FVR Library: Easier Than You Think!

**Updated 3.7.19**
Hypermiling to add packets of text to the FVR shelf regularly!

Mike Peto had great things to say about Free Voluntary Reading (FVR) and Sustained Silent Reading (SSR) on Episode 6 of Teachers That Teach.

How could it possibly be easy? Mike recommends building your FVR library by first making booklets of known class stories that are 100% comprehensible.


This is obvious, yet doesn’t seem to be a common practice, especially for Latin teachers lamenting over the legitimate lack of understandable reading material! If you think about it, the typical Latin teacher engaged in collaborative storytelling/storyasking probably has 10 stories by the holiday/winter break, and maybe even twice, or thrice that! Unless the class has been reviewing old stories as part of a detail-adding, or story-improving activity (which is great, BTW), there’s a good chance that students have forgotten details from the earliest of stories and wouldn’t mind a gentle walk down memory lane. Oh, and students should be able to read them fluently (speed + accuracy), which is a great confidence booster!

So, with everything you need to build an FVR library before more hideously easy books are published and you get funding for several copies, go format those typed-up class stories for booklets, print ’em out, and start setting aside class time for reading!

How? How much time?
An FVR program is simple to begin. Remember, this is FREE reading, so it’s best to avoid assessments and accountability. If all students are reading the same book, it’s known as Sustained Silent Reading (SSR), although Mike said that he calls it that anyway just so students don’t say something snarky like “well if it’s voluntary I’m gonna just sit here.” Once you have a few materials, be sure to hold FVR consistently. If you can’t do it daily, start weekly. As far as time goes, Mike says “if students can read for 7 minutes, give them 5—you don’t want them to get bored with it.” This is good advice. I’ve been doing 15 minutes every few days, but I’ve noticed that a murmur develops towards the end…looks like I’ll drop down to 12min or so and see what happens.

13 thoughts on “FVR Library: Easier Than You Think!

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  3. What about allowing students to ask for the meanings of occasional words during FVR? Would that disrupt the flow? They could just raise their hand and the teacher could come over and give them that word. That might make some of the older “easy readers” more accessible, if there are a few words they don’t know that aren’t glossed in the book.

    • I’m not sure what you mean by “allowing” students to ask for meaning!? In a classroom based on comprehension, this is standard practice all the time…a non-negotiable as far as I’m concerned. Students should feel comfortable clarifying comprehension outside of FVR. I wonder what gave you a different impression? Oh dear!

      If you are responding to my statement of “legitimate lack of understandable reading material,” then I think we—as an entire profession—must reevaluate our expectations of what students can actually do. Check out this PPT on what “understandable” should feel like when reading (https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/0BxlEdumlZ-b0b0hxSE9pZDFxZTg/edit?usp=sharing&ouid=104289529158025566272&resourcekey=0-zsm-ZAnjZbmPg5ukloU9Fw&rtpof=true&sd=true)

      The “easy readers” might be easy…but for whom?! There’s nothing more discouraging than giving a Latin III class “easy readers” they can’t understand. The “few words” unknown could be enough to lose interest immediately. When reading becomes work, students lose focus of the message, and instead think of it as a task. There is no evidence to suggest this is beneficial for anyone.

  4. I suppose “allowed” was a poor choice of word. There are two reasons I asked that question:
    1. FVR is sometimes called Sustained *Silent* Reading, so I wasn’t sure if that was the expectation
    2. The focus is on reading material that is easy and at their level, so I wasn’t sure if that meant they shouldn’t *have* to ask about the meaning of a word–if they have to ask, then the teacher has failed to provide appropriate material.

    Maybe I meant, can we choose reading material allowing for students to ask about a word, so that if there’s a text with a few words per page they don’t know, I could still put it on our reading shelf. I don’t know whether such things exist–I have several “easy” readers, but I didn’t ever really use them because they didn’t track with the vocabulary or forms in our textbook. But, since I’ve gone away from the textbook more and more, these books might be useable again, depending on how they fit with what we are doing in a more CI class. For example, I think I have one that I didn’t use because it used debere, which our book didn’t use for quite a while. But if I’m using the 51 verbs approach, they will be very familiar with debere…

    And I’ve wanted to ask about the PowerPoint…but I think what you just said clarifies what I was wondering about. Namely, isn’t it possible to teach reading strategies in Latin that develop in students a skill for understanding words in context, so that they don’t have to understand 95% of the words? Like with Jabberywocky–given the morphological tags, you can still get the story even if the words don’t have an actual referent…

    But is the 95% mark for reading that is pure enjoyment: a text with a higher percentage of unfamiliar words could still be read, but it would be a task, or work, not pleasure reading, sort of like reading Shakespeare in a literature class? So, there might be a place for that kind of reading, but we shouldn’t tackle that sort of thing until they’ve read simpler stuff for hundreds of hours–sort of like reading Shakespeare in a literature class–and you would question whether we would *ever* get there without a K-12 program.

    • Kids choose own book during FVR, but whole class reads the same thing during SSR. When you print out a class story and have students read for the first 5min of class, that’s SSR.

      Lot’s of thoughts in there, but I agree that the approach to reading you mention would best be suited for those who continue studying Latin, but then I wonder if such strategies would be necessary.

    • Hi,
      During our SSR time, i have student simply write the vocab on the board along with the page number, if another student notices and knows it, he/she writes the meaning. At the end of the reading time we discuss and define any remaining vocab. It doesn’t seem to take away from their reading time with little to no disruption. I could be doing it wrong, so if there are other suggestions on how to address that same question, I’d love to know.

      • OK? I don’t run into that problem, so I dunno. Almost every text students have during SSR includes a full glossary (I’ve been adding those to texts that don’t have them already). However, SSR is a step before we do something with the text, either whole class or pairs, during which I move about and clarify meaning.

        I wonder if the defining and discussion on the vocab level is necessary, though. Unless you mean discuss the meaning of the text and go over anything that comes up then.

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