October is R and D Month

Most of us have been doing a lot less reading than auditory input in the form of PQA, Extended PQA and stories. It’s just that way at the beginning of the year. Especially if it’s a level 1 course, right? WhY?

Because the kids need to have heard the language a bit before they can begin to read it. I am trying this year to get to 60% reading CI and 40% auditory CI in a typical week. Why?

For me, it’s simple – my kids just plain need to read a lot more. Last year it seemed like it was almost all stories, that’s  my fun thing to do, and this year I have the same kids in level 2, so to balance out all the stories I need to get them reading more this year in level 2.

I asked Krashen about this directly when he observed me last year. I asked if he thought it crazy to do nothing but auditory input (no reading) for the entire first year. He didn’t hesitate to agree.

I couldn’t tell what his brain did in that split second before agreeing, but I think it possible that on some level he made the calculation that in level 1 kids get only about 125 hours of actual auditory input so why go nuts with the reading (DPS wants 50%) in year 1?

I am inclined to go with very little reading in year 1 in favor of PQA and stories and then go kind of batshit with the reading in level 2, and for me that is that 60% reading (or more) and 40% auditory in level 2, as I mentioned above.

There is another reason to want to do more reading and discussing. A lot of us know that when the going during a story gets rough, and we just feel blah, we can always bail to a dictée or a quiz, but another bail out move is to a book – that is to say, a novel.

Teaching using comprehensible input from a book is much easier than teaching using comprehensible input in the form of  PQA or a story. The book just needs to be slightly below their level, and the irony of that is that only plenty of preparatory stories and Step 3 readings (connected to stories – not novels) can set up and guarantee success in the natural reading of novels. So, in what we do, speech input really does precede reading input.

Anyway, doing Read and Discuss is definitely an option now in this tough month of October. If you  haven’t been doing stories long enough, and you want a bail out move that is not dictation, do R and D.

Maybe we can follow up on this idea a bit in the comment fields below. Read and Discuss rocks. It’s not so dramatic and wonderful as stories , but it gets the job done and gives you plenty of reading and auditory practice with circling and the questioning technique, which  you can expand into PQA by asking the students questions comparing them with  the  characters in the  book and thus  play the PQA game, even with little extended scenes happening.

The hardest part of Read and Discuss is keeping the PQA auditory input down to a minimum in  favor of spending the minutes on reading.

So for those of us who want to get more reading CI into our fluency programs, or if anybody just wants an October break from the intensity of the spoken CI process, I vote that we make October Read and Discuss (R and D) month.


  1. http://www.schooltube.com/channel/dpsworldlanguages/
  2. https://benslavic.com/blog/2009/11/03/4789/




7 thoughts on “October is R and D Month”

  1. I have been doing R&D since the beginning of the year in levels 2 and 3. They are both reading Houdini in the past tense. For level two it is reinforcing the present and switching back and forth naturally between dialog, discussion and setting up parallel characters. What is interesting in level three is that the kids who have been present in body but not attentive for the last two years are a little uncomfortable. Some still have difficulty with the modal verb infinitive combination, so I am parking while sprinkling in a few if you were… would you… and il faut que B soit honnete, etc. I am not sure how I feel about dictee in level 3 and 4. I know Robert has a different dictation format that is assessed a bit differently. The novels are great for drawing the picture and re-telling too. Much less pressure than stories. It’s like having a built in PQA platform.

    1. I need to get on this ASAP. But I am in a tricky situation with my level 2 French. This is a group that I had last year (my first year of CI), so they are the real guinea pig group, so to speak. Last year in my overzealous “We’re going to read four novels” plan, I made the mistake of jumping too quickly into a novel 1) before they were ready in general–this was such a radical new thing to them: the flow of the class and how to interact, etc. not to mention my lack of getting the discipline in check and 2) definitely before they were ready in terms of having heard enough language that they could “see the movie” as they read. Then there was the whole issue of the faster processors, who had no trouble with the level of the reading, but who felt compelled to complain about how horrible the book was. Oh, I guess that falls under “lack of discipline.”

      Anyway, because I tried to bulldoze through two novels last year (Houdini and Le Vol des Oiseaux), I am not sure what to read with them. Oh yeah, and then at the end of the year I tried to squeeze in Pirates, which they enjoyed at the time, but we only read 4 chapters. I know that I would get serious backlash if I tried to repeat one of these. Suggestions?

      For Spanish, I would love suggestions for my “level 4.” So far I am just getting a sense of where they are before jumping into anything. I made the mistake last year of assuming too much, letting the label of “level 4” interfere with their true ability to understand spoken language and reading. Of course they know more words, but their ability to retell a couple of simple stories shows that they have fossilized infinitives and present tense. I am taking the advice of Ben and Robert not to focus too much on them, instead spending energy on the younger students. I determined just yesterday from the way they took to creating a goofy story, that they will enjoy this process, so I think I’ll actually do stories with them for a bit. Problem is next year the “level 5” is SAT prep and literature. Ugh! I guess I will be here now, though. 🙂

      Long ramble to ask the following question: I am thinking of doing La Hija del Sastre because it takes place during the Spanish Civil War, which one kid just did a research paper on and is very knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the era, and I could use his expertise in class. I am reading it now and it seems like it will work, but has anyone read this with a group? Just trying to get a sense of how kids respond. I am probably over engineering.

      1. ….the faster processors, who had no trouble with the level of the reading, but who felt compelled to complain….

        I have only heard such a complaint once (we are doing Houdini in my level 2 classes and it is going great bc it is so easy for them – great levels of confidence) and that was yesterday. For a change and with your rubric on a big board right behind me, I ripped the kid. I said that I will not tolerate one single comment about the quality of the books this year. I meant it. They knew I meant it. Do you know why? Because I meant it.

      2. ….I know that I would get serious backlash if I tried to repeat one of these. Suggestions?…

        Don’t repeat a novel once begun but stopped in the past. That is my suggestion. And the big point here – and this is from a recent conversation with Diana Noonan – don’t try to read too many novels. I think one a year is fine. Maybe two. We now know in DPS that the idea of reading four novels in one year is just plain dumb.

  2. We need more novels that are written at the Intermediate Low level. I am aware that Carol Gaab is currently working on that, mainly with books in Spanish. I hope Robert continues to produce materials of the quality of Nordseepirat maybe at a more challenging grammatical level. Robert we need an update on Nordseepirat and how we can get it and what you are doing in the way of novels right now. Others may be addressing this gap in our reading materials. It is really quite important bc many of us are producing AP level kids who have been trained uniquely with TPRS/CI since level 1, and many (most) of those kids who are serious about it are by then at the IL (many at IM) level, so we need the books. It’s weird, there is that gap at IL/IM for four year CI starters where the books we have now are way too easy, but authentic texts (IH high and above) are too hard. I don’t know how that came out of your comment Carol, but hey. In the meantime, one way we can find stuff to read with our upper level kids is to take any authentic text and focus on key pieces after editing out the hard parts. If we can read and discuss even a portion of these texts, we can do some good things but we have to have the courage to cut out much of the text, which is hard, and find parts of texts that are at a proper level of difficulty for our kids. That ain’t easy. For me, for example, I would take Baudelaire but not Rimbaud. And only certain Baudelaire. Decisions like that have to be made. To conclude, here’s what we need in readers at all levels in my opinion: high interest/compelling novels with the structures that they need but also material that the teacher is passionate about as well.

  3. Nordseepirat update:
    The German is basically done, and I am “piloting” it in my classes this year. I’m using for start-of-class reading in my level 4/AP as well as in my level 3. We read for 10 minutes each day; on Friday we discuss and then have a quiz. Each day after reading, I give students the opportunity to ask questions. Obviously the level 4/AP class is reading faster than the level 3 class, but even here any weaknesses are definitely showing up. The quiz each week is a content and context-based quiz; I patterned the format after the AP interpretive section. Students show broad understanding by choosing the correct order of events. (“Put the following in order: New Work, Rescue, Alone in the Water”) They show understanding of details by answering a couple of questions about a specific event. (Why do the two sailors hug Geoff? a. They are nice guys; b. They want to keep Geoff from getting away; c. They think Geoff is a nice guy; d. The want to warm Geoff up.) They demonstrate understanding of vocabulary in context by identifying synonyms, definitions or periphrases. (What does the word “Karten” [cards/charts] mean in this context? a. Pieces of paper you use to play games like Poker and Uno; b. Pieces of paper that get you into an event, Tickets; c. Pieces of paper that show where the water, islands, land, etc. are located; d. Books.) All of the questions are entirely in German; I will help with vocabulary as long as it isn’t the word I’m asking them to define. BTW, for the above questions the answers are: 1. Alone in the water, Rescue, New Work; 2. They want to warm Geoff up; 3. Pieces of paper that show where water, islands, land, etc. are located. During the course of our discussions, we had a very good life-skill lesson about hypothermia and how to warm someone up. My students also grasped that the word “Karte” has several meanings (playing card, entrance ticket, chart), but only one meaning applies in context. I’m also working on a Teacher’s Guide. I’m considering doing a past-tense version for a format similar to Houdini Any comments on this?
    Martin is working on the French. I have translated the story into English for ESL/ELD. I’m also working on a Spanish translation. Anyone interested in piloting another language when I’m that far along? Or simply proofreading? (I need a “Castellano” speaker to proofread the medieval book as well.)

    Other books:
    I have part of a book set in German East Africa written. That was actually supposed to be the second book, but somehow Klaus Störtebeker managed to intrude.
    I have a start on what I want to write as a true level 1 reader related to soccer. My idea is to have Geoff travel back to 1954 and the World Cup in Bern, Switzerland – Germany’s first big win after WWII.
    Ideas for other books are always welcome. I still want to write a manual for “The Realm”. Feedback from Michele about her experiences with the Virtual Move project would be especially beneficial.

    You can order books from me; I’m working on getting my new website up and running – and I’m sure I’ll set up PayPal.

    This week as we were discussing the chapter, one of my students asked how I knew all this stuff. After I had explained a little, she said, “Herr Harrell, you are so cool to do all this for us. No other teacher would do even half that. Thank you.”

  4. Thanks for the update, Robert. I like the idea of being able to promote a site that offers more and more good novels and I am so glad Martin is also involved. When the book is done in French, I will have a class ready for it, it appears.

    We who read the book last year here can vouch for its overall quality and for Robert’s talents as an author. Look in the categories list for more – find “Novels/Harrell”.

    And Robert – from what I can tell, this statement is probably faulty:

    …you are so cool to do all this for us. No other teacher would do even half that….

    We need to amend it, and I’m sure everyone in this PLC would agree, to read:

    …you are so cool to do all this for us. No other teacher would do even a small fraction of that….

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