Why should your students read?

Why should your students read?

Reading is fundamental, right?  But is reading fundamental or even important in the world language classroom?  The simple answer is YES!

Reading has been proven to increase a child’s vocabulary and writing ability in both their first language and second language.  In fact, reading is how we learn over 70% of our vocabulary.  If you want to increase your ability to communicate in any language, you must read.  Reading is also a way to engrain grammatical structures into a student’s mind.  Language acquisition is subconscious and thus the grammar of a language is truly learned and acquired through repeated exposure to the language in both written and aural forms.  Reading really is fundamental.  So how do we get our world language students to read?  

One method that I have been using is FVR (free voluntary reading), and it is as simple as it sounds.  You provide books at an appropriate level for the class and allow the students to read what they are interested in reading.  The biggest issue to tackle is building a library of books for students to select from.  With FVR, I put out books once a week and we read (we includes me) for 10-15 minutes.  If they don’t like their book, they simply get another.  I ask them to simply tell me what they read, how much they read each time, and would they recommend the book to others.  One of the key components of FVR is little to no accountability.  Here are some blogs and articles about the benefits of FVR:




Another activity I enjoy using is Embedded Reading.  This is a reading process, in which the teacher scaffolds a longer, more difficult reading into 3 or more progressively more detailed readings.  These scaffolded readings allow students to understand a much more difficult passage than they would otherwise be able to read.  The support that is naturally incorporated into this process is perfect for the reluctant reader or the student who struggles with the language.  This process allows the teacher an opportunity to use many different activities which make reading much less a focus and allow authentic use of the language to become the focus.  For more detailed explanation of Embedded Readings and for some pre-written readings and activities use this link: https://embeddedreading.com/about/

In my classroom, I use embedded readings after I have introduced a new set of vocabulary structures and have used those structures in a TPRS style story.  The reading is a culminating activity that recycles the vocabulary structures into a new story that will (hopefully) capture the students’ attention one more time.  We begin with a simple 4-5 sentence story, which introduces the characters and hints at plot of the story but leaves obvious holes.  After this first reading, I ask the students for questions to find the missing information. They must think logically and realize what they are missing but they must also try to predict where the story is going and ask questions to find out more information about the plot.  After this, we move to the second reading, and this reading adds in more details and continues to build the characters.  With this 2nd reading, I will ask the students to do a number of different activities.  

In lower levels, we might translate, illustrate or answer simple comprehension questions.  In upper levels, students can finish the story or anticipate the conclusion.  We will always go back to the questions we generated from the first reading to see if we are able to answer any of them.  The final version of the story is the complete version.  This will have all the details and the complete plot.  You can also use this approach to simplify an article or poem.  With poems or short stories, you can add in readers’ circle or short videos to assist in the scaffolding and aide the class with their understanding of the story.  When done right, an embedded reading can really capture the class’s attention and lead to a lot of rich, creative, authentic use of the target language.

Post by Lynne Hendrick

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