Call for Free Choice Readers

Tina and I see a lack of availability of high quality, short, simple and inexpensive readers in our community. We therefore are putting out a call for a new kind of reader that fits the above descriptors that provides lessons in culture besides just good stories.
We want to promote a new genre of reader, from new authors. We are tired of the old. We don’t care if these new readers align perfectly with any high frequency lists – we feel that high frequency lists should not provide the underpinnings of a level 1 reader, but rather interest.
Besides interest, we want simplicity and brevity. If you have such a thing, or are considering writing something like this for your classes anyway, please send anything for review to me at benslavic@yahoo.com.
We don’t know yet what exact form this new genre of ultra-simple level 1 books will take in terms of sales – it will probably be through Amazon – but we will figure that out and all authors who work with us will be properly financially remunerated. Perhaps this PLC is a good venue for developing such a product for the overall CI community . The things we have developed here over the years have always been really good because of the privacy factor. Too many critics out there….
Tina and I refuse the classroom set/everybody-reads-the-same-thing-at-the-same time reading approach as a waste of instructional minutes and as insulting to our students’ identities as individual readers. Shifting away from class set reading of novels and choosing rather to have kids read on their own during class has proven to be the right decision for us.
We used to call the practice of asking students to read as individuals SSR and/or FVR d’après Krashen, but now we prefer the term “Free Choice Reading”. There has always been confusion about what those terms actually mean.*
Sowe like this new term – Free Choice Reading. But we need the novels.
There is a verb in French –
se débarrasser de – to get rid of
We don’t like the expense and complexity of what is out there now, not to mention the fairly limited artistic vision and occasional biases revealed, and so we now request anything new that might deliver the elements described above. We want to get rid of the old way of doing novels in our instruction – it just felt too heavy on the kids and on us.
Any takers?
*People say they are doing FVR but it is neither free nor voluntary. And the term SSR as per Krashen means that the teacher has to sit in front of the group and read; but we are no longer in school, we are teachers. And we have too many emails to read everyday. So for Tina and I it is now FCR.

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25 thoughts on “Call for Free Choice Readers”

  1. This Saturday 12/9/17 will be Edcamp Lake County in Mundelein, Illinois (I am one of two organizers), within Edcamp we will be having a TPRS/CI room in which the Chicagoland TCI group will meet. The Chicagoland TCI group is run by this blog’s very own Sean Lawler and Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg.
    I have Ben’s blessing to present on the One Word Image/Invisibles at a tech conference in January 2018 (still haven’t found out if they accepted my proposal), so I will be demo-ing this presentation at tomorrow’s meeting.
    Here is my powerpoint for the presentation if anyone is interested in reading:
    https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/12oBa_3fzgiJuxvPdmpzj8LRxyqGWmJMs8fAxLqXa6tc/edit#slide=id.g2a507fae20_0_6

    1. I am honored Greg. You get it. And you are the only person out there who has asked permission to present on this stuff. That means a lot to me in an age where basic professional courtesy seems to have gone bye bye. Let us know how the sessions go.

  2. If anyone wants to present on the OWI or Invisibles at any free education conference here is my session description which you can feel free to plagiarize and re-work. If it is an Edtech conference you have to throw some technology stuff in there to get in the door (in my experience anyway)
    Transform your World Language Classroom through Class-Created Characters and Stories
    Learn how one Spanish teacher’s classroom was transformed through the comprehensible input strategies of “One Word Image” and “Invisibles” of Ben Slavic. Create student-generated drawings and reading materials in the target language that will allow you to get the target language into your students’ brains. Use edtech tools to aid in the creation of stories, for easy assessment, and to help students interact with these materials even when they are not in class.

  3. It would be great to even have small collections of short illustrated stories (say even 5) that a student could pick up and read through during that 10-15 minutes of time, or that they could at least pick one of those stories and be able to read through it in that amount of time.
    I would be willing to help illustrate if there are others who want to write!
    Collections of 4-6 frame stories would be wonderful in my opinion!

  4. Yes Bryan this is the idea. We just start talking and muddle through and things happen. Honestly my concept of ultra simple readers as expressed above, the comics/illustrated story of Mike, are the direction I feel is best for our students and if we get a focused group based here we might be able to make this happen. Tina may take it to FB. We’ll see what happens. I’ve kind of had it w the class sets.

  5. Totally. Mike was on to something big. Now can this become a project that can turn into a graphic novel.. illustrated by the badass teacher of Montana? I like writing fiction mainly. I see that together we can streamline a process that can become real easy to get these in the hands of kids fast.

    1. I was even thinking of writing easy poetry even prose poems… Combined with illustrations this can totally make our jobs easier.

  6. I love this idea! I would love to participate. I realize reading this thread that one of the things I miss most about my former school was the built-in opprtunities to be creative. I would love to participate and also need direction at this point. Can we somehow do a virtual “workshop?” Count me in!

  7. I’m so not creative in my writing so I will leave it to the creative minds here, of which there are so many. I will definitely support your work!

  8. I like the idea of having much shorter readers for my level 1 and 2 kids during their 10 minutes of FVR. I tried presenting the comic book/ storyboarding from Mike Peto to my students, but honestly, their artwork isn’t the best nor do they layout the text with the artwork the best. I’m going to keep trying though. I have a small group of students in these beginner level classes. I think I have a couple that could do a really good job, but I need to give them more guidance.
    As far as stories to submit to this Free Choice Reading project, Ben, what about full-length versions of Anna Matava scripts? (BTW: I presented at Greg’s Edcamp two days ago on Matava’s scripts… I didn’t ask her permission. Oops. I didn’t think she’d mind since I was basically promoting her.)

  9. I like that idea of expanding Matava scripts into chapter books Sean. They are mean and lean and not a lot of vocabulary would go wide. It’s a great idea. It would almost create a hybrid kind of reader, where the plot was already there (hardest part) but it wouldn’t be as long as even Brandon Brown Wants a Dog. It’s a niche idea.
    And congrats to you and the whole Edcamp team.

  10. Honestly, I’d like to know if anyone is having success with Mike Peto’s comics/ storyboarding idea. If they are, I wonder if students are reading comics created in their own classes or also reading those from other classes. I wonder if students would be interested in reading stories created by students in far away places in far away schools by students they don’t know.

    1. I’m not sure Sean. It seems a little lofty to be reading others comics. However, it would be interesting if students could find out about each other. At least my students want to know people. Many are very concrete.. they been trained that way but there are a few that are really spunky and imaginative. Great idea with the matava scripts. I actually had good success with them after getting my act together after Portland and Cherokee Nation. I have only done a few but I will continue 2nd semester.

  11. I’m sure a big fan of individual reading but at what point of time can students read indepently in L2. Would anyone please share their experiences bc in my year 5 class there are quite a few students who are still struggling with the pronunciation of English, their L2, which isn’t surprising for me regarding the often striking difference between spelling and pronunciation. I believe Spanish is much easier to read.

    1. Udo many of us who are into CI do not consider pronunciation of L2, as speech output, to even be a part of what we should teach in the early years, and here is the important part: Level 5 is an early year. When they need thousands of hours, many estimates put it at 8,000 to 10,000 hours to achieve mastery over speech, and when a level 5 student has by that level only had roughly 125 X 5 = 625 hours, then how can they be expected to speak at all properly? It’s impossible. Please see the category here on Output for more. I don’t know how many agree with me, but I do sincerely feel that I align w the research on this – even though I can’t cite one specific article bc who has time other than the researchers themselves to become fully versed on it – all the same I feel that our pre-occupation with how they speak before hour 2000 or so is foolish bc the distance neurologically from their minds to the mouth muscles – such an intricate process! – is just too far a distance to traverse successfully.

      1. The problem of asking for pronunciation to happen “correctly” too early (again, year 5 is early) is a serious one – we ask kids to do something that their minds and mouths cannot possibly do. It is because what we are asking them to do – speak in the TL – is, or should be, a completely unconscious process, one that emanates from such deep and complex neurology in their brains that they cannot possible think their way to success in speaking. We just have to wait! We cannot, should not, ever ask them to “work on their pronunciation” (implies conscious participation and being able to “figure out” speech). So what happens to them when we ask that they speak in class? They become “self-conscious”. We shouldn’t do that.

      2. So Udo to answer your question why can’t they just read quietly? That’s all that is needed in these early five years to bring great speech output after thousands of enough hours far after – years after – they have left our classrooms. In my opinion, asking secondary students with less than one thousand hours of comprehensible INPUT to speak is cruel and unnecessary and yet most teachers, even CI teachers, that I know do it. I’m saying it’s cruel because they can’t do it. Look at their emotional reactions when they are asked to speak, esp. in front of their peers. That should tell us something.

  12. Ben, now I’m confused. From this PLC I understand that you do FCR for 10 minutes and that you read the self-created stories but how can they read and understand=CI if they have no idea how to say the words? Even if they read quietly they need to understand, which in my experience means they must have some idea how to say the words even though the pronunciation needn’t be perfect of course. I don’t go for perfect pronunciation but if it gets unitelligible what then? As you yourself have poited out, kids fake understanding, but without it no CI! Could you please clarify?
    By the way I do not ask them to speak in L2 in class. I try to encourage the faster learners in trying out their L2 by telling the class that everything is okay if I can understand it but they are always allowed to use their L1 if they want to. It’s an invitation, no pressure!
    I have a few kids in year 4 who sometimes say sth in L2 although I’ve never asked them to, and I praise them for it – they are ever so proud. And even in year 3 this can happen. I had it in a year 1 class: “Mr. Wegner, my sheep is on the cupboard.” (This little girl had put her sheep there before coming to me to say Good-Bye just in order to be able to tell me in L2.)

  13. Cute story about the sheep!
    The question is:
    …how can they read and understand the CI if they have no idea how to say the words?….
    It seems so simple to me, but maybe I am missing something. The way I understand the process is that they hear the words and gradually via the processing of listening to the development of the one word image or story, etc. they are able to decode the sound into meaning. Then, the next step is that when they read they immediately and unconsciously associate the squiggles in front of them, the writing, with the sounds they heard just heard prior to the reading. There is no thinking involved.
    Comprehensible input is unconscious in nature and doesn’t require thinking*, and when kids focus on trying to pronounce the word, we make the process conscious, which is not what is needed or desired if the research is to be believed. Students make sense of what they see on the paper based on the previously heard and understood sounds without thinking.
    So your question:
    …my experience means they must have some idea how to say the words [in order to understand]….
    Maybe I’m wrong but I thought that comprehension is all originally based on sound awareness so that knowing how to pronounce the word doesn’t play a factor.
    *Susan Gross has famously said that when they read it should be “like a movie in their minds”. To me this means that they are doing nothing conscious – no thinking about how the word is pronounced or even what it means since their mind needs to be free to “watch the movie” (i.e. focused on the message without thinking about the vehicle being used to deliver it.)

    1. Ben, maybe I’m wrong but I can only say that when I myself read I “hear” the language in my head and when I watch my kids reading silently some of them are mouthing the words. So I’ve always believed that reading is like speaking in your head and at the same time listening to yourself in order to understand.
      I would like to challenge the notion that comprehension is only unconscious. When I listen to a story especially in a language I don’t know, I feel very conscious trying to make out the meaning. I’m sure the aqusition of the grammar of a language is unconscious via the sound and rhythm why would we otherwise say sth sounds or feels write in a language.
      Just saying. Maybe I still haven’t fully grasped the unconscious aquistion process.

  14. There is no one position that can be said to be correct. It’s not about being correct. I’m just saying what I think. Of course it all isn’t entirely unconscious, since we are awake and conscious while listening. It’s not about being right for us teachers, is it? It’s about reaching kids. And they hear/understand/ better, do they not, when they are sent messages that are more cantered in the heart than the mind, conscious or not.

  15. I had my Spanish 4 students start individual reading with the classroom copies of readers we have on hand. One student told me, Señor, this is the first time I have read in Spanish without having to translate to English to understand what I am reading. This is one way of describing the movie in the head idea.
    Udo, your mention of “hearing” the words…I do that when I need to concentrate–shut other things out. We see the words. We hear them in our heads. There is something very powerful about hearing the language. It is primary and inescapable. It is physical and visceral. Hearing and vision are such different physical experiences.
    Seeing the movie is one aspect, hearing the movie is a complementary component. But the automaticity of the process is distinguishes it from the translation need by my student who had previously been “reading” language she had not acquired.

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