FVR – Does it Work?

Krashen’s research on how we acquire languages may not apply to everything we do in our actual classrooms. It may be spot on in the world of ideas, but is it spot on in real classrooms? I don’t think that ten minutes of FVR works in the way most people think.

In workshops we are told to get kids reading in silence as much as possible. And I certainly don’t doubt the power of reading, but I doubt how effective it is when done in short ten minute spurts.

When (let’s be honest) the teacher is not reading with the kids (they rarely do because they have too much to do, call roll, deal with tardies and make up work, etc.). Moreover, when a kid is sitting there doing FVR, they are more likely looking around the room, watching kids come in late, trying to get into side conversations or contact someone across the room, etc.

There are too many kids in the (urban) settings (of 35+ kids in the room) I have been working in, at least, to make me believe that FVR works in those settings. There is too much going on. In some classes, FVR is not FVR at all, but a waste of time. There are too many hormones and sugar filled bloodstreams in the room for it to work.

FVR should be done in settings where there aren’t distractions. It should be done by motivated kids – there’s an oxymoron! This point about FVR is another example of the difference between Krashen’s ideas and the real worlds we work in.



17 thoughts on “FVR – Does it Work?”

  1. So my fifth and sixth graders have two 10-minute periods of FVR (or Lecture Indépendente de Choix, as I call it). I am really lucky and have a huge variety of books and magazines, ranging from Calvin and Hobbes and Garfield to the “Little Miss” and “Little Mister” books to picture dictionaries to books for toddlers on shapes and colors. During this time I read as well, catching up on my French magazines or reading something light, like Le Petit Nicolas. My students really like it and I can trust them to be flipping through/reading the books without eyes wandering all around the classroom. They are allowed to “check out” books and take them home.
    Am I helping their language skills? I’m not sure…are they being exposed to the language? Absolutely. And they enjoy it. (My mother who taught HS English for years had one entire class per week of SSR, and it didn’t matter what the kids read, as long as they had something. And she read with them.)
    I am lucky to teach in a town where parents are highly educated, students are motivated and resources are fairly prolific. But I enjoy offering my students an opportunity to experience the language in a very different way. I hope I am not way off in my thinking, still being a CI newbie. But it’s a wonderful moment when my students approach me and ask questions about what they are reading, making connections to things we have already discussed in class. Is my classroom without distractions? No. But should I stop doing FVR? Honestly, I would feel like something is missing from my class if twice a week we didn’t have our silent time when all of us are engaged in the same activity, but each in our own way.

  2. You are right, Allison, and if Diana reads this it will be twenty lashes with a wet noodle for me. However, my setting is different. Really different. Just pray for me that Diana doesn’t read this.

  3. Ben, here goes lash number one with the wet noodle:

    You’ve talked a ton about your kids and how much they need the love and respect embedded in and evident in your teaching. They are unaccustomed to adults caring. they are untrained in how to behave in apporpriate ways. The FVR scenario is no different. Kids from poverty are unaccustomed to _enjoying_ reading. After 10 years of NCLB reading = find the main idea.

    In many urban districts, the reading programs at the elementary level are so incredibly bad… How bad are they? Many of them do not use real literature, but rather ‘fake’ books created to match the scope and sequence of the skills the teachers are to teach. Many times teachers are given 3 days to do a particular lesson without adequate time to build background knowledge about characters or settings – if it’s about Chinese New Year and your kids don’t know anything about it? No matter. What they really need to do is ‘find the main idea’. Over time the purpose of reading becomes to succeed on the test – NOT for enjoyment or actual learning.

    The FVR will work. I have kids, like Allison, who know how to enjoy reading and I’ll tell you they’ve learned more from my children’s old Sandra Boynton board books in Spanish than you can imagine. they really enjoy it and it’s only 10 minutes a week, currently.

    You have to train them, plain and simple, like you’re training them to trust you, like you’re training them to trust themselves. Siow them the joy of reading – maybe you scan some board books and show them page by page on the projector- do the Kindergarten day before turning them loose with their own books. Doing it this way, you maintain your seating chart and your discipline as if it were PQA.

    You have to train them but if you do, it will pay off, I’m sure. They want to learn – they may not know how to learn this way yet.

    Lashing complete.

  4. To me, it depends on the students that you have in your classroom. At the school that I worked in last year, high poverty/low achievement rates, there is no way FVR would have worked for me. This year, I am fortunate to be at a school where the students are much more motivated to learn and love reading! Although they have a hard time getting into the TPRS novels, they are actually enjoying it now. It’s difficult because I only have my students for one semester so I think that I am rushing by trying to squeeze in a novel. However, I do agree with Grant above; you really have to train your students and keep the discipline up.

  5. It won’t answer HOW to make your kids get involved with FVR, but there are good reasons why they don’t:

    a. They don’t have the history with children’s books that other kids do…no memories of libraries, reading with mom and dad, favorite stories etc.

    b. Their reading levels have been so low that they have never ever ever felt like readers.

    c. They (consciously or unconsciously) associate books and reading with “good’ or “smart” or” white” or “little” kids….or girls.

    d. They cannot relate to any of the settings, characters or plots in the available materials.

    e. They have had little to no experience with self-directed learning. Remember…..they have been taught by teachers who read to them from scripts in other subjects!!!!!!

    I do believe that FVR works…

    but from a scientific point of view,

    all of the variables have to be in place first.

    Free: Able and willing to chose their own material.
    Voluntary: Un-coerced.
    Reading: With enough basic skills to decode and comprehend.

    Can we simulate in the classroom the conditions that encouraged so many of us to indulge in Free Voluntary Reading?

    Probably not.

    But we can bring kids closer and closer to the target.
    And we can be role models.
    We can teach that reading is a gift and a blessing.

    It may not hit our students like a lightening bolt, but it may affect them in waves and ripples that eventually change their lives…or…the lives of their children…

    I can live with that. It’s worth 10 minutes of class.

    with love,

    1. I know this is completely unrelated but I just heard from my chairman that you agreed to give a presentation at our NYSAFLT conference!! Thank you sooooooo much – can’t wait to meet you in person and take in all your amazing thoughts on CI. This news just made my day!!!

      1. If you get to have Laurie, you are in the best hands in the world. If I lived nearby, I’d be visiting her all the time. Lucky you!! (See if you can get a coaching session going. Then you’ll feel like you can walk on water, both during and following.)

  6. I agree wholeheartedly with Grant. Train them, train them, train them. It is still a battle (albeit a smaller one than before) to get one of my classes to read.

    These are not super readers. These are kids from all over the 1st ring suburban, lower middle income socioeconomic range. We have everything, just not in the numbers that others may. We will.

    Two of my classes take well to the reading days. We are up to 15 minutes per week in Spanish II. I love it. You should see the administrators faces as they walk in and everyone is reading. I get to read. What a gift. It lowers my blood pressure and I feel almost like I am meditating.

    I do spend time training/retraining in my 3rd Hour. They do not like to read. At all. They would rather play soccer with the books.

    Trust the process. Shorten the time? Find leveled readers for them? Find graphic novels in French? Magazines? Don’t give up! You may be the only person in their lives to show a positive attitude about reading. Or even physically hold a book. They may not read well. They may not have books in their houses. Have you checked their reading scores? You might be shocked and awed by how low they are. Ben, you helped to start me down this path. Hang in there.


  7. Actually I haven’t done any FVR except once a month ago. But in DPS we kind of have to, so I will. My real problem is not that I don’t know about the power of reading, but that I want to do auditory CI all the time. I’m fine with it and appreciate the reminders to train them. That is what is needed. I kind of gave up on them for a second there. Easy to do if you were to come in my school and see what poverty does.

  8. I miss the silent reading time I did last year. I miss it so much. It was such an amazing calm for that 10 minutes of the day. The kids loved it. And they definitely learned a lot of French. Why did I stop?

    Well, for one thing, I guess I did it wrong last year. I started out with my bin of children’s books, a few magazines, brochures, etc. It’s a pretty small collection. Then I added the mini-novels as I started to buy them. We were reading “Pauvre Anne” as a class, but I let them pick other novels to read as “free reading.” It was so cool. Kids would walk into class, grab their book from the bin and sprawl out on the floor. Often, when the time was up they’d plead: “Can we have five more minutes?” Or sometimes, “can we just read all period today?”

    Problem: I haven’t expanded the collection. I started out this year (same group) doing the free reading time, but got increasing levels of complaint “I’ve already read all these books” “I don’t like any of these.” “We need new books” etc. Of course it isn’t true that they have all read all the books, but some of the children’s books are not really that easy, and if it is truly free reading they are allowed to browse and not finish the book if they don’t like it.

    The problem was compounded in October when I started the first class novel and one of the students had already read it, so she was really grumpy the whole time. Made many of those days really unpleasant. This made me really reluctant to do free reading with my other groups. Fear. Ridiculous. But that is my truth. Just writing it down makes me realize how easily I let myself be bullied. That is plain silly. Reading works. Tomorrow I am going to re-institute free reading.

    I’ve put a considerable amount of my own money into the collection and am on a personal moratorium on that for a variety of reasons. I am going to try to get the school library to order books that we can use; I have just been really overwhelmed lately and have not gotten around to this.

    Anyway, I know it works, even from the 8 weeks that I did it consistently last year. Thank you for posting this. It will get me to make a move on getting more books.

    Does anyone else have experience with the situation of a kid having already read a novel that you then read in class. I know this will happen again, and I’d love to have a strategy.

    And Ben, I cannot advise you on your particular group, but I think if you make it a “sacred” time, they will grow to love it. If for no other reason, than they (and you!) get a few moments of silent freedom that they’d not otherwise have in their day.

    1. Jen–
      Is it possible to borrow books from the state of public library or even a university library that are at a level you can use in your classroom. They often sit unused on their shelves and they may be able to do an inter-library loan to your school library.

  9. Jen,
    Have you thought of using online resources to expand your FVR materials? You could print online books and articles, encyclopedia entries, news stories, pop culture fan websites, blogs, etc. and staple them into “books.” Google Books probably has a lot of easy books you could print out as well. Not fancy, but it would be a cheap and relatively easy way to provide new and varied materials.

    1. Yikes! No! Sorry to be so clueless. I never thought of this. But now that you mention it I remember someone talking about online books. I’m not familiar with them but I will be soon. THANK YOU so much for this idea. Duh! Of course I should print out stuff!

      Oh, and I did FVR today! Magic! It totally changed the energy and the kids were waaayyy more focused for the rest of the class period 🙂

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