Novellas: +2 Forward, -1 Back

With new novellas being published almost monthly at this point, opening up titles to choose from, I’ve been looking at how my own sequencing has been changing in the past year. I no longer feel the need to systematically read a) from lowest to highest word count, or b) shortest to longest book, a practice that constantly increases the demand of learners. If you think about it, what’s really the difference between that and using a highly sequenced textbook?! Such practice of constantly increasing demand also presumes learners have attended all classes, and/or develop language ability at the same rate, which is complete nonsense…

In reality, some learners process language faster, some slower. Nature’s cruel joke, however, is how language development is actually independent from how much input a learner receives. Don’t get me wrong. Sure, the more a learner listens and reads outside of class, the more *they* will develop, but we cannot expect all individuals in the same class to develop at the same rate, even with maximum levels of input and everyone reading a considerable amount outside of class. There’s still gonna be variation, and that’s just bonkers.

When the level of texts constantly increases, it will be too much for some, and yet not enough for others. N.B. that’s why planning for consistent independent reading, and having a class library with a wide variety of texts is so crucial. To address this issue, one idea is to read at-level, then below-level, then back at-level, then below-level, etc., and I’ve been able to experience this in the last couple years.

The times I’ve had a new below-level book coming out and wanted to test it with my students first, I’ve noticed how there’s an opportunity to re-engage the slowest processors. For example, we read Mārcus magulus (coming soon) in January as part of what I called a “restart” after holiday break. That book is the lowest now—even lower than Rūfus lutulentus!—and we had already read several novellas as a class that were longer and with more words. That easier reading experience in January not only instilled confidence in already solid readers, but also helped the ones who might have fallen behind, giving them another chance to catch up. In this particular COVID context of ours, too, reading that below-level text confirmed a suspicion I had that students weren’t actually at the level I would’ve expected that time during a typical year, or even where I thought they were this year. That is, the new, shortest book with the least amount of words was actually right on target with most students’ reading levels after the holiday break. This was at the 25 class mark, which is not that far off from my 2017-18 discovery of reading Rūfus lutulentus after 30 classes, only that strange year students had just one class of Latin a week!

So, how have you been sequencing texts? Is it all a steady, uphill climb? Do you have a support in place if you see someone trip? Are there supports for when they trip but you can’t see it?

Consider the +2, -1 concept as a solution.

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