Follow up on Reading Groups

I just looked for Carla’s and Ruth’s comments (they’re on October 25) to figure out that to get kids to re-read a bit today in those small groups, I will have them draw pictures of what has happened so far. Since I’m going to test rotating the leaders, that will also give those leaders time to read what the group read yesterday.

Then, if we keep going with this, they can eventually use those drawings to retell. I want to limit their output though. I have to also tell the student leaders that if they do ask comprehension questions, the answers need to require mainly one-two words.

(Later) That is not what I did. Instead I had a new volunteer, so we started by talking with him (he’s very interesting), and reviewing reading rules. Using vocabulary he used, I demonstrated PQA. Then the small groups read. My group was very focused. I had told our visitor to focus on verb endings. Then we did a dictation, Ben style, and then we continued a story. The reading and a little bit of writing before the beginning of the story made the kids extremely voluble during story telling. It was as though all that input primed them and they were overflowing with language.

I guess we’ll do pictures tomorrow.


6 responses to “Follow up on Reading Groups

  1. Someone following this reading thread recently commented on how the kids in the reading groups go up to the board and write the words they don’t know, which helps the slower groups because then all they have to do is look up at the board and find the words already explained. It keeps slower groups up with faster groups. Anyway, thanks for that idea.


  2. Hello Michele,
    This week I tried your reading groups idea. What I understand from your reading rules is that you are basically asking the ring leader to do the work you would do with the whole class, PQA, some grammar points etc. So they become a mini-teacher. Is this correct?
    I don’t have native speakers that could do that so well. So yesterday with level two classes I tried it like this: in groups of five kids everyone would translate a paragraph at a time to the group, the ring leader (or anyone else that could) had to provide the words when the student got stuck, then the ring leader had to ask questions about the reading in English (it is very hard for them to ask questions in Spanish and even the fast processors had a hard time) and the rest would have to answer in Spanish.
    I thought the translation part worked well because all of a sudden everyone is responsible, it was less intimidating for the shy-slow ones to do it in a group and to get the words from their peers rather than from me. They liked this.
    Regarding the questioning part, on one hand it seemed like too much English in the classroom, most of the answers were yes or no, some required production which I’m not sure is the right thing to do when reading, so then there was no real discussion in the TL.
    How do you make the discussion work in the TL in the groups in which you don’t have native speakers?
    I found the whole process very, very time consuming. I’m not in a rush if I knew that the outcome over time is increased reading comprehension. Right now, having tried this only one day in three classes it’s hard to tell if the slower ones are really benefiting from this.
    Also: it was my intention to read to them in Spanish after they had translated and I ran out of time, hence they didn’t get the auditory part.
    Do you have the super stars read in the TL first before they translate?
    My student’s pronunciation is not so good, so I don’t see students reading in Spanish as a positive for comprehension of the entire group.
    What do you think? Where could I improve?


  3. Dear Laura,

    Great questions! And good job trying it out!

    I would not do this in a level 1 class (except that now I have a newly literate Russian in my level 1 class). All my other groups have at least three levels (from 2 up) so there are superstars whether or not they’re at that level. Yesterday I had mixed superstars from level 4 and 5 leading a group of level 3 kids.

    The leaders read the text out loud in the target language. I probably wouldn’t do reading groups on a regular basis if potential leaders’ pronunciation is not good; at this point, I would teach the skill and then use it for sub days or for an occasional change from the usual routine.

    Kids do like it–they’re not as cowed as when the whole group is working together. They seem to feel more responsible for helping figure things out.

    The leaders ask comprehension questions briefly in Russian. If that’s too hard for them to do, they should skip it. It’s better to teach them to give true/false statements about the reading. That way, they either read a sentence from the story, or they insert a negative into the sentence to make it false. That forces everyone to re-read the text.

    Hope this helps!


    • I realize I didn’t really respond to a couple of things you said. First, it’s a great adaptation (if you need it) to do the questions in English. But as you said, there’s too much English then.

      I think, given the situation you had, where you wanted a change, you might do this: you read aloud the paragraph in Spanish to the whole class, then the groups translate together, and they turn their faces toward you when their group is done translating. That way, you can hear which groups need more help, and they’ll still hear the Spanish correctly.

      I’m with you on not really wanting kids to provide input at the lower levels. I’ve been doing this on sub days, in the mixed class (with kids who are truly way ahead), and now with native speakers.

      They do need some practice to be able to do it smoothly on days that you are croaky (as Carla said), as a change of pace, and to know how to do it when there’s a sub. But otherwise, having the teacher lead reading is most often the best choice. We certainly don’t want to waste time!


  4. That idea of using T/F questions is really good! So simple and unintimidating, yet it gets the job done.

    I tried training leaders today in my level 1 class for reading and translating. I taught the leaders and then had one of the groups do a demo. then they led the groups. It was a nice change of pace. The pronunciation was an issue. But what I noticed was that students were so much more involved with the translation. They were smiling a lot. They made more progress.

    Then I had the groups draw the story, one picture each. It was just enough work for them for a day– they stayed pretty focused. And it saved my croaky voice. Great change of pace! Sometimes the content monster in me comes out, and I think that has happened with Piratas at times, taking the fun out of it. Ben’s voice rings in my ears about focusing on the kids and not so much on the content. It’s true that if I can get them to love reading in a foreign language I will have had much higher success than if I just get them to the end of the book. This activity helped to put some of the fun back into it for them. Thanks again for sharing it.


  5. Thank you for your thoughtful comments.
    I forgot to say that in one class I read a chunk of the text in Spanish and had them do the translating after in their groups. So then the groups that were faster kept on translating as I helped the slower ones. Now some have read more than others.
    I asked kids individually about their thoughts on reading this way:
    –they all felt more comfortable translating in a smaller group, especially the slower ones,
    –some were not sure they had understood correctly the more difficult parts, (should pay more attention to this next time)
    –some felt uncomfortable about having to ask questions (English) or answer them (Spanish)
    I’m thinking I can keep experimenting with reading groups as a way to re-read. So, after the class reading with translation and discussion, have them re-translate to each other in smaller groups (not more than three). It will take longer to finish a book, but maybe there will be more gains from the confidence re-reading can give.
    I like to experiment and the kids appreciate the effort.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s