Dr. Baros is a dedicated researcher, educator, and LGBTQ advocate. Her areas of expertise are proficiency-based language teaching and creating inclusive environments for LGBTQ students and people.
After hearing Dr. Beniko Mason present last weekend, I knew I had to set up a Free Voluntary Reading (FVR) library. Before I can launch it (which I'm planning on doing next week), I have to answer two questions: What will my students read? and How will I hold them accountable for reading?
For the first question, I'm drawing on a number of resources with increasing difficulty. At the easiest level, I am making the stories my classes have co-created available on my student website along with embedded readings (and audio recordings) for them. It sounds like a lot of work, but if each class only has one story or so per week, the payoff is huge because I end up with four original stories of similar proficiency levels along with embedded readings. The students are doing all of the work to create our stories and the illustrations - I'm just organizing them and simplifying them for the easier levels! And, in future years, all of the past stories will be available for additional reading. Our class story library will be HUGE, at an appropriate level with increasing difficulty, interesting, and I don't have to pay a single penny to build it.
There are also a number of other resources available, such as some readings I have personal access to. For example, I do have a few students who are advanced enough to begin reading Martina Bex's weekly "Mundo en tus manos" Newsletter. I organized this along with other reading materials into a Google Drive folder. I also included in the folder Bryce Hedstrom's reading log information, including why we read, how to choose a book, and useful reading strategies (he also has novice-level handouts for free on his page!). Finally, they can check out novels from my class library.
For the second question about how to hold students accountable, I found another use for our Google Classroom! I set up a weekly assignment with the requirements to read 30 minutes per week (my students are novice 7th graders, so I felt this was a good place to start) along with a Google Form that they fill out to receive credit for their reading. They must include their name, the date, the title of what they read, the number of minutes they read (they can get 1/4 extra credit point for each extra minute they read), and a brief summary of what they read in English. Why in English? First, it makes the reading less painful. Second, it's backed up by research. Dr. Mason did a study where students summarized their reading in a cloze format, L2, and L1 - and the students who summarized their reading in L1 actually wrote better in L2 than either of the other two groups even though they'd never written in L2. It's also important to note that I'm merely holding the kids accountable for their behavior (reading something with the intent to understand), but not assessing their comprehension through artificial questions. The students don't need to prove that they gained any particular knowledge, but rather just show me that they are getting the input that they need.
I'm launching my reading program next week - I can't wait! I'm hoping that I've provided enough free choice so that students can find something at the i-1 reading level AND something that they find interesting. I will be sure to report back!
I got a new toy this year when I learned that my new district provides us unlimited Google Drive space and access to Google Classroom (note: Google Classroom is something your "organization" must provide access to, both for you and your students). Prior to this year, I'd never used Google Classroom. To be honest, it really wasn't on my radar. However, the district's new teacher orientation put it front and center when they used it to teach use, and I knew I could use it in my own classroom. I'm feeling pretty happy about it now and I've barely even scratched the surface! Here's how I'm using it thus far:
If you've never used Google Classroom before, the best way I had it explained to me is that you have all of your files in your Google Drive (like your "My Documents" folder on your computer). Google Classroom is how you share those files with your students and how they interact with them. You can make announcements, create assignments, distribute handouts, host discussions, complete quizzes, and a host of other activities in your classroom.
If you're new to Google Classroom, I recommend creating a "test" classroom and playing around with it before you launch it with your students. Click buttons, create things, delete and edit them, etc. That's the best way to get to know the lay-of-the-land.
Your "Stream" is like your home page. This is where new posts appear (assignments, questions you pose to the class, and announcements). While you cannot create an announcement and instantly post it to all of your classes (I have separate classrooms for each class), you can "re-use" a post from another class. You create these posts by clicking the "+" sign on the bottom right-hand corner. Other things that appear here are Topics that you've assigned to various posts (like blog post categories), items that are due soon, and any comments that people make on the posts. Remember that the "Stream" tab organizes posts by date - old information will move down while new information will appear at the top. Anything that you want to "park" in one location for the entire course should go under the "About" tab.
The second tab is "Students". Here, you can get the class code for students to join your classroom (they do so by going to classroom.google.com, logging in, and clicking the "+" sign, then entering your code). You can see the students who have "joined" your class and send them an email (click the three dots on the row with their name). You can also set posting and commenting permissions for the entire class (drop down arrow at the top-right) as well as remove, email, and "mute" selected students (check the names you want, then click the "Actions" button near the top). I haven't played around much with the "invite guardians" button, but I've been told that the email has to be exact - if you're copying and pasting, be sure not to include any spaces before or after the email
Finally, there's the "About" tab. This is for anything you want to have in one place during the entire course. Edit your course description, see where the folder is with any class-specific documents (this is automatically created for you), and you can see the calendar of due dates (I need to play around with the calendar more). For me, the most important item is the "Add class materials" box. Here, I can park any information that I want my students to be able to access at any time. Like the "Stream", new boxes are added at the top of the screen, so if you want your sections of materials to appear in a specific order, be sure to add the sections you want to appear on the bottom first and create the sections you want to appear at the top last (I would love it if Google made it so you can re-organize this page without deleting and re-posting). Each section can have multiple items added to it, but these are added to the bottom of the list - so add individual items in the order you want them to appear. These can be file attachments (uploaded or linked from Google Drive), media, or links. My About tab currently has the following materials:
I'll finish with an explanation of how I use this every day with my students:
There are so many possibilities with this kind of technology. I cannot wait to explore more, and I'm lucky to have a Google Classroom expert in my building. I would love to hear your ideas as well and will continue to post more as they evolve!
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