Creepy Crawly Fall
by Carrie Toth
What does back to school look like for you? In my school, we are going back to layered mitigation. We are all masking, the majority of the staff is vaccinated (and even some students since I am in a high school), and we are trying to keep seating 3 feet apart. We have a few students who are positive or on quarantine but it has been a really smooth start in a really hard time.
As we looked at our plans for the year, we decided to go back to using ECourses over paperbacks this year. Now that we’re seasoned pandemic teachers, one thing that I can say with certainty is that readers were one of the most functional classroom tools I used last year, and I think I taught in almost every imaginable situation!
I taught for 6 months from home first to hybrid A/B groups then to a full, in-person classroom. I went back and taught face to face, masked and socially distanced from a full class with a few remaining remote only students. We spent the time from Thanksgiving to the beginning of the new year fully remote. It was taxing. It was frustrating at times. But it still worked. We made it work.
Using ECourses from Fluency Matters was so flexible. We were able to read from them no matter where we were. The kids always had their iPads and could access the books from home or school! We want that flexibility again this year as we navigate students coming in and out of quarantine, as well as the ever present shadow of the “shut down” hovering over us.
My newest book, Papálotl, comes out alongside Kristy Placido’s newest reader, Abejas exploradoras. Both feature insects as the main character, and I am looking forward to it being a creepy-crawly fall! Both books are written with very low unique word counts, perfect for students level 1 and up. I plan to use them in Spanish 2 as confidence building reads that have a ton of potential for deeper novice-level discussions.
How do I get started with a reader?
One of the things I love to do before reading a reader is tackle the free “Prep 4 Success” unit. Not every Fluency Matters title has one yet, but our team is working hard to make them available for all books!
Prep 4 Success is a 2 week unit that helps teachers front-load the key structures from the reader, so their students can be successful getting in the flow of reading. Each Prep 4 Success unit has 3 “vignettes.” A vignette is a 3 day lesson plan that gives repeated exposure to 3-5 new structures students will encounter as they read.
What comes next?
After we have completed the Prep 4 Success unit, we dive into the reader. I own the Teacher’s Guides for all the readers I use in class because I never want to have to reinvent the wheel. With the Teacher’s Guide, I have access not only to reading follow ups but also to a robust cultural unit that accompanies the reader. In almost every story we read, I begin by sharing some of the cultural information that will help learners understand the setting and the people they will encounter in the book.
And how do you read?
We’ll be reading Papálotl as our first book in Spanish 2. Whether you purchase paper copies of a reader or the eCourses, the next steps are the same. I will read a chapter of the book Monday through Thursday of the first week. After reading the day’s chapter we will do one follow up in the eCourse (I let mine choose which activity they want to do). Some days we start with a cultural activity from the Teacher’s Guide as well. If you’re not using the eCourse, the follow up activities that are found online are also printable in your Teacher’s Guide materials. On Friday we have “other activities” that we do to end the week on a joyful note.
In the second week, we’ll read chapters on Monday – Wednesday with the same warm-ups and follow-ups as last week. We will do a “Discussion Thursday” to review what we’ve read in the first 7 chapters. The Discussion Thursday guidelines are included in the Teacher’s Guide materials for many of our Fluency Matters reads. The idea is that the class leads a discussion to synthesize all of the information they have learned up to this point. As we get ready to dive into the final chapters of the book, I find that this is great for clarification of anything students do not yet understand. AND it gives them the opportunity to show off their blooming language skills as they ask and answer questions about the story!
In the last week, we will finish the book Monday through Wednesday and will do our assessment on Thursday. For my 2s, I will have them tell me everything they now know about the migration and life-cycle of the Monarch butterflies.
When we read Abejas, we will be learning about how bee colonies work. But more importantly, this is a story with a moral. I will teach it alongside some units that are based on legends, so students can compare and contrast the ways that morals are used in these types of stories. Compare and contrast is an important part of higher level proficiency, and using easy readers like Abejas to lay the foundation for this skill starting early in the language classroom is important. Backward design isn’t just for a unit… it’s for a whole language program!
How many readers is the right amount?
This totally depends on your classroom and your students. I use 4 readers per level in Spanish 2-4 (3 readers in level 1). When I first started incorporating readers, I did only one per year. My recommendation is to start with a story you really like and give it your all! Each year, add another reader until you find the perfect balance for your classroom.
I hope that as you make the transition back into the classroom, Fluency Matters readers help make planning more smooth. We will continue to share our classroom plans and experiences with you as we ride the rollercoaster of another covid year with you.