Read and Tell – An Optional SSR Activity

I am reposting this for Udo who had questions about SSR:

Here is a strategy that eats up minutes; I should say gobbles them up. I would call it a bail out move but there is nothing about reading that could be put in that category. Read and Tell is a solid instructional strategy that holds kids’ feet to the fire while bring them great gains in the area that matters most in CI – reading.

What you do is this:

Take all the novels that you have for a certain grade level that are below the level of the kids’ reading ability. (In my opinion the term “novels” should be “chapter books” as per Robert Harrell but the term seems to have taken hold.)

Put the books out on a table. Ask the kids to go pick one out. They sit and read “their” novel for the ten minute SSR reading period to start class. (They can put a novel back and start another one; the point here is that they read anything that is easy for them to read. I don’t use FRV storybooks any more because those books are not filtered for vocabulary the way the novels are.)

I always extend the reading time if they are reading happily because when they are doing that in a foreign language they are learning more far than they ever could from me as their teacher in a formal class setting, and that includes creating a story.

Here’s the new part:

When the reading period is over, go around the room and give each kid thirty seconds to share in English what is going on in their book. They LOVE to do that. Plus, they get to know each other better, the quieter ones have a chance to speak, and the pressure of being the master of ceremonies is taken off of us. In terms of gobbling up minutes, with certain students, they often start a class discussion in English about some weird thing in the book so be careful on that, except of course if you want to snooze through the class because you are overworked and underpaid. It’s not such a bad thing to do, and the kids don’t notice it. Remember: there is no CI Police Force….

 

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25 thoughts on “Read and Tell – An Optional SSR Activity”

  1. They aren’t chapter books, but this might be a good place to share this link.
    I got the link (and a school subscription) from a special educator at our school. They are leveled little kid stories many of which come in French and Spanish as well as English. You can print them out and make little books or show them as presentations.

    https://www.readinga-z.com/

    I have just started getting a collection together for my Level 1 middle schoolers, but haven’t actually used them yet. I am happy to find some super simple reading. Not riveting reading, but we can pretend we’re in first grade!

  2. Ben, you told me that I could read about SSR in your books. I’ve browsed the contents of the books I purchased from you but couldn’t find this special topic. Would you please tell me in which of your books SSR is covered in detail?

    1. I believe it’s covered in the new book A Natural Approach. But it’s in the section about the levels of questioning. So it’s not in the ToC.

  3. OK thanks Tina so look there Udo. Really they come in and sit down and pick a book for individual reading and ten minutes later you start class. They love it and you have ten extra minutes of downtime between classes. You can check emails or read here. I don’t read anything with them myself. Anyone who thinks we have an extra 50 minutes a day to model reading with our kids is dreaming. If they quit sending us emails about nothing maybe I might do it. Of course SSR can’t work for kids at the elementary level. The key thing that I finally reformed myself away from was the thinkspeak that we are supposed to read novels as a class. Riiigght! Man I wish I had those 15 years back to do it this way instead. Class reading at the same pace and doing discussion, etc. – what Blaine called Read and Discuss and what Susie did as snowplowing both were just impossible for me for such a simple reason – the fast kids took over and the slow ones got lost. Private SSR is the best! Level 1 kids reading level 3 books and level 3 kids reading level 1 books. I tell them no shame never blame and they buy into that and they read what they wish as fast – or slow! – as they wish.

    1. This 10 mins of SSR that I have been doing in my classes this year has been an absolute sanity saver. Not only is it great for the students but it helps give me a few minutes of calm before each class “starts”, I can figure out what I am going to do that period and get centered. I have one of those brains that is like a computer browser with 50 tabs open at a time and I NEED the quiet so I can think and start each period fresh. Without it, I felt like a scattered mess. I started at the beginning of the 2nd semester with my 1st year students but did it all year with my 2nd year kids. I know next year I will start sooner. I have been using novels, I did the reading A-Z books but the students never touch them, and I am working on getting our class characters and stories printed into booklets, as well. Also, I subscribe to Martina Bex’s Mundo en tus Manos weekly news summaries and the kids have enjoyed reading those. Some of them hate the novels and feel they are too juvenile and are pretty vocal about it.

      1. Ryann, thats me too! I got ten tabs always on! At times in get irrate with thise figet toys and side conversations… in like come on, we know how to act about now. Of course, i gotta relax now, since we only have 4 more weeks. As for the novels, i have bought some from fluency matters and to be honest there are some that are too above their heads. I teach level 1 and 2. I seriously feel like they should re write them or do Story listening with them instead… in my fvr dolder there are student interviews as well but SL readings.

    2. I feel the same about class novels but I still do them when we start out reading although I begin with action poems and songs, they learnt by heart during the previous three years of merely verbal instruction via TPR and Storytelling. This works okay but at the moment I’m not satisfied with their progress in reading more fluently (I mean at elementary level) and I have this kind of nagging feeling I might be going too fast and should stay longer with the texts they know well and go deeper. What do you think?

      1. I think Alisa is very busy right now but I would predict that she would put up a caution flag on little kids reading in the TL at all. I certainly would support that view. I wouldn’t even “stay longer with the texts they know well and go deeper”. I’m not sure I would have them reading at all, or just their own stories. I hope Alisa sees this and responds.

      2. Going deeper with a text has a different meaning for us foreign language teachers, right? We are certainly not trying to get our kids to understand a concept deeply. We could say that we go deep with a text if, because if it’s compelling nature, students are interested and attentive to our retells, reenactments, parallel stories, Reader’s Theater, etc. Perhaps instead of saying “go deep with a text” we would say “go chew on a text;” chewing it like a giraffe. Sometimes regurgitating.

        1. You are right of course with regard to the meaning of “going deep”. I meant spend more time practicing the the connection of the word-image and the pronunciation which is not easy for a lot of German kids.

          1. Udo could you expand on this –

            “practicing the the connection of the word-image and the pronunciation”

            I ask because there is no way the human brain can work on pronunciation of a language by thinking. At least that is what I think. As output, it has to wait for enough (massive amounts) of input and then in its own time the speech output will be there and then the quality of the accent will be much better without the involvement of thinking about how the words are pronounced. Teaching pronunciation of a new language insults the Process.

          2. What we have to keep in mind is that the beginning of reading happens only in year four when the kids have had three years of listening comprehension. In year three I start playing Hangman and do letter-dictations that give us a well-known words which they just love playing and they get really excited when they can”guess-read” the word.
            By the way, in my third grade I recently asked a boy what he was doing bc I thought he was fiddling with sth under his desk as if I wasn’t meant to see it and he felt like being told off when all he was doing was trying to write down sth in English. I assured him that what he was doing was okay of course.
            As I stated before the real thing starts in year four when we write a number of action poems and songs, the class have loved and learnt by heart during the years of verbal teaching.
            For some students this kind of beginning reading is very easy bc they automatically use the pronunciation they have acquired and the written form is just a kinf of clue how the word sounds whereas slower processors tend to stumble bc they focus too much on the unfamiliar written form. Anyway, that’s what I think happens.
            I also tell the class we already have the words in “our English ear”, which seems to help a little. So for me this is not like teaching pronunciation.

          3. Yes I misunderstood pronunciation Udo. Over here it means that we try to teach accent. I think it’s wonderful what that kid was doing. Anything they want to do is great. Most of what we want them to do (in terms of output) is not natural and therefore to be discouraged.

            I must imagine – since I don’t know – how much of what we do with CI aligns with what Steiner talks about. Someone (hint) should write a book about how Waldorf and TPRS (at least the kind of TPRS I imagine and not what it has become in schools) align.

          4. Actually for me everything in Anthroposophy (that’s what Steiner called his view of the world and everything alive in it) and especially his writings on pedagogy align or are compatible with what you do with CI.
            First of all I would like to mention that his writings and speeches date back about 100 years, and what he said about teaching languages was revolutionary at that time when the grammar-translation method was en vogue.
            He said, kids should start with two alive languages (English and any other one) and they should learn these languages similar to their mother tongue by listening to their teacher and understanding the spoken language, which reminds me of Krashen and Asher.
            He wanted the kids to know grammar rules and this could be seen as detrimental to the CI-approach but on the other hand he emphasized that the kids should first have the language like in their L1 and then from this kind of inner knowledge of or feel for the language, the grammatical structures should be made conscious. Which for me means that first of all the language must be there and then you can look at grammar and not that we do sth grammatical in order for the kids to learn the language.
            I admit to being guilty of not having done this with my older classes (L2 first, then grammar) bc I just didn’t know how to achieve this. But now your CI-approach with n-TPRS and SL clearly is the answer to all my wishes.
            So it’s up to me that my my students can feel great about themselvers as language learners and I’ll do my very best to become a better teacher for them.
            By the way, I believe I’m getting addicted to the PLC!!! And I might want to write an article for our insider magazin, called “The Art of Teaching”, on CI but only after I’ve had enough experience to feel right about it and not like a fraud.

          5. Yeah you wouldn’t want to be fraudulent in your writing. But how could you be? If you base your work on the writings of a true visionary – and thanks for the excellent synopsis of Steiner’s work above – then you should be writing. Honestly, I think of you as a little lamp in the middle of the European forests, along with the one there in Agen, France. Light doesn’t just happen in this world. It has to start somewhere and then spread. Our knowledge about CI is going to function that way – it is essentially self-communicative. Those who don’t have it will get it from those who do. This is no minor hiccup in our profession. It is a massive earthquake. That is why it is so hard.

          6. I believe, I will be writing sth but as I said,although I’m perfectly convinced that your CI-approach is an ideal solution for language teaching at school, I must first find my footing with it. So we’ll see.
            I hope I can be a little lamp but you are the sunshine together with Tina. So let’s try to rock our profession even if it’s hard. As far as I know almost nothing of real value has ever started from the top – bc most people at the top are afraid of change – but always as a grass roots-movement. Therefore, yes, we have to spread the word.

  4. Also Udo I’ll do a whip around at the end of the SSR session every once in a while to see what they are reading, but I won’t test them on it because that would make it too much like school. I always do whip arounds with them when being observed. Admins like that. They always smile when a kid describes what they are reading in a book in another language when dictionaries aren’t being used. Once the kids get into “their” book it becomes an ownership thing. Once that happens you know they are greatly benefitting from the time spent that way. It’s probably the best use of instructional minutes in the entire CI playbook. (A whip around is where we go quickly around the room for a short 30 second report on what the kid is reading and then on to the next kid for her 30 second report and etc.)

  5. Thanks very much to all of you. This is really helpful.
    I’m so glad I found this PLC with all of these commited members who respond so quickly and I have the feeling I can ask about anything that I’m not certain about or share ideas. It’s become a real “motivation saver” in so short a time.

  6. Hi Friends,
    this is the first year I’ve ever had any sustained SSR and it was only because I did a series of “in the style of” stories. Here’s how it went down – I think it could work for Ts of older kids. I read a great and extremely simple book in grades 1-2 – I learned abt it here on the PLC – Craig Klein’s ‘El Raton Pablito’ – abt the lil mouse who goes on a walk and finds 3 doors – and there’s something funny and silly behind the 3rd door. After acting that out like crazy a zillion times w/the wee ones, we decided to come up w/a character – not a mouse – and replace the details – what kinda house the character lived in, what was behind each of the 3 doors. This I asked and lightly circled and wrote a parallel story onscreen in real time. Then I chopped up the text onto several pages and had them illustrate a few class versions (one class pd). We did the same with the story of the 3 Billy Goats Gruff in grades 3-4 – w/me telling it as a Story Listening, then we read a simple version, then we story-asked/wrote onscreen an ‘in the style of’ version with each section of each grade. Long story short, some classes produced more than one illustrated copy of the book, and I ended up with another 18 home made books! I made sure I told the base/anchor stories to each grade, so that all of the literature would be comprehensible to all the classes. Though the 1-2 can’t really read in Spanish independently (some can this late in the yr) I could use the home-spun stories under the doc cam with them; and the 3-4s can read all of ’em and THEY LOVE THEM!
    This is the only l way I can do FVR because this way I can control all the language , and it feels more organic than backwards planning, which has always felt like letting the air out of a balloon for me…
    If you want more details or a sample of any of the texts, write me!

    1. Hi Alisa,
      I did sth similar with my year 4 kids. They still love the Frog&and Toad stories which I started telling in year 1. So I retold the story “Down the Hill” and afterwards I wrote it up on the board in small parts for a couple of lessons until the story was finished. They copied the text in their exercise books and hw was to copy it in our writing book which I call the Good Book. I also asked them sts to draw a picture and many of them drew such beautiful picturesThat I couldn’t help admiring them and praising them to the skies.
      We practised choral reading in class, also reading backwards word by word and jumping around in the text. They enjoyed making up new sentences from the words on the board. Some of those were hilarious. But still quite a few struggle more than I believe they should when I think back on some of my previous classes who read better individually at this time of the school year, and this is a very able class. That’s why I believe the problem must lie with me. By now I think I went faster with more texts than usual, believing everything was just fine bc the choral reading went so well – maybe.

  7. … believing everything was just fine bc the choral reading went so well …

    This may be exactly what happened. Choral reading is fun for them but is not particularly loaded with benefit.

  8. I’ve done SSR in grade 7 during the last couple of weeks with my group and it seems to have lost its stamina. I get the feeling that for some of them it’s just an exercise like “Yeah, I know. The beginning is always 10 – 15 min of reading. It’s boring.”
    I believe one problem could be that the other group has another teacher who doesn’t do SSR but “real work” which means, vocab and grammar sheets as well and I know she is really very good at it.
    To me it feels like I`ve lost the buy-in of my students which makes me sad.

    1. Udo, I have experienced this sort of “deflation” with SSR. In my case I think it is because I did not do a good build up to the process. This is my 8th year with SSR / FVR…two different schools. My original school was a small school with 100% parent involvement and a high literacy rate / investment in literacy and learning.

      Current school is the opposite. I’m only now completing year 2. It’s evident that “reading” is a source of torture, making kids feel inadequate, etc. Very few kids have a joyful experience of “reading” so I need to start from scratch to make it fun and compelling. I haven’t done this well (yet), but next year I plan to take it more slowly and deliberately to try to almost invisibly get them reading without making a big deal out of it. I sort of want them to be reading without noticing that they are reading. Invisibles /OWI and storytelling will be a huge part of this, and I want to join MIke Peto’s crowd sourced FVR graphic novel group. I hope that the momentum will build on its own just through the energy of creating compelling stories. I envision that once we get a real critical mass of energy in enjoying stories in all forms (all the different CI sources) then FVR/SSR will evolve organically. ???

      And also I definitely see the need to mix it up. For the last month since we lost steam, I have been doing more “reading together” instead of official SSR by taking an article or spinning a current event like prom, summer jobs, etc.

      It is sad to lose buy-in. I know that feeling well. It definitely helps to know that it is probably more common than we realize, so we don’t feel alone!

  9. It definitely helps to know that it is probably more common than we realize, so we don’t feel alone.

    Thanks Jen, it really is like that. I’m the only one at our school who has ever done SSR and in all of my 27 years of teaching and trying to find more natural and compelling ways of teaching ESL I’ve always felt like a lone wolf.
    In my experience the Waldorf teachers I’ve met were not really interested in the research and theory of language aquisition. But then, I didn’t hear the name of Stephen Krashen in Germany during in-service trainings no matter if Waldorf or outside of Waldorf for 26 years. Only last year a teacher from a highschool did an intro to traditional TPRS and mentioned his name.
    The establishment is not into CI. It is a grass root movement over here. But I believe we are in dire need of more human ways of teaching languages bc so many kids leave school believeing they are no good at languages when all there really is, are wrong methods and exercises.

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