Thursday, June 14, 2012

Summer Reading & Podcasts - My Summer Personal Development Plan

"Picking up word meaning by reading is 10 times faster than intensive vocabulary instruction."  - Stephen Krashen, The Power of Reading.

"Incidental learning of words during reading may be the easiest and single most powerful means of promoting large-scale vocabulary growth." - W.W. Nagy & P.A. Herdman

"Teaching vocabulary lists is inefficient - the time is better spent reading alone." - Stephen Krashen.  

(quotes about reading listed in Bryce Hedstrom's book Stuff for Spanish Class)

The more I read about language acquisition in a second language, the more I understand the importance of reading. The past school year was the first year that I had a two times a week planned SSR time for my Spanish classes and it was, hands down, a success.  I discussed SSR with my students on the last day of school and the overwhelming response was that they enjoyed it and felt it was beneficial to them.  Many said they think it should be at least 3 times a week.  

So now that it is summer and I have some spare time, I followed the advice that I give to my students and went to the Community Library and checked out three Spanish books for some easy summer reading.  I"ll start with the James Patterson book, Los Puentes de Londres" and Sandra Cisnero's La Casa en Mango Street (sometimes I have the habit of reading two books at the same time). Then, if I haven't obtained En Llamas yet, the second book in the Hunger Game Series, I'll start the Twilight Saga books.  One of my all-time favorite books is El Alquimista by Paulo Coehlo and I'm considering reading that again, just for fun, and then possibly using it in Spanish 5 in the future.

Our community has a wonderful library that has a huge selection of Spanish books.  There are children's picture books, young readers, classics, novels, biographies, fiction and non-fiction, how to books, magazines, DVDs, videos, audio books, encyclopedias, science books, cookbooks - just about any type of reading you can do in English is available in Spanish.  The librarian that is in charge of the Spanish section is open to suggestions on what types of books to add to the collection.  Just recently she went through the books that were not checked out very much and offered them to me instead of discarding them.  I now have even more books for my class library to use for SSR time.  

Another thing I've added to my summer personal development plan is listening to podcasts in Spanish.  I usually walk a minimum of 3.5 miles each day.  If I don't have a walking companion, I take my iPod and listen to Spanish podcasts that I've downloaded so I can multitask and take advantage of the time while I'm walking.  I find it beneficial to listen to the same podcasts several times to pick up on words or phrases that I may have missed the first time; another reminder to me that I have to go S-L-O-W when I'm telling stories and talking to my students in Spanish.  

If you have a favorite Spanish book that you'd like to share with me or podcasts that you like to listen to personally or use in class, I'd be interested in hearing about them - so please feel free to share them.  :)


  1. It sounds great and very productive! Could you explain in a bit more detail what a SSR session is? When I get students reading a book, they find it hard because there is lot of vocabulary they don't know and then they get dismotivated. I would be very interested to see how you get your students to enjoy reading in Spanish.

  2. Hi Alice
    The SSR format (sustained silent reading) was 2x per week for 12-15 minutes. From the first day of SSR they chose their book and sat quietly and read, no complaints. Their cooperative behavior tells me that they must have SSR in English classes and they already knew the expectations.
    My 4 classes last semester were 1-Spanish3; 2-Spanish4; and 1-Spanish5, so it is probably much easier for them to find books they are successful reading than for a first or second year student. What ages are your students?
    I bought Spanish readers written specifically for language learners and children's Spanish books on e-bay w/ grant money (total of 117 books), plus I added books I had bought through the years. Some students chose books that were too easy for them, but I was fine with that. Some kept reading the easy books, but many chose a harder one the next time to find something closer to their level. I'm sure there were some that weren't as appreciative as others, but overall I think they enjoyed it, because as they said when we discussed it, it showed them their progress and what they were actually capable of doing without me at their side helping them.
    (I listed most of the books that I bought on this blog in the fall of 2011.)
    This fall I'll have Sp1 and Sp2 classes so we'll see if they like the reading or not.

  3. Thank you for your answer, it really helps. My students are between 11 and 17 years old. I also bought Spanish readers from this website: The thing is the class read all the same book I chose for them! I will have a go at SSR, letting students choose what they want to read is more motivating for them!