Monday, July 31, 2017

Reading, reading, reading


I got to hear Dr. Stephen Krashen twice this year.  Both times he talked about the importance of reading at the intermediate level for language acquisition.  

What a force of nature he is!  What a smart, funny, elegant speaker!  Who makes all his research available...FOR FREE!  http://www.sdkrashen.com

What a nice person who let me take a selfie with him.  (I plan on putting it up in my reading library next to all the quotes I printed out and stuck to the walls.) 

Some highlights from my notes (paraphrased): 
  • There are two camps of thought about second language acquisition.  One camp believe that comprehensible input develops language skills.  Research backs this up, over and over again.  The other camp believes that skill building (verb forms, worksheets) develop language.  There is not research that backs this up, but it is taken as a given in education that This Is How Language is Learned. To paraphrase Dr. Krashen,  the latter camp is an axiom, not even a hypothesis, and is pervasive in our culture.  He would like for this axiom to be reduced to at best a hypothesis.  (Aside: you know you have been hanging out with SLA researchers when people start saying things like "I posit.." and "My hypothesis is..." 
  • Read and eat- let kids eat and read!  Why not?  (Our brilliant librarian at my school already does food and book projects...she is so cool.)
  • Junk reading is good for you.   Dr. Krashen talked about comics, Sweet Valley High (and related Sweet Valley Twins, Sweet Valley Jr. High, etc.), and others.  No more shall I feel guilty for my paperback mystery crime thrillers!  
  • People who read more know more.
  • People who read fiction are better at dealing with uncertainty.
  • Star what you like: a simple system for rating books in a library- kids like it, put a star in the front cover.  BRILLIANT.
  • The more accountability there is for reading=the less reading students will actually do.  This makes me so grateful that I have come to the conclusion that reading with no accountability is ideal.
  • Fake reading (a popular argument against SSR/FVR in L1 and L2) is not really happening, and when it is happening it can be traced to crummy program implementation (books that are too hard, too boring, accountability, rigidity, uncomfortable places to read, etc.). 
  • Light reading will prepare you for academic reading. Researchers showed that every hour of self-selected, sustained reading of any sort resulted in a .6 points on the TOEIC, a high-stakes test of English in many Asian countries.  
  • We need more books.
Note: all the notes that I took were from lectures given in July 2017, in Denver, CO (Fluency Fast/IFLT) and San Antonio, TX (NTPRS17).  For the research and evidence, please see Dr. Krashen's website.  


How my own observations have found all this to be true:
Since I started Sustained Silent Reading/Free Voluntary Reading in my class, I have felt my own language improve.  Between reading the level 3 and 4 readers over a week or two during class time (because the biggest distraction to reading is a teacher who is not reading) and tearing through the level 1 readers (so I can make better recommendations to kids about what to read), I feel more confident in applying preterite vs imperfect, subjunctive, past subjunctive, and even the condition + subjunctive past.  
FVR outside, last day of Spanish

My kids took to FVR like kids in a water park on a summer day.  They ate it up, asked for more, begged for it!  They volunteered to do book talks, and shared their favorites, and curled up together, and groaned when I rang the chimes to indicate it was time to do something else.  They voted for a reading party outside for their last day of Spanish in 8th grade.
I saw changes in their language too- mostly in their writing.  Students began using longer sentences, more complex descriptions, and words that rarely came up.  Their spelling and syntax improved and their overall comprehensibility did too.  I never edited their writing nor taught a writing workshop, all year long.  

So, FVR, I am recommitting to you, and to my beautiful new classroom with a READING LOFT!  



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