After taking the course with Marcos Benevides and considering all that I had been doing all year around, I decided to go for it. We had worked with music, TV shows, Group reading using Zombies in Tokyo (which they all seemed to enjoy) in class, focused on particular points of the language in order to comprehend and learn when using those authentic texts, played games where they had to put what they had learned into practice, etc.. My hope was that they would see the benefit of reading in English according to their level and eventually implement it on their own (more about this soon). As that was the last bimester of the year, we would have only about 6/7 weeks for that.
My supervisor always reminded us that in our office there were graded readers. So, I knew it wasn’t going to be a problem using them, and that I could also count on her to help me think it through. One of the things that she pointed out when we sat to discuss the project was that our library was pretty small and that I should take into consideration that before inviting students to choose their own story. I had about 28 learners under the intermediate level and 50 books to use according to our inventory. I brought some of my own books, raising the number to 60.
The FIRST STEP was to tell my supervisor about this project.
It’s very important to get your supervisor involved. My supervisor did not only helped me think more about the project, but was also present when I brought my groups in to choose their books. She observed their reactions and engagement and we talked about it.
What had I done and planned to do?
In the first bimester, I worked with different activities, including the beginning of a multiple-path story called Zombies in Tokyo (prediction, reading and listening skills, storytelling, vocabulary, grammar, etc.). The main objective then was to develop vocabulary by discussing learning estrategies and making sure they understood that being active is an important part of the process. Plus reviewing and reinforcing very basic verb tenses.
In the second bimester, we worked around TV series by identifying the main theme, characters, and also giving opinions. In the third bimester, the focus was music. In both bimesters learning estrategies, expanding vocabulary and working on grammar basically by reinforcing verb tenses in context of use.
Week 1 is a comic book story by Monica’s gang. I’m introducing the concept of level of language and how to choose a graded reader. During the reading stage of the short story (9-page comic book story), they are asked to mark the time (how long do you take to read it without stopping to check meaning?) and signaling which words they don’t know by just circling. After finishing there are two things I can do with them depending on the group: One is asking them to go back to the text and try to guess the words using the context, and note down the words and their hyphotesis in their notebooks or as I did yesterday with 9A to ask them to write a summary in English for higher levels and in L1 for level 1, 2 and 3.
This bimester, they will be asked to read 1 graded reader according to their level of English. In order to find that out, they are advised to read couple of pages and note down on a piece of paper the words they don’t know. Depending on the graded reader, they will have a certain number of words per page. I can’t beforehand say how many words per page they should be looking for, but research says that there should be less than 2% of unknown words for the reading be enjoyable, and also productive for learners to reinforce language. That way, if they do come across new words, comprehension will not affected and they might be able to guess from context using their previous knowledge of the world and the story itself, or they will have to use the dictionary.
So, I’ll mediate the process and help them choose it. They will read it at home and have tasks like book summary and presentations to accompany it. They will also receive a reading plan for them to register their own progress and general questions. That will help them write their summaries in their notebooks. I’ll create a sharing time where each one will tell in English (higher level) and read in English (lower levels) their summaries.
(this is part of the email I sent to my supervisor)
I do not subscribe to any method and I think it is important for us teachers to know as much as possible about the variety of ways we can reach out. We all know that the more learners have contact with English, the better but that it is challenging when your level is very low. Stories are compelling and there are excellent graded readers out there. In few days, vacation will be over. I hope to see down with my supervisor and see in what ways we can improve our library and start a program with ER in our school as a way to supplement our classes and show learners that they can read in English, learn while enjoying it.
Research shows that the amount of reading learners need to do is high, so in this particular experience it was like I said just to introduce it and also for me to learn/see with my own eyes how learners would react to reading books instead of guessing how they would feel about it based on the common sense that learners do not like reading.
Vance Stevens recommendation, I hope you find it useful.