Today I post a long intro about why I’m uncomfortable with the term CI and about my experience trying out FVR, but before that I want to share a few pictures of the beautiful organization that some parent and student volunteers did. How could you not be excited about reading? I didn’t get a picture of the countertop that will display exciting new books.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

One of my sisters took a class in college in which they played bullshit bingo during class discussions. At the beginning of the semester each person filled out a bingo card with buzzwords that people use too much and that take away from their main idea. It was either an upper level sociology or anthropology class and buzzwords to watch out for were things like sustainability and equitable.  Whenever someone used a buzzword during class discussion, players marked their bingo cards. Why do I bring this story up? The use of the phrase comprehensible input. How did TPRS/CI become an inseparable pair? Why do people treat comprehensible input like a teaching method? Shouldn’t all language teaching involve language that is comprehensible and accessible to the learners? What kind of second language teaching method wouldn’t? Who uses the same method all day every day? Sometimes I’m also a little wary of how rigid people’s approaches are to TPRS/CI. Context matters so much.

That was a really long intro to say that I’m going to share how getting started with free voluntary reading (FVR) has gone for me and my students, but that every context is different so do what works for your learners. Be willing to try new things if they’re right for your learners.

My 7th graders started learning Spanish in September, and by third trimester (March) I was able to introduce FVR. At first it was just 10 minutes/day a few times a month, but based on survey results, we’re going to do 10 minutes three times a week in 8th grade. When I introduced FVR, rather than open up the entire classroom library, I limited reading to either news (Mary Glasgow ¿Qué tal? and Martina Bex El mundo en tus manos) or old class stories or children’s picture books depending on the day. It’s like bumper bowling. Let them play the game but with guard rails.

FVR library contents:

  • Mary Glasgow magazines
  • News summaries in simple Spanish
  • Board books
  • Picture books (lots of Eric Carle)
  • Nonfiction picture books
  • Novels for language learners (like Agentes secretos and the Brandon Brown series)
  • A subscription to Learning A to Z’s Raz-Kids
  • Library books – I can use my teacher account at the Multnomah Country Library to introduce 50 new books to the room every 6 weeks. Librarians really do go to conferences in other countries to look for amazing books that may be less known in the United States, for example, my favorite Más te vale mastodonte. 

In the end of year survey about FVR most of the students rated FVR as either enjoyable or really enjoyable. Here are some of the more positive additional comments:

  • “I like the reading, I learn new words because of the context.”
  • “I have really liked the free reading that we have been doing and hope that we can do it again next year. I like that it is a quiet time because a lot of the time our other periods are very busy and we can use a few minutes of relaxation once in awhile.”
  • “I think that it is an enjoyable time. It is very relaxing and calming but also works your brain to read in Spanish. I find it fun to read in Spanish.”
  • “It is fun and a cool way to kick off the day.”

Of course, there were a few not so positive comments, but I’m hoping that by increasing the variety of reading material to choose from that those grumps will get on board.