On the iFLT / NTPRS / CI Teaching Facebook group (which you should join if you’re reading my blog) there was a recent question about accountability during Free Voluntary Reading. My students read 10 minutes at a time starting in November or so. I start them out once per week, usually Thursdays, and by spring I try to get them to twice a week. I also use Sustained Silent Reading (SSR) for those odd days when school happenings mess up the flow of the week or extra-curricular activities leave you with half your class.

The students were reading from my library of children’s books, which are more difficult to access than we think. You’ll note some familiar titles if you’ve ever read a book to a 4 year old. Usually by January my students begin transitioning to selecting our high-interest, low-level novels.

At about the 8 minute mark, I quietly hand out a half sheet of paper. On the SMART board, I’ll switch it to a page that reads:

What was it like to read today in Spanish? How did it feel? What did you read? What did you learn? What connections did you make or questions do you have? Write 4-5 sentences about this experience.

The first few times we read I’ll share with them some model responses. These model responses came from my students and each of them highlights something different that I like.

I read the book Azul el Sombero, Verde el Sombrero. I could understand about 90% of the book. I got confused on the words ¡Ay, Caramba! Other than that I understand the rest of the book. It kind of seemed like I was reading in English.

This student identifies their own comprehension level. They mention confusing aspects which, if it’s the right time and place I can address to the whole class. ¡Ay, Caramba! is an easy one to share with class and repeat intentionally over the next few days. But the gem in this response is that it “seemed like I was reading in English.” This is an indicator that the student is reading at the right level – the convergence of interest and comprehensibility.

I read Animales, Camiones, and Clifford Va al Doctor. I learned that pez is fish tractor is the same as English and bear oso. I didn’t understand the word veo. My favorite of these books was Animales.

It’s obvious that the student has read and thought about what they were reading. They’ve identified some new words and ones that impeded comprehension.

I got frustrated after a while. Because I didn’t understand the book and it got really confusing. I did pick up a couple of words that we have already learned. But it was confusing because I didn’t know what was going on. Also, the title confused me because it didn’t go with the book because I didn’t understand it – Mono ve mono hace.

This book is beyond the reader’s ability. I use this example to help students navigate which books to choose. The book must be interesting and comprehensible. Kids need help at first learning how to pick appropriate books. I use this document from Bryce Hedstrom to help them understand how to choose reading materials. He manages to state, restate and state again the concept of “interesting and comprehensible” in three distinct ways. It’s great.

I read La Semilla de Zanahoria. When I first started this book I didn’t understand some of the words. Like brotará.  I’m not sure what that means but every time I read the next page it would be there so I thought it was carrot. After a while, I wasn’t sure it was carrot. After reading time I asked Profe and he told me it was “will sprout”. That made a lot more sense and now I can read that story.

I like the metacognition evident in this response. The student talks about the strategies she used to try to make sense of the reading. She makes a prediction and comes to realize she was wrong. She checks her hypothesis with the teacher and adjusts. I like to highlight that process. I encourage students to make a guess if they don’t immediately know the meaning of a word, make another guess if it doesn’t seem to fit. If their second guess doesn’t seem to fit and their comprehension of the text is hindered by that particular word, they I encourage them to look it up. On the other hand, if they can understand the text without that particular word, I recommend they just skip it.

If you don’t have your own model responses, feel free to grab and use these. Grab the Google Doc here.

Leave a comment and let us know what simple methods you use to hold kids accountable for reading during SSR.

Simple Accountability for Free Reading

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