Effortless Reading: Comics

I once made the mistake of mentioning my love for comics in the classroom at a job interview.  I got the job… and an eye-roll.

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Comics have an undeserved stigma.  While students should eventually move on to academic text, Krashen notes “that comic book reading and other forms of light reading can serve as a conduit to ‘heavier’ reading” (3).

Comics lure the most reluctant of readers into a reading habit.  Artwork that allows them to actually see thoughts, faces, and feelings helps make connections with characters (so says my comic-fanatic son with ASD).

I have so many favorite comics I could not list them all, but these are the very best comics for first time readers, at 300 Lexile or easier: Continue reading Effortless Reading: Comics

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Effortless Reading: Magazines

Dr. Krashen’s Effortless Reading Hypothesis: we acquire literacy best when we read whatever feels easy (84).  Nothing feels easier than flipping through a soft-cover magazine with brilliant, colorful photos to find an article that speaks to you.  The visuals, short blurbs, call-out boxes, and high-interest topics feel exciting.  Inexpensive to replace, magazines are perfect to send home with students, and easy for students to gather around and share with friends.

Some of my favorite magazines:

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Continue reading Effortless Reading: Magazines

Story Listening + Book Talk

Is it a Book Talk or Story Listening? Is sharing your favorite cars magazines Free Voluntary Reading or can it morph into content-based instruction?  When sharing books and stories that inspire genuine curiosity, my classroom will not be limited to a single method.

Here I combine Story Listening with a Book Talk on the book Cardboard by Doug Tennapel.  The overlap between Story Listening and Sheltered Popular Literature is obvious: there is no test or comprehension questions, just an invitation to join in a good story.  (Note, the book was swooped up by an eager reader before the end of the Book Talk.)

Talking to Administrators About Questioning

Observers and administrators require teachers to use frequent comprehension checks and questioning.  Teachers who use “a high frequency of questions” are given a higher score on teacher evaluations; teachers who ask fewer questions are penalized (Tennessee, 3).  In the SIOP Model, a teacher is praised for asking a question, then literally covering her mouth until a child answers (Echevarria, 103).  The lesson will not move on until someone answers.

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Continue reading Talking to Administrators About Questioning

Talking to Admin About Assessment

Students acquire best when they do not feel tested (Krashen, 85).  While summative tests may be needed occasionally, most assessments should be natural, authentic observations of how much students enjoy and comprehend input.  It is sometimes difficult to communicate and document alternative assessments.

Here is a simple primer with 15 commonly asked questions and answers teachers may face about authentic assessment for second language learners.

Assessment: A Simple Approach


Krashen, S. D. (2011). Free Voluntary Reading. Libraries Unlimited.

Talking to Admin About “Teacher Talk”

When talking with administrators, it is important to explain why ESL classrooms have more teacher talk than mainstream classes.  Teacher talk is an important source of comprehensible input for language learners (Krashen, 1982, 59).  The majority of English Language Learners report that teacher talk with enhanced visual clues, body language, and simplified speech helps them understand and feel engaged (Matsumoto).

Many native speakers or advanced ELLs are ready for  “student talk” and may choose to speak spontaneously.  Forcing student talk, however, may raise the affective filter.

Proponents of forced student talk argue “Talk plays a noticing role; it triggers a consciousness-raising function” (Boyd, 448).  However, language practice and noticing promotes conscious learning, not unconscious acquisition  (Truscott; Krashen 2004, 1982).   Student talk is the result, not cause of comprehensible input.  Autonomous, student-initiated responses will happen if students receive enough comprehensible input (Krashen 2004, 1982).


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Boyd, M. & Reuben, D. (May 2002). Elaborated Student Talk in an Elementary ESOL Classroom. Research in the Teaching of English, 36(4):  495-530.

Gharbavi, A. & Iravani, H. (May 2014). Is Teacher Talk Pernicious to Students? A Discourse Analysis of Teacher Talk.  Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, 98: 552 – 561.

Krashen, S. (2004) The Power of Reading. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Krashen, S. (1982). Principles and Practice in Second Language Acquisition. Oxford: Pergamon.

Long, M. H. (1983). Linguistic and conversational adjustments to non-native speakers. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 5(2): 177-193.

 

Matsumoto, H. (2010). Students’ Perceptions About Teacher Talk In Japanese-as-a-Second-Language Classes.  Arizona Working Papers in SLA & Teaching, 17: 53-74.

 

Truscott, J. (1998). Noticing in second language acquisition: a critical review. Second language Research, 14(2), 103-135.

A Story Listening Identity

My students have started to identify as folklorists.  “I know so many stories,” they boast.  Like generations before them, they succumb to the urge to retell the stories to friends and family.  On their own time, they research and request lesser known folktales.  Just like FVR, Story Listening helps children develop an identity that connects them to the world in a bigger way–a Story Listening identity.