Independent Reading Lessons

When it comes to the fairly recent phenomenon of independent choice reading for Latin, how do students choose what to read, and what do they do when flipping through the book? These simple lessons get students thinking about why we want them reading level-appropriate books and to understand how important it is to choose ones that feel easy, as well as what we mean by actual reading (vs. some other close reading, skimming, etc.). Most importantly, perhaps, we want to show students the difference between what a translating experience and a reading one is. These two lessons are scalable, but I recommend taking at least 15 minutes.

A) How To Choose A Book (requires novellas with full glossaries)

  1. Students choose 3 random books from the library.
  2. Read/”read” that book, using the glossary for unknown words (~3 minutes).
  3. Count up total words read/”read.”
  4. Repeat with other two books.
  5. Share & Discuss.

Students should have a range of words read (e.g., 20 to 200). Mention that some might have been unlucky enough to have chosen the three highest level books. Obviously, they’re not gonna get as much out of a higher level book. The main thing to point out is that the book each student read the most of should be the kind of one they choose during independent reading. Strategies like “if you have to keep flipping,” or “if it feels too much like work” should send the message to get a book that’s at- or below-level, resulting in optimized input. N.B. get this poster from Eric Herman if you don’t already have it. I constantly point to it during class to show priorities (i.e., 1 = lots of Latin, 2 = must be comprehensible…). Once they get the idea of which kind of reading level will be most helpful, because you still get a lot out of books that are easily read and below-level (see Bill’s tweet below), do another mini lesson on how to read.

B) How To Read (or, Reading vs. Translating)

  1. Read book as fast as possible, skimming and getting the gist of what’s going on (~1 minute).
  2. Count up total words read.
  3. Go back and read for understanding, as if they had to tell someone who didn’t know Latin a) what the story is about, and b) what’s happening right now in the chapter (~1 minute).
  4. Go back and read as if to memorize and describe everything with incredible detail! (~1 minute).
  5. Share & Discuss.

The main point to make is that #1 is waaaay too fast. All that input doesn’t matter if students can’t recall what happened, or have no idea what’s going on. #3 is waaaaay too slow. They’ll never get enough input reading with that much attention to detail while trying to memorize. #2 is what we’re going for: reading with enough comprehension to retell the story to someone else.

One thought on “Independent Reading Lessons

  1. Asking for feedback about the reading experience one year, a student said that at the beginning of the year he had to translate into English to understand the text. By the end of the year, he was able to read in Spanish and immediately comprehend with out the need to translate into English. The power of reading is that you learn to read.

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