We know that quality input is the fast path to acquisition. We also know that reading can be a great source of input – plus it can be input that isn’t teacher centered, which is a bonus for days we need a break. But the problem with reading is that the average student doesn’t love reading, and those that do like reading often aren’t looking to read extra times just for fun. So how do we leverage reading activities in a way that still gives high repetitions without boring students? Here’s a fun activity to try:
I like to start my planning period by taking the “long way” to the staff bathroom, aka a good 5 ish minute walk through the building. On one of these walks I ran into our amazing in-house sub and she started asking me if I knew how to do the activity that was left in her sub plans for ELA. She started explaining this activity and asking questions… and, well, we both decided to stop in an ELA room to watch the activity being done in real life so we could understand better what the activity was. After about 5 minutes of watching, I decided I had to mix up the activity a bit and do it in my Spanish classroom as soon as possible. So I went back to my room and hammered out the activity during my plan to use for my next Spanish 1 class!
Step 1 – Write / Take a text that your students can read independently. I chose to use my class created story because I knew my students would know all of the words in it since we made the story a day or two before. Since that day I have also used an existing text that had some words glossed at the bottom and I’ve used a text where I wrote 5 or so “new” words on my board for students to reference.
Step 2 – Chunk the text into 2 – 3 sentence, closely related sections. Ideally each grouping of sentences answers a question or two (we’ll chat about questions in a few steps!). Give each section a letter label in alphabetical order. A, B, C, etc. The letters will be important for students when they start answering questions!
Step 3 – Give students the chunked reading on a printed paper. Depending on your students (and how long you want them reading), give them instructions for what to look for and highlight while they read. I tell my students, “highlight anything that’s a main event or a supporting detail. When you’re finished, show me your highlighted paper.” If they bring it to me and it doesn’t look like they highlighted a sufficient amount, I ask, “is that EVERYTHING that’s important?” and they go back and re read and re highlight. Once students have successfully highlighted, they get the question paper.
Step 4 – Create a set of questions to give students after they read. I made my questions very generic so I can re-use most of them every time I do this activity with any level. Questions like “who is the main character and what are they like?” and “when does the setting change and where does it change to?” I list my questions in English since they are so generic and my goal is for students to be re-reading Spanish, not answering questions in Spanish. When students get the question paper, they are told to answer each question in as complete of a Spanish sentence as they can, and to list the letter(s) of the section(s) of reading where they found the evidence of their answer.
Step 5 – When students finish answering questions, I check their papers for 1) complete sentences, even copied from the text; 2) Spanish answers; 3) that students have labeled their evidence(s) for each answer. If they are missing any of these steps, they go back until they have them all.
A Question / Answer combo might look like: Question – Who is the main character and what do you know about them? Answer – Hay un animal. El animal es un perro. El perro es azul y rápido. Se llama Patricio. (A) (B)
Why do I love this activity so much? #1 reason… my students love it. They were so excited when they learned we were doing a similar activity to what they did in ELA. They love “hunting for clues” in the text and don’t even realize (or care!) that they are re reading a bunch of times. In fact, at the end of class a student said, “Profe, can we do this scavenger hunt reading again?” The teacher side of me loves that they’re reading again and again for different kinds of information. The teacher side of me also loves that it’s decently low prep yet covers pretty much an entire class period of time. The teacher side of me really loves that it gives students supports and scaffolds (if needed!) to answer questions in complete sentences… and that the scaffold of citing evidence is automatically built in to give me a way to say, “check that reading section again to see if you see the answer” when I knew it wasn’t right. All in all – a huge win of a reading activity for getting kids to re read, decently low prep, and easily transferrable questions to use with another reading. Looking for some short stories to use with this kind of activity? Check out set 1, set 2, and set 3 of short stories available for you or check out this past tense AR Verbs unit that has one already done for you in it!