C.I. Crash Course

Based on a good amount of feedback from attendees, I’ve decided to push back* the date of C.I. Crash Course in the Seattle Area.

Sign up before February 28 and get the super early bird special. Plus, use the discount code “STORYTELLING30” to receive an extra $30 off (expires February 28).

Below are the details for the 3-day workshop.

Seattle Area – August 27-29, 2019

Storytelling can be scary to tackle on your own. A professional development workshop might be just what you need to help you take the plunge or to level-up your C.I. game! C.I. Crash Course is a workshop for professional language educators looking to incorporate storytelling and comprehensible input into their teaching repertoire.

This workshop is designed with College Instructors and High School Teachers in mind.

Reserve Your Seat Today!

Tentative Schedule

TUESDAY 8/27/19 8:30AM-2:30PM

Meet and Greet — Light Breakfast

Intro to Comprehension-Based, Communicative Language Instruction

Asking Strategic Questions to Tell a Story

Storytelling Demo in Portuguese

Coaching in Small Groups

Discussion

Lunch

Coaching in Small Groups

WEDNESDAY 8/28/19 8:30AM – 2:30PM

Welcome – Light Breakfast

Storytelling-Compatible Assessments

Continuation of  Storytelling Demo

Coaching in Small Groups

Group Practice

Discussion

Lunch

Building Toward Literacy – The Power of Reading

Coaching in Small Groups

Q & A

THURSDAY 8/29/19 8:30AM – 1:30PM

Welcome – Light Breakfast

The Hero’s Journey – Writing Engaging and Communicative Materials for Your Language Class

Continuation of  Storytelling Demo

Coaching in Small Groups

Discussion

Lunch

Closing Remarks and Discussion

Reserve Your Seat Today!

Presented By:

*The original dates were March 1-2, but a number of people couldn’t attend the Friday date during the school year, and there is a WAFLT conference is on March 2nd (Oops). I was in contact with everyone who had signed up, and they have officially been given a full refund.

Storytelling Basics: Going Even Slower Than You Think You Should

Go even slower than you think you need to go.

It’s easy to get in such a groove with storytelling that we leave people behind. It’s less of an issue than with legacy methods of language instruction, but going too fast for learners remains a distinct possibility. Going slower than we think we need to helps keep the language we use comprehensible, which in turn makes the language accessible to more learners.

When learners are building up a mental representation of the language in their heads, they need to process the comprehensible input they receive. They need to receive and process, receive and process, receive and process. Then they need to process the language some more.

Learners need to process the words we think are easy (yo, tú, soy, eres, estudiante, pero, y, etc.).Not even cognates are immune to this need for processing. They often sound different in L2 and must go through the same processing… process. Going slowly ensures that more learners successfully negotiate meaning during the storytelling process.

Slowing Down Readings

I love to write and am enamored with the Artist’s Journey (I can’t recommend that book enough, by the way). During my years with storytelling, I’ve discovered that simple readings are the most difficult to make. It’s tempting to throw in new words and ideas because it makes the stories more interesting for me. Problem is, the readings I write for class are not for me, but for students. Throwing too much at learners in a reading will reduce its comprehensibility and, thus, its utility.

Two weeks ago, I gave students a reading based on some characters that we co-created at the beginning of the quarter (a modified version of the Hero’s Journey). Students read in groups of two and completed a short set of comprehension-based tasks to help them process the language they read.

I walked around the room as learners worked, answering questions and listening in as I am wont to do. Some of my very vocal students in one section expressed that they didn’t understand ni jota. Uh-oh, Spaghetti-o’s.

After hearing the aforementioned grousing, I solicited the opinions of a number of students that have given me good feedback in the past. Based on their feedback, I need to make the readings easier. They need to be able to process the language more easily, which will lead to their processing more complex readings in the future.

In my defense, I tried to make the reading approximately 90% comprehensible. The 10% of words and phrases I assumed students weren’t familiar with, I glossed. My intentions were good, but I didn’t account for some learners who would understand only 70% of the text easily.

Introducing too much at once reduced the comprehensibility of the language, and frustrated learners, especially the adults. Adults do not like having their ability to communicate taken away. Going slower than we think we need to and making easier helps keep the communication in L2 flowing.

I’m convinced that we need to go slower than we think in terms of reading complexity too. I don’t have an exact percentage, but something like 98-99% comprehensible would be better than the 90% I aimed for in this instance. Efficiency is the name of the game in the college classroom, and the higher the comprehensibility, the more efficient the acquisition process is. We want i + 1, not i + 10 (or i + 30).

Disclosure: Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase after clicking through the link. Please understand that I have experienced all of these books/products and I recommend them because they are helpful and useful, not because of the small commissions I make if you decide to buy something through my links. Please do not spend any money on these products unless you feel you need them or that they will help you achieve your goals.

An Example Quizizz

I intend to do a longer post on Quizizz in the future, but for now, here is an example that I made for my Spanish 1 students. It’s based on the story we co-created on Wednesday of this week. It’s my Friday treat for them during the last 10 minutes of class time.

Take the Quizizz

Students use their phones or laptops (if they don’t have one, they can partner up with someone who does). It’s more laid back than Kahoot, and my students love it.

Best of all, it’s another way to sneak comprehensible input into their lives (muahahahaha).

By the way, here’s the story we co-created.

Typos happen. Leave them in and see if a learner catches it. Then you’ll know that at least one learner is really paying attention.

The Best To-Do List to Boost Productivity

I’m always looking for ways to make my time more productive. I want to maximize efficiency and minimize the time spent on work tasks. Obviously, I want to do the highest quality work that I can, but I also need to have time for my family and hobbies.

Done correctly, storytelling can free up loads of time for family and hobbies. But it can also be this monster that takes over your life, writing endless stories and tasks for learners.

In order to combat task creep*, we need a battle plan. When we sit down to do grades or check email, we need to prioritize our “to-do’s”, or they will expand to fill every last available second. The tool I use to organize my day might surprise you.

*I read a book called “The 4-Hour Work Week“, by Tim Ferris. It has absolutely nothing to do with education or storytelling, but I took away many concepts that have made me a better teacher. One such concept is called “task creep”, which Ferris defines as “doing more to feel productive while actually accomplishing less”.

The Paper To-Do List

I choose a paper to-do list because it limits the amount of items I can write on it. There are only so many hours in the day, and this constraint forces me to prioritize what needs to be done.

I take a 4″ x 6″ index card and fold it half (pictured below). This gives me four sides to write on. The folded card fits perfectly into the pocket, and I carry it with me at all times during the day.

Amazon has a pack of 500 for less than 6 bucks.

I only have two preps this quarter (don’t hate me), and so I use the front and back to write that day’s plan. I you have more preps, you can write a separate plan on each side.

My Spanish 2 classes are M, W blocks, so today’s plan was blank for those sections.

When I get to class, I write the plan on the board and slip the folded notecard back in my pocket. Doing this every day makes my classes go smoothly. If I ever forget what we’re doing or where we’re going, I just glance at the board and we’re back on track.

During my office hours (when there are no students) or scheduled work times outside of class, I unfold the card and voila, I have my to do list. The limited space makes me focus only on the important tasks.

This is my to-do list for today, warts and all.

Since I only have two preps this quarter, I have a “Notes” section as well. I use this space to jot down anything that comes to mind throughout the day. These items that pop into my head can be very distracting, but my mind is freed up to complete the items on the to-do list once I write these interruptions down.

Two Final Tips for Writing Your To-Do List

1. Write your to-do list and lesson plan down the night before. Your subconscious will keep working on it while you sleep (also, sleep more) and your classes will go smoother the following day.

Whenever I don’t do this the night before, my classes are noticeably less cohesive.

2. Write your to-do list with “actionable” verbs and be very specific. This will help you know exactly what to do when you sit down at your workstation.

Examples:

  • Write story for French 1
  • Send stories to the point shop, 
  • Post In-Class Essay 1 scores for 101 & 102

Disclosure: Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase after clicking through the link. Please understand that I have experienced all of these books/products and I recommend them because they are helpful and useful, not because of the small commissions I make if you decide to buy something through my links. Please do not spend any money on these products unless you feel you need them or that they will help you achieve your goals. 

25 Spanish Books to Build Your Free Voluntary Reading Library

The following is a list of books I have in my actual Free Voluntary Reading (FVR) library. I have multiple copies of many of these titles, and I like to get additional copies of the popular ones. Many of these titles are readers written with language learners in mind. If you missed it, check out my Tool Kit for FVR.

The List of Totally Rad Spanish Readers

This list isn’t in any particular order, except that I put the books I wrote first because it’s my blog, so there.

1. La espía huérfana – Andrew J. Snider (me)

2. Las tres pruebas – Andrew J. Snider (me)

3. La vida loca de Marta – Andrew J. Snider (me)

4. Superburguesas – Mike Peto

5. La vampirata – Mira Canion

6. Agentes secretos y el mural de Picasso – Mira Canion

7. La clase de confesiones – A.C. Quintero

8. Las apariencias engañan – A.C. Quintero

9. Robo en la noche – Kristy Placido

10. Felipe Alou: desde los valles a las montañas – Carol Gaab

11. Problemas en paraíso – Carol Gaab

12. Ataques de hambre – Eric Herman

13. Soy Lorenzo – Virginia Hildebrant

14. Las lagrimas de Xochitl – Virginia Hildebrant

15. En busca del monstruo – Pablo Ortega Lopez

16. La momia desaparece – Arturo De La Rosa

17. La casa embrujada – Arturo De La Rosa

18. La calaca alegre – Carrie Toth

19. Todo lo que brilla – Chris Mercer

20. La guerra sucia – Nathaniel Kirby

21. Estefania: El azote de la frontera – Marcial Lafuente

22. Estefania: Ley implacable – Marcial Lafuente

23. El hacha – Gary Paulson

24. El principito – Antonie De Saint-Exupery (one of my all time favorite books)

25. Harry Potter y la piedra filosofal – J.K. Rowling (I love Harry Potter)

Disclosure: Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase after clicking through the link. Please understand that I have experienced all of these books/products and I recommend them because they are helpful and useful, not because of the small commissions I make if you decide to buy something through my links. Please do not spend any money on these products unless you feel you need them or that they will help you achieve your goals. 

Please also note that all the cover art is copyright © the publisher/author and is only used here to help readers find the appropriate books.

Andrew Snider’s Free Voluntary Reading Toolkit

My personal FVR Library currently has around 75 books for learners. Sadly, I am my own biblioburro.

For a long time, I struggled to find a way to keep students accountable during Free Voluntary Reading (FVR). Here’s my winning game plan, complete with free downloads below.

What is FVR? How and why do I use it in class?

FVR is self-selected pleasure reading. Starting in Spanish II, my students get to pick a book from my personal library (around 75 books) that I bring to class twice per week*. Students get 10 minutes to read whatever book they want and they read at their own pace. If they don’t like a book, they can put it back and grab a different one from the library.

It’s untargeted input. FVR has no grammatical or lexical agenda. It’s just language that learners can enjoy.

The goal of FVR is to get students to fall in love with reading. That way they’ll (hopefully) seek out more input in L2, even after the term ends.

I use FVR in class because I use it to learn new languages myself. I’ve experienced tremendous gains in various languages by reading for fun. I can personally attest that 20 minutes of FVR per week goes a long way. Fifty minutes would be even better.

*I keep my library in a blue-green crate. I lug the crate back and forth from my car because I don’t have an office (#adjunctLife #yoSoyElBiblioburro).

The FVR Accountability Toolkit (Free Downloads Below)

I’ve been searching for ways to keep students accountable during FVR in class. My solution is twofold:

  1. I have printed and trimmed bookmarks for FVR (free download #1).
    • Learners write their name on the top of the bookmark so they can see it when the book is closed.
    • Learners leave their bookmark in the book so they can pick up where they left off the next time they read (you know, like a bookmark).
    • At the end of each FVR session, learners write the title of the book they read and what page they ended on. That way they can still pick up where they left off, even if the bookmark falls out of the book (see #adjunctLife comment above).
    • I can glance at a few bookmarks and see the progress learners are making in different books.
    • I use a different color of paper for each class so it’s easier for learners to find their bookmarks the next time they read.

  2. I have printed and trimmed Book Review Slips (free download #2)
    • I have a stack of these I bring with me to each class when we do FVR.
    • Each time a learner finishes an FVR book, they fill out a Book Review Slip (Their name, the name of the book they read, a rating of 1-5 stars, and a brief review of the book they read. Did they like it (or not) and why?
    • The reviews and stars let me see what titles a particular student and/or class enjoys. I can then, among other things, use that knowledge to personalize the class to those tastes and topics.
    • I offer students 5 points of extra credit (our course has a total of around 1000 points) for each book review they complete.
    • These reviews (and the extra credit) motivate students to keep reading a book to completion.

FVR has no grammatical or lexical agenda. It’s just language that learners can enjoy.

-Andrew J. Snider (Me)

My Previous (and Failed) Attempts at Accountability

Just for fun, below is a list of several ways I tried to keep students accountable. I wasn’t happy with any of these solutions for a variety of reasons.

  • Students wrote down words they didn’t know to look up later
  • Students wrote down their favorite word that they read
  • Students told their partner in L1 what they read about (tried in in L2, and it devolved into L1 anyway).
  • Students wrote a brief summary of what they read.
  • Students drew a picture of what they read and captioned it in L2.
  • Students wrote down the three most essential sentences they read.
  • Students kept a journal of what they read

Maybe you’d have more luck than me with some of these, or know a way to make them better.

For now, I’m happy with my bookmarks and book reviews for extra credit.

Disclosure: Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase after clicking through the link. Please understand that I have experienced all of these books/products and I recommend them because they are helpful and useful, not because of the small commissions I make if you decide to buy something through my links. Please do not spend any money on these products unless you feel you need them or that they will help you achieve your goals.

Hero’s Journey: New Year, New Adventure

I’m in love with the Hero’s Journey as a way of delivering comprehensible input to my learners. It’s so open-ended and makes it easy to personalize the story for each specific class.

Today my two o’clock class (2 hour block, Spanish 2) defined their protagonist, a friend of the protagonist, and the antagonist. This took about 30-35 minutes to accomplish, and was done entirely in Spanish. Through this dialogue of me asking questions and the learners making decisions, they arrived at our Hero’s Journey premise:

Carlos lost his hair during a mad scientist’s (Andrés*) experiment. With the help of his friend Marisol, Carlos tries everything in his power to get it back.

This premise is ridiculous. I think it’s the perfect way to bring up a variety of topics in context. Here is one possible tangent.

Me: Class, does Carlos comb is hair every morning?
Class: No.
Me: Why not?
Class: Carlos doesn’t have hair.
Me: Class, do I comb my hair every morning?
Half the class: Yes.
Other half of the class: No!
Me: I don’t?
One of the cheeky ones: No, you don’t have time.
Me: I don’t have time to comb my hair?
Same cheeky one: No, you’ve got two kids. It’s either comb your hair of drink coffee.
Me: Oh, that’s a good point. Class, I don’t comb my hair in the morning. I drink coffee.
Me: Class, who combs their hair every morning.

This is an example, but not too far from an actual conversation I’ve had in class. The authentic and comprehensible interactions lead to more engagement, which leads to more input, which leads to more acquisition. It’s a virtuous cycle, and one that you don’t get from the textbook.

A Deep Dive on Culture

I’ve been trying to come up with a way to incorporate more culture in my class. I decided that Hero’s Journey would be my in. My two o’clock class decided that the main character is from Colombia, and so we will do a deep dive on that country (Do I smell coffee in my future?).

The characters will also make trips to Cuba, México and Paraguay. We will explore these countries too, albeit to a lesser extent.

One more thing

I haven’t had a chance to type up the character descriptions yet, but you’ll be able to read them soon over at Read to Speak Spanish.

*My students know me as Andrés, so I always play up how handsome, young, and smart I am. I really lay it on thick, and students generally have a blast understanding sarcasm in Spanish.

Assessing with Storytelling: Reimagining the Syllabus

Happy New Year! Feliz Ano Novo! ¡Feliz Año Nuevo! Etcetera!

The new year is always a time of reflection for me. What went well? What was a disaster? What could I cut and what could I reimagine? There’s much to upon which reflect.

On the surface, last quarter felt like the best term I’ve ever taught, and yet I still find myself back at the drawing board. You see, I was overassessing and had too many assignments during the last week of class.

I did feel satisfied with the assessments I created, but it was too much of a burden on my learners. Additionally, overassessing didn’t provide me with much insight into how learners were progressing (How much could they acquire from Monday to Tuesday?).

With this in mind, I have created a new set of assessments, listed below, in no particular order. Notice that the grammar tests are gone, although I will still assess grammar in other ways.

AssignmentPoints
Oral Story Test100
Timed-Writes (8 x 25 pts each)200
Quizzes (10 x 6 pts each)60
“Yo puedo…”s 4 x 50200
Online Homework (VHL Central, Canvas)200
Attendance/Interpersonal Communication275
Total:1035

Oral Story Test

This is the same assignment as last quarter. It is the capstone to my course, letting learners demonstrate their ability to communicate orally.

Timed-Writes

Again, this is the same assignment as last quarter. I liked this, as it forced students to re-read the stories we co-created in class.

Quizzes

This has evolved since I last posted about quizzes in my courses. I will update the quizzes post/write a new one in the near future. It deserves a revisit.

“Yo Puedo”s – “Can Do”s

This is a new assessment in my classes that I will detail further in a new post. I’m excited about these because they are replacing the old “textbook” tests I was giving before. They will oral assessments, and I will be grade them with ruthless efficiency (My favorite way to grade).

Online Homework

VHL Central (Online Workbook)

My students have to buy a textbook that comes with an online workbook (not a fan, but has been the textbook since before I got there). I know it’s expensive, so I make sure they use it. Its grammar focus leads me to believe it has little value for actual acquisition, so I have them complete this as homework.

It does provide some input, and the students that complete it do acquire more Spanish. The students that don’t complete it (a surprising number) demonstrate why it’s not the ideal use of time – It’s too incomprehensible and not engaging!

Canvas (LMS)

I have written a number of short stories and have designed comprehension activities to go along with them. I plan on making this portion of my class available after a few more rounds of revision.

Attendance/Interpersonal Communication

This is much the same as last quarter. You have to be there to demonstrate interpersonal communication./Showing up is half the battle.

Looking Forward

I will continue to revise my assessments every quarter from now until I retire from teaching. It’s something that I have to do to keep improving as an instructor, and it’s something that I will continue to share with you as I make incremental (or huge and abrupt) changes.

Happy storytelling!

How to Make an Original Story from an Engaging Premise

The right premise can lead to a wealth of comprehensible input.

An engaging premise is the key to an engaging story. The right premise can make for a no-prep, highly communicative and engaging story (and “no prep” is my favorite kind of prep). This activity is open-ended, you can modify the stories you spin out to use any grammar and vocabulary you want to target.

This may take some storytelling chops, but the result is comprehensible and engaging communicatively-embedded input: the secret sauce for language acquisition.

A Simple and Effective Plan

  1. Find a premise that you like and modify it to match your desired outcome
    • Maybe you have a different vocabulary word to insert.
    • Maybe you want to change the premise from third person singular to first person plural.
    • Briefly plan this out in advance to free up your mind for the juggling act that is storytelling. 
  2. Start telling the story to the class and dive deeply into the co-creation process.
    • “Class, there is a woman who works at bank.”
    • What’s her name?
    • Where’s she from?
    • What’s she like?
    • At what bank does she work? In which country?
    • Does she like working at the bank or does she dream of doing something else?
    • How is her day going?
    • Cast the net deep and narrow here. Find out as much as you can about this woman without boring the class.
    • “Class, in that very moment a bank robber comes in.”
    • Cast your CI net deep and narrow again. Find out as much as you can about the bank robber. Compare and contrast with the teller.
  3. See where the story takes you.
    • This is a little scary because it can go anywhere. Lean into the unknown. Your learners are highly creative, even if they don’t think they are.
    • If the learners in your class find this story engaging, you could spin another out of it, perhaps a sequel or a prequel. If that happens enough times, you could squeeze a whole novel’s worth out CI out of this one premise.
    • Have a student type up the story as you co-create it. They can email it to you for easy editing. This is a huge time-saver and helps you keep the stories straight across multiple classes.
    • Make sure to have a student draw out the story so you can refer back to it later.
    • Have a student write a listening comprehension quiz (t/f, multiple choice, etc.)
    • Have learners act out your story so you can interact with them in the TL.

25 Story Premises

  1. A bank teller’s day is ruined when a robber comes in and demands that she open the vault.
  2. It’s August in Arizona and the air conditioner broke at Emilio’s house.
  3. I have to wait in line at the supermarket when a fight breaks out.
  4. Elena thinks that she can fly. She’s right.
  5. I learn to play a musical instrument overnight.
  6. We need to buy a new house because ours is haunted.
  7. Billy asks Susie to the big dance, but he doesn’t have the money to rent a tuxedo.
  8. Two brothers are in a hurry because they believe that the sun is going to burn out tomorrow.
  9. An elderly couple decides to run a marathon for charity. It doesn’t go well.
  10. I feel like eating out, but my wife feels like making dinner.
  11. Sam’s mother-in-law cries every time she sees him.
  12. Tim the firefighter moves to Argentina and finds himself through learning to dance tango.
  13. María’s head always hurts because her boss always yells at her.
  14. Paulo needs to sell his car because he has to leave the country.
  15. David’s idea to make a million dollars seems like a good idea to Amelia, but it goes horribly wrong.
  16. A waitress receives a huge tip one night and decides to quit her job to pursue her passion.
  17. Amanda is too sick to go to her job at the hair salon. Her boyfriend goes for her and it turns out he’s a natural.
  18. Diana moves to Alaska but soon realizes she doesn’t like the cold.
  19. Rita’s husband Simón is very ugly, but their kids are really cute. Simón pays for a DNA test and the results are shocking.
  20. A young man decides to travel the world and sees something he shouldn’t have seen.
  21. Oscar is afraid of almost everything on earth. That’s why he decided to be an astronaut.
  22. Gael needs to lose some weight. He joins a gym and starts a new diet where he can only eat five different foods.
  23. Rebecca wants to give her mom a present for her birthday. Her mom loves clothes but has an odd fashion sense.
  24. Ramón wants to be an archeologist. He goes to the library every day to watch Indiana Jones movies on Netflix.
  25. Hector goes to the same café every day because he thinks the barista is cute. After 365 consecutive days, she agrees to go on a date with him. Hilarity ensues.

Disclosure: Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase after clicking through the link. Please understand that I have experienced all of these books/products and I recommend them because they are helpful and useful, not because of the small commissions I make if you decide to buy something through my links. Please do not spend any money on these products unless you feel you need them or that they will help you achieve your goals.

Free Voluntary Reading at Home and in the Classroom

In his fabled garden, Pareto observed that 80 percent of the peas were produced by just 20 percent of the pods.

It’s uncanny how the Pareto Principle works in everything around us. Sometimes called the 80-20 rule, the Pareto Principle states that 80 percent of the results are produced by 20 percent of the effort. For example, 80 percent of the peas in a vegetable garden are produced by just 20 percent of the pods.

This number can be even more skewed in some circumstances: 85-15, 90-10 or even 99-1. You’re probably familiar with that number from economic discussion during the last decade – It stems from this non-linear distribution that occurs almost everywhere in nature. Note: If you weren’t familiar with this concept previously, you’ll probably start to notice it being talked about everywhere. That’s what happened to me when I first learned about Pareto and his fabled garden.

Applying Pareto’s Principle to Language Acquisition

For language acquisition, it’s clear that the vast majority of gains comes from one source: the unconscious/subconscious processing of comprehensible input. I can’t give an exact percentage, but I’d imagine that something like 95 percent of acquisition happens from input. Since we have such limited time with learners in the college setting, helping them seek out their own sources of comprehensible input is vital for their continued acquisition in and beyond our classroom.

My favorite source of comprehensible input is reading level-appropriate fiction.* Dr. Stephen Krashen, famous author and Professor Emeritus at the University of Southern California, has long championed this activity. I am in total agreement, and have started a steady diet of reading in my own language acquisition endeavors.

Krashen terms pleasure reading as Free Voluntary Reading (FVR), which is a term you’ll see thrown around the storytelling and the comprehension-based communicative language teaching community. Many instructors have even started using FVR as a part of their weekly routine (some twice per week, some every day).

My firsthand experience with FVR in French and Brazilian Portuguese have convinced me that reading is the most important source of comprehensible input for language learners. In terms of a Pareto distribution, I’d wager that FVR produced 90-95% of the gains I’ve made in those two languages (I’m still acquiring!). I found that more I read, the easier it is to think in those languages.

If you aren’t learning a new language right now, I recommend that you try, and to do so with FVR. It will remind you how difficult it is to learn to speak a new language and how powerful reading is. I’d also challenge you to not look up grammar rules or verb tables (at first). Instead, focus on processing as many messages as you can in your new language. Below is my daily routine for language acquisition:

1. 10 minutes of Duolingo in the TL as a warmup 
2a. FVR – at least two pages of a level-appropriate novel
2b. Watch at least 10 minutes of a show in TL (with subtitles in TL) / Listen to at least 10 minute of a podcast in TL (with transcript in TL, if available)

*What is “level-appropriate fiction”? I don’t know that there’s a good answer. I’ve heard people say if you understand 98% of a text without having to look words up would make it level-appropriate. Naturally, there is some wiggle room in the exact percentage.

FVR at Home

Since I have had such good success with FVR on my own, my initial idea to implement FVR in my courses is to ask students to read at home too. This frees up class time for more listening and structured reading input, but therein lie two potential problems.

1) Students don’t have access to an abundance of level-appropriate fiction. That means if a reader finds a particular novel boring, they can’t just put it back and grab another. This is a tenet of FVR. If the student isn’t enjoying a given text (for any reason), they just return it to the shelf and select something else.

2) I can’t be sure that learners are actually reading if I don’t have a system of tracking (e.g. number of pages, word count, number of books, etc.). Such as system is not viable, and even if it were, it wouldn’t be fair. I, for one, am a slow reader. It would take me much longer to read a certain number of pages than it would someone who reads quickly. 

The only thing that I can think of that might work as a tracking system is some sort of a streak system. For example, students might post to Canvas (Blackboard, Moodle, etc.) that they read their nightly two-four pages in L2. That’s still the honor system, though. It’s not ideal, but at least it’s a feasible option.

I don’t ask my students to do FVR at home, but I’m still convinced there is a way to make it work. It’s what I do on my own, but I’m highly motivated to keep learning. I’ll continue working on a viable solution to this.

FVR In Class

Implementing a FVR program in class is, in my opinion, the best solution for presenting to learners a wide range of pleasure reading texts. A growing number of instructors are building personal libraries of level-appropriate novellas and allowing students to self-select a book to read. They act as curators of fascinating stories for their students to peruse, and they give access to books in L2 to students who wouldn’t have it otherwise.

This is a flexible option that you can easily add to your teaching repertoire. For instance, you might plan for students to have 10 minutes of FVR time, three days per week (perhaps after doing routine items such as the date, weather, etc.). If they respond well, you could up it to four or five times per week.

The goal is to get learners to fall in love with reading in L2. In this way, they will continue to seek out things to read on their own and extend their language acquisition journey indefinitely, well beyond the 10-15 weeks they spend with us.

As instructors, we know that those who read more have better vocabularies and command of grammar. Scheduling a time to pleasure read in class is a way to ensure that learners actually get that opportunity.

Perhaps surprisingly to some, FVR is actually an efficient use of class time. Why wouldn’t you want your students to read more? Give them the opportunity, and they will benefit greatly from it!

A Call to Authors and a Thank You

The thing about story is that we have an insatiable appetite for it. To this end, there are many storytelling educators who are trying their hand at writing short, level-appropriate novels for language learners. I am one of them. Below are the FVR novels I have published to date, and there are more on the way. I am sincerely grateful to all those who have read my work and/or have supported me to this point. It’s been quite an adventure. 

Las tres pruebas – Spanish
La vida loca de Marta – Spanish
La espía huérfana – Spanish
A espiã órfã – Portuguese

If you have ever thought about writing a novel, I highly encourage you to do so. It’s easier than ever to publish a novel, and our students need many thousands more titles to choose from. Perhaps this is the medium for you. There’s something deeply spiritual about an artist journeying to and from the divine.

Disclosure: Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase after clicking through the link. Please understand that I have experienced all of these books/products and I recommend them because they are helpful and useful, not because of the small commissions I make if you decide to buy something through my links. Please do not spend any money on these products unless you feel you need them or that they will help you achieve your goals.