Two things seem extremely clear. The more students read, the more language they acquire. But many students do not like to read. There are a variety of reasons for this, many of which any individual teacher might feel is out of their control. This is why it is extremely important to intentionally consider the role of evaluative assignments or scores attached to Self Directed Reading as discussed in the SSR Handbook. Please give yourself permission to try new activities and ways that have kids reading without a goal of testing their comprehension. Moments of laughter for students while reading are gold when we stumble into making them happen.
I stumbled into an activity that I use occasionally as a way to change it up and offer students a chance to connect to their out loud reading. It was a mid April day and Latin one students were about halfway through Familia Mala by Andrew Olimpi. The atomsphere was quite negative and students simply were not enjoying the different activities we were using as we progressed through the novel. I decided to try something completely different for our reading session. I wanted a way for students to visual see how their reading pace changed as we read through a section of a chapter so I printed some copies of a histogram chart like the one below:
A chart template can easily be created in google sheets for students as well similar to what I use for students to monitor their vocabulary knowledge, words recognized while listening, pages read and words written charts. To understand how to use progress monitoring to connect students to purpose in their performance check out Lee Jenkins’ Optimize your School.
For this reading, I passed out the histogram and gave students highlighters. I displayed the chapter on the front screen while students’ worked from copies of the text. I broke the reading up into similar length sections. I read a section out loud and then students read the same section out loud and timed themselves or a partner. After the first section I walked around the room and paired students who had a similar pace on that section. For the rest of the chapter, I read a section out loud followed by students reading a section out loud while timing. They proceeded to mark the number of seconds it took to read the section on their chart. While students read and timed each other, I walked the room to observe and connect with student questions about the chapter.
Honestly, I was shocked how well the reading went. Every student was interested in timing themselves. Some students turned it into a competition. Other students read and excitedly made an artistic chart. The focus was on comparing pronunciation at different speeds, wondering why a certain section seemed to take longer while seeming to have the same number of words, and most importantly, on laughter as students genuinely enjoyed the reading for the day.
When reading seems to be stale, give yourself to try something different. We displayed these charts for about a week and left the room for the day energized and re-connected to attitudes around reading. The only downfall was it took some time, but for a day in mid-April, time to laugh and read was well spent.