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Where do my students start? September 16, 2009

Posted by mrsmerritt in Getting Started.
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Where do my students start? This is the question I am most frequently asked. Do I give them some kind of test? I don’t want it to be too easy or too hard. How do I match up the right book with the right kid?

I make all my students start with Pobre Ana Bailó Tango. Initially this was because I had the Blaine Ray readers available with comprehension packets. Now, however, I could have them start anywhere but choose to start them with Bailó Tango.

For every student I have had, this is the first book in Spanish they have read. For most of them, it is the first reading of any type at all in Spanish. They are overwhelmed and convinced that they can’t read in Spanish. I guess they think it takes a long to learn to read in Spanish as it does in English.

I want them to see that reading is reading. If you can read in English, and you speak Spanish, you can quickly become literate in Spanish. Since I am swamped at the beginning of the year with my conversational kids, I don’t have a lot of time to dedicate to them. I know that there won’t be any unknown words in Bailó Tango. I know the sentence structures will be comprehensible. I KNOW they can read this book without instruction or supervision from me.

And remember, that is a key factor in the program. It has to be independent.

So, the first week my native speakers do what the class does. It takes me a week to identify them. They don’t come with labels telling me that they are native speakers. I have to dig them out.

This also helps when I give them their first book and packet. I tell them, “you have worked with the class for a week, you can see that you aren’t going to learn anything in this conversational Spanish class are you?” They nod in agreement.

It takes a normal students 2 weeks to get through Bailó Tango.

I do require that my students read the first Magic Treehouse book. I just need to know that they can read at that level and I want them to know that they can.

After that we begin negotiating. They can choose to continue through the magic treehouse or move to a different series. I check their list of unknown words. There will be some from the first Magic Treehouse. I just want to make sure that it isn’t a long list. I also look at the reading log to see how long it took them.

This year I had two girls who finished their first magic treehouse book and packet in 2 days. They both wanted to read Crepúsculo. I let them. At the time of this posting one is half way done. I don’t know about the other.

Some students will elect to read Magic Tree House all year. The question I ask myself is, ‘What is my real objective here?’ I want them to learn to read and write in Spanish. Can they accomplish that by reading Magic Tree House? Yes they can. I know that their vocabulary will grow from Magic Treehouse. It has a lot of technical vocab.

I have learned that students won’t stick with a book that is above their level. They lose interest if it isn’t comprehensible. I always allow students to quit a book if it isn’t interesting. Remember, my objective is for them to learn to read and write not to develop a great love of classic literature or anything.

Last year only one elected to read Tree house all year. Most read some goosebumps. Two read Twilight. I wish more of them would be brave and read some other books. But, if they are reading I am happy.

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