Saturday, January 14, 2012

Reading in FUNdamental, but we aren't so sure about the fun part.....

So, second semester has begun, and I have changed the way I have made some small changes to the way the classroom is structured. I will start with the beginning of class.

First, one of my biggest downfalls in class seemed to be the very beginning of the class period. Many times, I have students that are trying to talk to me before the bell even rings, and are still talking to me, so the rest of the class is pretending that they have no idea what to start with.To conquer this, I have the students reading for the first 15-20 minutes of the class period. We purchased some of the Santanilla readers (El hombre del bar, Asasinato del Barrio Gotico, y El libro secreto de Daniel Torres) and I divided the students into reading groups and they are working on them together. I have a few of my super smarties working on the level 3 book El cruz de Diablo.

I grouped the kids by ability, especially since I know some of my top students are really tired of having to carry the weight of some of the lower level students. Also, some of the lower level students hate always being dominated by the higher students. I also thought that a few of my "sit back and do nothing" kids would have to rise to the occasion if I put them together because otherwise, nothing would get done. ;)

So, I have learned a few things from this. First, many of my struggling kids are in real trouble now. Even though many of them have been able to study hard and make Cs (with the retakes) on the assessments, trying to put it all together is very difficult for them. Some of them just really try to make up what is going on in the story rather than read it and look up the words they don't know. Also, many of my higher achieving students are also having trouble. They are so used to everything being so easy for them, that having to really think about the meanings of phrases, or trying to extrapolate the meaning of words from a sentence makes them just want to whine and give up. As they work, I move from group to group and help with passages, or words that they are stuck on. I also help them understand some of the cultural references. For example, "Why are all these people always in a bar?" "Are all people in Spain alcoholics?" Funny, I know.

Second, I realized that even though we have been reading short stories all along, it really doesn't replace using readers over many class periods. The kids are forced to learn many valuable words because they are used over and over again. (Some of them are still in denial, but I feel confident that they will have them by the end of the book.) Also it is so much easier to do this when you are working with the same writer rather than different writers of short stories. It is also forcing them to finally acknowlegde those pesky direct and indirect object pronouns. It is next to impossible to follow a story without reading them correctly.

Third, I made the mistake of making the reading groups too big. Most groups have four students. I think next time I am going to go for pairs, or threes. There are still many groups that have one person that really doesn't participate at all, and amazingly, these "non-participators" are not the lower level students.

So, now the students are halfway through the books and their reading has definately improved. I will say being able to use their phones and other electronic devices to look up unknown words makes the process so much faster that when I was in school!

Their second benchmark assessment will cover the books, and I am creating a good study guide for them. I taking a page from the English teachers out there and giving them a character list and having them give the information about the character and why they are important. Still haven't quite decided how I am going to structure the questions on the assessment....probably some short answer with the character descriptions and multiple choice.

I will post when I know how these books turn out!