Monday, September 25, 2017

FVR - A Whole New World

I have stopped and started my blog post on my FVR project from last year so many times and yet, I never finished it. I think the reason was because I wasn't ever 100% happy with how it was going or the outcome, and I also didn't quite know why, so I didn't feel comfortable reflecting on it until I figured it out.

It is still a work in progress, but I am at a point where I feel that I have pulled some great things from it and changed some things for the better. I do intend to do at least one follow up, maybe two. Today's post is going to detail what I did last year, briefly, what I think went well and what didn't, and my new project for this year. I do want to go ahead and give a plug for Rachel's and my book study this semester because it is playing a HUGE role in how I've changed things. Also, you can hear more about this experience in today's Stepping into CI podcast. The details are at the bottom of this post.

Last Year

The Plan

Last year I knew that I wanted to implement a Free Voluntary Reading project. I knew that I wanted to give kids choice, but also that I wanted to provide assistance to students who needed it. What I put together ended up serving its purpose, but did not end up being what I wanted.

Set up
* groups of 3-4 separated by class and book

* once every two weeks = 52 minutes (class period) of reading and discussing
* end of each period, fill out survey about what they read, what help they need, and what they want to know
* after reading, working on final project surrounding book

My Role
* observe
* help as needed
* grade projects

The Outcome

As I said, I feel this ended up serving its purpose. Students read books they chose, students supported each other with my help, however I wasn't ultimately happy with it. Student projects (as always) ranged from not turned in to so amazing I tweeted images of their work and ran down the hall to show my colleagues. However, it just didn't sit right with me. I didn't feel "good" (if you will) about this way of doing it:
  1. There was little/no avenue for students to change books if they were finished/didn't enjoy the book. Because they were working in larger groups of 3-4, one or two people changing the book severely messed with the process of others. It wasn't logical to have them switch books. It also required more copies of the book in my room at any given time. While this isn't usually an issue, if one of the other Latin teachers needed a class set, we didn't have enough copies. 
  2. The project took longer than expected. My original intent was for them to work on the project after reading and to have the project be a window into what they read and how the interpreted it. What I found, however, is that students, when presented with the idea of a project, were open to it, but procrastinated so much that they didn't have time to switch books. Also, the question presented itself (and I didn't have an answer) of whether or not groups had to do a project for each book they read. 
  3. Groups were a double edge sword. Groups provided support. They allowed students to bounce ideas off each other and help each other when needed. They also allowed for students to fall through cracks (if I wasn't careful) or for students to game the system. I had some students who needed my direction nearly every time at first because they'd let their group do it for them. I had others who needed my direction nearly every time towards the end because they figured out they were good enough to skim some books and get the gist.
Ultimately I realised (and I already knew this), the point was reading -- not projects -- not being with friends -- not discussion. Reading is what FVR is all about. 

This Year

You can hear a lot more about how things are going this year on today's Stepping into CI podcast (details below). In this post, I want to focus on the logistics and details of what I am doing. 

Physical Set Up

Originally, my books were housed in a basket at my desk. This served its purpose, but made students get in a line because it was so small. Recently, I purchased a small toddler bookshelf. It sits on top of another shelf where we store notebooks and makes the novellas look a little more like a library. This not only serves the purpose, but helps set the space in a more pleasing way as well. 

Students sit in chairs (we are deskless) for reading. I also allow them to sit on the floor or lay down, if they choose. This is not a problem for me personally or my school in general. By setting the space with my expectations (see below) I rid myself and them of any behaviour issues as well. 


In my room, we read three days of the week, for ten minutes at the beginning of class. Two of these days are silent reading. One day is paired reading and discussion. This allows for students to confirm things with each other, ask questions, and share what they enjoyed (or didn't) from each novella. 

We read. Period. No ifs, ands, or buts. We read. When I say "we", I mean "we" -- the students, and me. I read too. This is really important I feel if we want FVR to be successful. If students see us working on other things they'll feel as though reading is busy work for them. If students see us staring at them or watching them "like a hawk" they will feel punished. But, if students see us reading, especially if we read what they are reading, they begin to see the importance of reading and don't even wonder about the "why". 

Current "Outcomes"

Really, this should be left for another post, but I am already seeing great things from FVR that I just HAVE to share:

  • my students are reading. on their own. 
  • my students are reading. in a second language. on their own. 
  • some of my students are taking books home to read. 
  • some of my students are telling me how much they love the books they read. 
  • some of my students are begging me for more time to read. 
  • my students love to see me read, especially if it is the book they are reading, and love to tell me how they feel about it and hear my thoughts, as if we were part of a secret club. 
and lastly.... my students are reading! :) 

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