Classroom Library and SSSR, part 1

This year’s teaching assignment includes my first all heritage Spanish class.  While I’ve been teaching for a good long while, I feel like a novice teacher all over again with this class.  I’ve been experimenting with several tools and strategies, trying to get a grip on what is the right mix for this group.  All of my students use Spanish as their first language, but very few have been to school in Spanish, and several have had significant gaps in their schooling.  Many claimed that they hate to read and have never read anything interesting.  To which I say:  “Challenge accepted”.

Two things that have stuck:  Ministerio del Tiempo and self-selected sustained reading.  I’ve recently posted about Ministerio del Tiempo, a current tv show from Spain.  You can find more about it here, here, and here (spoilers!).

I’m still on a sharp learning curve with free voluntary reading (FVR) and SSSR.  If you are just getting started, or just want to soak up the wisdom of someone who has been making it work in his classroom, I recommend that you check out Mike Peto’s blog, especially these posts.  So far, here’s how it’s working for us:  we read every day.  Depending on what else we have going on that day, we read for 20-30 minutes.  Students choose their own books, with the only caveats being:

  1. it has to be interesting
  2. it needs to be comprehensible
  3. it needs to have more text than pictures

When we started in September, I quickly book chatted some of the books I thought might interest them.  Then they had about 15 minutes to look through what was available and to list 5 titles in priority order on a notecard.  Then I paired them up with books from their lists.  From that point, we were off and running.

As I mentioned, we read every day.  I get them started and then we all read–including me.  I’m reading El Libro de los Americanos Desconocidos by Cristina Henríquez.  I’m considering using it as a whole class read.  In the meantime, one of my students asked to see what I was reading, decided it looked good… and is now reading it herself. 🙂

My classroom library is a ragtag bunch of books that have been collected along the way, mostly from used book sales.  However our little library has more Spanish titles than our school library and even the branch of the public library next door to our school.  Using recommendations from Mike Peto, requests from students, and also recommendations from our exchange daughters in Spain, I have been on a quest to pair each student in my class with a book that will draw them in.  While Amazon is a great source, it can also get quite expensive.  I have had excellent luck at Better World Books and have been able to find some titles at Thrifty Books (15% teacher discount with code APPLE), both at much better prices.  The books are used, often library discards, but also affordable.  I took a little leap of faith and went shopping.  I was thrilled to find out that our PTSA offered grants and was willing to reimburse me for the first round of purchases.  I was able to get about 30 books for less than $100 at Better World books when I combined sales with promo codes!

I’ll go into more specifics about our library management and accountability in the next post in this series.  In the meantime, one of our Spanish daughters, Cristina, sent me photos of her bookshelves to give me more ideas of books to consider.  So far her recommendations have been spot on!

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