza
level 5 - La guerra sucia; La hija del sastre, La Calaca Alegre;

Reading is more enjoyable for my students when they read novels at their level or even at an easier level. The teacher can adjust the discussion relating to the novel to the appropriate level. Preteach new vocabulary in context before reading the book. Connecting culture to the book adds interest for students. Make connections to the novel and the students.

Students are amazed in the beginning novels when they realize they can read a book in a second language. The books we use in our curriculum keep the students' interest. My students' favorite books are consistently those books that are based on a current issues (immigration in Esperanza), or real life people (Felipe Alou) and stories relating to history of other countries (La Guerra Sucia, La hija del sastre)

I have implemented a 15 minute independent reading time for levels three and higher. Students have the choice to pick what suits them and I provide them with a copy of a weekly reading log. On the log, students keep track of what words they had to look up as well as prepare a response to the following questions:

1. What connections did you find with your personal life?
2. This is similar to another story I've read...
3. I wonder...
4. I feel...

I grade the responses based on language use and award students for using the terms they had to look up. My students are no longer daunted by reading in another language.

I used to teach Pobre Ana as directed by my curriculum, but I found the students hated it. It turned into more punishment for them.  You can read my reasons for why I hate Pobre Ana, but it really was boring for the students, who, although at an beginning level of Spanish, did not want to read books that sound like they would be for students just learning to read (in any language). 

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