Literacy is such an important skill when it comes to language acquisition.
Not only do we want our students to be able to speak the language, we also want them to be able to read and understand it.
In a comprehensible-input classroom, we do a lot of reading from independent silent reading, to reading extended stories, to read alouds of children's books, to reading whole-class novels.
The steps outlined below are best applied to reading extended stories and whole-class novels. Let's get started.
Reading is the third step in the Immediate Immersion Way.
We use readings to reinforce what students heard in stories and to develop their written comprehension.
It builds student confidence when they are already familiar with a story and then see it in written form. It allows them to compare the sounds and the spelling of the words and to put a visual to the syntax of the language.
But you'll also want to stretch your students' reading muscles by having them read unfamiliar texts that continue to use words they are familiar with.
By doing this, you are checking to see if students only know the words in the context in which they were taught or if they truly own the words in any context.
It's the difference between teaching a context or teaching the language.
The first step is for the teacher to read a chunk in the target language. A chunk can be a sentence, a few sentences, a paragraph, or even a whole page depending on what your students can handle.
We do this so that students can visualize the text while hearing the sounds. This is especially helpful for languages that are not phonetic or have non-Latin-based alphabets.
Why don't we have students read for us out loud? First of all, unless the student has impeccable pronunciation, you're sure to have a few pronunciation errors and you don't want this when associating sounds and text. Second, it often puts the student on the spot. If they say something wrong it might get a reaction from the class that will make them more self-conscious. Another reason is that when a student is focused on trying to pronounce the words correctly in a language they are less familiar with, they don't actually understand the words that they are reading. This defeats the whole purpose of reading a text in the first place. And finally, it can take a really long time for some students to read the text because of their unfamiliarity with the language.
We don't want this step to take any longer than it has to, so just simply read the text slowly while pointing to each word so that even the slower processors have a moment to process the language.
Once you have read the chunk, you will either have the students chorally translate word for word, or as you read the text in the target language, you'll translate ONLY the words that students don't know.
Which method do you choose? That depends on your students. For level 1, I typically will have them chorally translate. As the experience of my students increases, I tend to read and translate only unknown words as I go.
Why chorally translate? Again, we don't want to put any one student on the spot. Slower processors can hide in a choral translation. The translation piece is not for the practice of translating a text, but to make sure that the whole class understands the text before the discussion phase.
I prefer to have my students translate word for word. That means the sentences will sound awkward in the home language. Why do I do this? I want my students to feel the syntax of the target language. Invariably, there will be differences in the way that the target language forms sentences as compared to the home language. I could explain these differences, but it's much more effective that students "feel" them for themselves. This also tends to help get these differences in syntax in the subconscious mind so that the student will internalize the grammar rather than learn it.
Now that everyone understands what the text means, it's time to discuss the text. We do this in the target language.
You start by asking who, what, when, and where questions about the text. We call these comprehension questions. They are an informal formative assessment to confirm that the students actually understood what we've just read.
Remember that when we ask questions of students we want to ask questions to the group as a whole as well as individual students.
When we do ask questions to individual students, we want to make sure we are asking the right question to the right student at the right time. I call these scaffolded, differentiated questions.
I will ask yes/no and either/or questions to my slow processors. I can ask straightforward question-word questions to my average processors, and I save the hardest questions, usually how and why questions, for my fast processors because these questions tend to require more language.
After these comprehension questions, if there are any issues or themes within the text, this is the time to discuss those again in the target language.
If you've only read a portion of the text, repeat the process, read, translate, and discuss, with the next chunk, repeating the cycle as necessary to complete the text.
Some texts you read might be overly long or complicated for some students. So, if necessary, scaffold reading by using embedded reading techniques.
You'll condense the text into its most basic sentences. These sentences generally will be short and void of necessary adjectives and adverbs. This will be the base text that even your slowest of processors should be able to read on their own.
You'll then scaffold the reading by creating different versions adding more and more sentences and details until you get back to the original. For some texts, this might be only three or four versions. For others, it may be more.
The key here is not just to add sentences to the end, but to embed sentences in between the sentences you already have. In each version you're adding a little bit more text, a few more sentences to slowly get to the final product.
The beauty of this is that you can give all the versions to each student and have them choose which version they feel comfortable starting at. Have them mark the page they started from and this can be another informal formative assessment.
I love to work smarter rather than harder, so any time I can extend an activity and get more out of it, I'm all for it!
Here are a few ideas to extend your readings and get just a bit more use out of them.
After you have gone through the process of reading, translating, and discussing the text, you can have students draw pictures representing what is happening in the text to show comprehension. If kids don't feel comfortable drawing by hand, they could also use computer images to portray the text.
Another great extension activity is to have students write a new ending to the story or perhaps tell what happens before the text started or after the text ended. In any of these cases, students are using the language they know to create something new with the text which is a form of high-order thinking and goes way beyond just retelling the story.
One of my favorite extension activities is to have the students take the reading home and read it in the target language and translate it for a family member. Not only is this a great way to get students to re-read a text, but it's also a bit of an advertisement for your class and what your students can do. Many of my students like this activity because they get to show off at home and it makes them feel good about their learning.
There are plenty more ideas you could come up with to extend the reading of a text, these are just a few ideas to get you started.
What's your favorite extension activity? Let us know in the comments.
And while you're down there, why not download our reading guide? Click the button below to get your own copy!