Saturday, February 6, 2016

Learning to Read vs Reading to Learn

This semester I have a pretty awesome group of Spanish IV students. I wanted to push them and really assess their reading comprehension. The only variable I can't monitor is if they are using a translator to assist them, or worse, do the work for them, because really, what are they learning from that?

What are they really demonstrating?
Typically we read the novel together, but I wanted to see what they really understood and not what they pick up from our discussion of each chapter. So what I'm doing this semester is having the students read a chapter independently and then coming to class prepared to discuss it. The first thing we do is take a quiz over the chapter, usually 5-10 questions over the main ideas of the chapter to assess what they are understanding when they read. Then they have a group activity to discuss it and fill in any gaps in their understanding of the details and the cultural themes.

Chapter 1
My goal is to have a different activity for each chapter we read. The first chapter usually establishes the setting and the characters so we read that together as a class to give context for chapter 2. The next two chapters we have been using the routine as listed above.

Chapter 2
Chapter 2 of La hija del sastre we did a group acting activity. [A friend asked for an example of an AIW activity so this provides a very detailed description of what we did.]

Chapter 3
For chapter 3, I typed out the chapter and put it into 6 different wordles. The students were in groups and had to circle 4 different words with their partner.
Then, collaboratively explain what was happening in the chapter with that word. Each word needed:
- 5-8 descriptions
- evidence from the chapter
- focus on importance of word in chapter
- no repeats when presenting

We practiced this as I modeled the word "soldados". I intentionally chose the largest word in the word cloud, knowing that many groups would choose that and it would be easiest for them to practice. The potentially most difficult part of this activity was the last part in which they couldn't repeat any word from the word cloud.  As the 12 groups presented, I wrote the word on the board so we could keep track of what was used.

Learn to read vs read to learn
Just like in elementary school students learn to read, but in middle school they read to learn. As language teachers there comes a point where we no longer have to teach words that they need to communicate; we can indirectly teach them the necessary vocabulary through reading and conversation.

Thanks to Carrie and Carol for their great work in writing this novel. The students have been enjoying it so far.

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