FVR/SSR · Technology in the Latin Classroom

FVR Setup and Tour

I’ve written a few posts on how I do FVR , so I thought I would post some visuals to help you… well… visualize our routine.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, my Latin 2 CP class does FVR, which I refer to as “silent reading” with them. We do silent reading for a minimum of 5 minutes each time, but I increase the time by 1 minute each week or so (it really just depends on how I feel and how they are getting on that day).

I tell whoever gets into class first to grab the doc box, which lives in this podium that I picked up from the band teacher, who was giving it away a few years ago:

IMG_2257

That student puts the doc box on one of the empty desks in our room. The students know that they are supposed to grab their reading log and current book out of their hanging folder from the doc box as they walk in.

Some students choose to start reading before the bell rings and class begins, but most of them wait until I have taken attendance and we have prayed. Most of them don’t mind silent reading, and some of them really like it, but only a few of them are fond enough of it to do it before I start the timer.

If it’s the beginning of a new month, students know they should grab a reading log from behind my desk. The space behind my desk is pretty open, and I generally don’t mind students being back there as long as they aren’t at my actual desk. I love that this class knows exactly where they are supposed to go to get reading logs and that they do it without being prompted. The reading log folder is behind the no name papers folder. By the way, I bought this contraption at Wal-Mart for about $15. It has three paper trays (I use those for ZipGrade forms) and five folder slots at the top. As you can see, I use those folder slots for what I think of as “universal” items – things that apply to most of or all of my classes and aren’t specific to a certain stage or unit.

IMG_2280

Once the kids are in their seats with their books and reading logs, I start the timer (just Google 5 minute timer or whatever you need). Sometimes I project it on the board. As students read, I circulate. Some teachers read while their students read, but this is not a class that can go without me watching them like a hawk for 5+ minutes. It’s just not going to happen.

A few students will finish reading their book or story before the timer is done, and that’s okay. They know that they are supposed to fill out their reading log (feel free to use), give the book they just finished to me, and then request a new book by first looking at the options on what we affectionately call Lil Bib (read about libib.com here; view my library here). After they find the book they want, they request it through a Google Form on my Haiku page (our LMS).

This is where I come in. I have set the Google Form to alert me whenever a student requests a new book. I find the book they want either in the milk crate where most of the books live or on the cardboard display I got from the Chessex booth at Dragon Con (for free!). Both of these things are immediately behind my desk for easy access.

I use the barcode on the back of the books to check them out quickly. I am very Type-A and have a secret wish to be a librarian, so when I realized that libib gives you the ability to print barcodes to use to check out books, I went to town.

img_2268.jpg

I place the returned book in a “check-in” spot on the window ledge next to my desk and place the new book with the student’s last name written on a post-it note on the cover in a “check-out” spot.
IMG_2264

I have my work study student place the check-out books into the students’ file folders in the doc box when she comes in after school.

This whole process sounds like a lot of work, I am sure, and it is definitely more work than having students simply put their books back on the shelf each day. But since I share a classroom, I just do not have the space to have a set-up like that. Surprisingly, though, the process really only takes about 5 minutes total to check in all the finished books and check out all the new books.

I’ll close this one out with some photos of the books I have either printed from places like Tarheel Reader or created in Google Docs. Our library is awesome and binds these for me for free. These are easily some of the most popular titles in the FVR library. I think it’s for two reasons: 1) they are pretty easy, since most of these are either written by students or for novice-level readers, and 2) they are colorful and have pictures.

IMG_2270img_2266.jpgimg_2276-1.jpgimg_2269.jpg

Classroom Organization · FVR/SSR

More Apps and Websites I Love

I left off two websites from my first post on this topic in December, and I can’t believe I forgot to include them. I use both of these on at least a weekly basis.

  • ZipBooks. In my first two years as Latin Club moderator, I used a combination of pencil-and-paper records and spreadsheets to keep track of club spending. You might not expect it, but Latin Club (what we call our JCL chapter) has a pretty decent amount of cash inflow and outflow every month. I allow students to sign up at any point in the year (although I highly encourage them to sign up by the Phase 1 deadline for GJCL), which means that if nothing else, we usually have dues to charge. But there are also field trips like Fall Forum and GJCL Convention for which we have to charge students and then send off checks, and there are pizza orders, bus reservations, T-shirt orders, NJCLHS registration, and more. I didn’t really have a great setup for keeping track of these simple debits and credits from our Latin Club account, so I did some “shopping” online for a free basic bookkeeping website. I tried out quite a few, including Wave, but I landed on ZipBooks because it is easy to use, allows for custom categories, and has a simple interface. I don’t need something complicated, and while it looks like ZipBooks could be used for business bookkeeping (especially with a premium subscription, which gives you a general ledger, 1099 summary, and a bunch of other goodies), the free version gives me everything I need: a button for deposits, a button for expenses, and a balance sheet. I highly recommend it if you want an easy-to-use site to keep track of club expenses.
  • Libib. We share classrooms at our school, which means I do not have room for an FVR library. Instead, I keep my FVR books in hanging folders in a milk crate for compact storage. But this presented me with a problem from the very beginning. I wanted students to be able to “browse” the books that are available to them, but I wanted to know who was reading what at any time. I looked at several different websites for classroom libraries, but nothing gave me exactly what I wanted… until I found Libib (pronounced luh-bib, but my kids and I call it Lil’ Bib). Here is a link to my classroom library. I want to say upfront that I pay the $5 each month for the premium version, but it has everything I dreamed of and more. I haven’t found another library site that gives you all of the following:
    • Custom entries. Most free library sites I found required you to enter an ISBN when creating a catalog entry, but because so few FVR titles exist for Latin, I do a lot of printing from sources like the Mille Noctes database.
    • Custom groupings. Other sites would group by AR level or Lexile level, but again, this is Latin, and a lot of this stuff is just printed from Google docs. I am able to create custom groups based on difficulty levels that I have created for my students. I have also been able to set up my classroom library site so that the books are displayed by difficulty group rather than by ABC order.
    • Descriptions and photos. I wanted my students to be able to see the book covers and read a summary description of each book.
    • Book status and multiple copies. My students can see how many copies of each book I have and how many copies are currently available to check out.
    • Tons of stats. I can get reports on what books a given student has checked out, reports on general lending data from my class, and more.
    • Tags. Students can view books according to their difficulty groupings, but they can also click on a list of tags I have created to find books according to their topics. When we did an FVR self-assessment last fall, most of my students reported choosing a book based on its content rather than its difficulty. I don’t mean to say that most of them are choosing books completely out of their ability range, but most of them will choose a book that’s a little bit harder if it’s interesting to them. The tag list helps with this. The tags they seem most interested in are the graphic novels/comic books tag and the scary stories tag. Finally, it’s also a great way to organize series. I use tags for the Puer Ex Seripho series, Lance Piantaggini’s Pisoverse series, the Secunda comics, the I am Reading Latin series, and more.
    • Playing librarian. I can check books in and out with my desktop or phone, and, because I am a giant nerd, I have been able to use Libib and the Avery Labels online lab to generate barcodes for all of my books (even my custom-created books) so that I can quickly scan books to check in/out. You can even make library cards for your students, and if you’re so inclined, you can set up a “kiosk option” where students use an iPad to check books out to themselves.
FVR/SSR

Starting FVR: How

I’m following up a post from yesterday entitled “Starting FVR: Who, Why, and What.” I want to share the logistics of doing FVR in my classroom, but with one caveat first: I am doing FVR with a class of 20. I am not doing this with all of my sections, so there is nothing to keep up with between classes or among all three Latin teachers at my school.

First, sourcing the books. I put together my FVR library by using a few sources:

  • I bought (out of pocket) the novellas. You can see which ones I own in the link to my library above. My school has the funds to purchase these materials or reimburse me for them, but I bought them out of my own pocket a little at a time so that in the off chance that I ever leave my current school, I will be able to take these with me. There are a couple of titles that I am missing, but I am working on them.
  • I cobbled together stories from a few different places online: Tarheel Reader (especially anything by Anthony Gibbins – and especially his Gilbo “novel”) and the Latin Teacher Toolbox Story Database being the two big sources. There are some story collections in the Latin Teacher Toolbox database, but I compiled my own in a series of Google Docs.
    • Let me say a quick shout-out here to the librarians and library staff at my school. These ladies are amazing. They have allowed me to print several copies of each story collection and then bound all of them for me. About half of my students are using one of these bound copies for their first FVR selection, and I can’t overstate how big of a blessing it is to have these resources available.
  • I threw together my Latin I students’ 4-word stories into a Google Doc and had that printed and bound. I plan to do this with all of the 4-word stories that they write this year. I am not sure what scanner or app Keith used in the link above, but I use TinyScanner Pro on my phone and it is awesome for this, especially because you can upload directly to Google Drive. Here is a link to the Google Doc that this first round of stories ended up in; please let me know about any grammar errors, since I (somewhat notoriously, I think, among my students) do not actually proofread anything like a good teacher should.

Second, leveling the books:

  • I created my own system for leveling these books. You can see the levels in the link to my FVR library above. I wanted something that would be student-friendly; that is, I wanted students to be able to translate the levels into something they actually understood and that meant something to them. What I ended up with was Level 1-A, 1-B, 2-A, 2-B, and so on. The way that I explained this to my students was that an average student in the middle of the first semester of Latin 1 could read a Level 1-A book. An average student in the middle of the second semester of Latin 1 could read a Level 1-B book. You get the idea.
  • When making these levels, I had to consider a handful of factors. First, vocabulary. Anything that deals exclusively with CLC vocabulary from about Stage 1 to Stage 8 is Level 1-A in my mind, unless it throws in some (second factor) really advanced grammar… all of which is to say, if you do your levels the way I did, yours will probably look different. It all depends on what you target (or don’t target) as you progress through your program. We follow CLC, so that’s the guide I was using.

Third, creating the hype. I did this by:

  • Talking up the program over a few days. Some of my students were intrigued and excited, but most were apprehensive or apathetic. (It’s okay. They are teenagers, after all.)
  • Setting aside a half day in class in which I gave them a quick talk about each book in a Google Slides presentation. I then had students fill out a request form. I do not plan for them to keep filling out request forms since they will all be ending their books (and thus starting new ones) at different times, but for this first go-around when everyone would be starting at the same time, I wanted to “assign” the books based on their requests just in case there was an overwhelming demand for a given book. Luckily, each of my students was able to get their first choice.
    • You’ll see that the request form has a section that says “I think I should start at level…” I have been pretty impressed with most of my students. The majority of them chose a level that I would have chosen for them as well: out of a class of 20 in their first semester of Latin II, about 12 of them are at 1-B reading. Of the other 8, I would say about 3 of them are 2-A while the other 5 are 1-A. That’s one of the reasons I love teaching this class: there is such a wide variety of students in it, and they all learn from each other every day.
  • Making a big production of showing students where the books would be kept. I am keeping them in hanging folders with students’ names in a milk crate.
  • I had my students sign a pledge that the library (again! don’t know what I would do without them) printed for me as a poster. The pledge details the 6 rules that I needed to lay out for FVR to work in my room.

Finally, I created a reading log that each student fills out every time they read their book, even if they are doing it as an “early finisher” activity. I have been peeking at these as they read, and I am pretty excited to see most of them circling 4 and 5 for understanding. I am considering changing this to a Google Form in October so I can get consolidated instant data every time they fill it out, but I’m also not too keen on them immediately opening their computers – it always takes a minute (or more…) to get them “back to reality” when the devices come out.

I want to follow this blog post up with a more detailed “where and when” FVR post and maybe include some pictures of my classroom setup and (faceless) pictures of some of my kids reading. Fingers crossed that I can get it done this week!

FVR/SSR · Learning Disabilities in the Latin Classroom

Starting FVR: Who, Why, and What

Salve/te! Sorry for the absence. I had an incredible summer of traveling: Italy in June with students, then Hilton Head the week after with my family. Down here in Georgia school starts the first week of August, so I really tried to use July not to work very much, including here on the blog.

But now that we’ve been in school for almost a month, I thought it was time for an update. I’m pretty excited about this post, since a lot of us Latin teachers are diving in to FVR this year or looking to improve upon what we’ve been doing. I want to give some insight into the “who, what, when, where, why, how” of the FVR program I have started running in one of my Latin classes. To keep the post from being too long, I’m going to split it up over the next few days.

Who? Why?

I am using FVR with my Latin II CP students this year. At our school, CP is a different level from CPA. I teach Latin I CPA, Latin II CPA, and Latin II CP. Students are placed into CP Latin for any number of reasons, most relating to learning disorders. It’s a rigorous course, but we move more slowly through CLC. The goal for both CPA and CP Latin is that students build fluency in reading Latin (among other goals) by the fourth year, but we take a more grammar-focused approach in CPA.

The other difference between CPA and CP Latin is that students might move between teachers at the halfway point of the year in CPA Latin. We have three Latin teachers, and in the lower levels, there are multiple teachers teaching each level. There are 4 sections of Latin I CPA and 4 sections of Latin II CPA; I teach 3 of Latin I CPA and 1 of Latin II CPA. With CP, however, students stay with the same teacher throughout the year since there is only 1 section of CP per level. So far with the way the schedules have worked out, we have actually looped up with our students (so that I am teaching my Latin I CP students again this year in Latin II CP), though that may change.

All of this is to say: I am running an FVR program with my CP students for a few reasons.

  1. They are a singleton section. There is no other section to coordinate with, whether a section of my own classes or one of my colleagues’ classes. This makes them perfect as my “trial run.” If we need to change something about the program, we can change it just for 20 kids, not for 60-something, and not in multiple classrooms. This also means that I am keeping track of books going through the hands of just 20 kids, not 60-something.
  2. Many of my CP students have dyslexia, so we are working on a skill that many of them struggle with in English as well. When we discuss best practices for independent reading as a class, my hope is that some of these skills will transfer to English reading. Another long-term hope/goal is that we would be able to have audio recordings of some or all of the books in our library that students could listen to while reading. I hope to have a post out at some point that describes our experiences – whether successes or failures or somewhere in between – in this area.
  3. I think it will be good for this CP class. I love these students; we are very close after having been together for a full year. We have gone through a lot of ups and downs together due to some circumstances and situations in some of my students’ lives, and because of those experiences, we seem to have bonded a lot. Now, they drive me (and each other) crazy sometimes, but at the end of the day we are nothing if not comfortable with one another and aware of one another’s quirks and preferences. This makes certain things easier, like asking them to do something brand new like FVR. I also think some of them like getting to do something the other classes don’t do.

What?

What does FVR look like in our class? First of all, we aren’t calling it FVR in class, although that’s what I call it (and intend to call it) on the blog, Twitter, and elsewhere. If I told my students that we were doing something called Free Voluntary Reading, they would say (I promise): “We are not volunteering to do this.” And they would kind of have a point. So to them, I call it Silent Reading most of the time. Sometimes I call it SSR (Sustained Silent Reading), although I know that technically, there is a difference between SSR and FVR (FVR = the kids pick what they want to read; SSR = the whole class reads the same thing). But SSR is a lot more descriptive of what we are actually doing: it is sustained, and it is silent.

We have actually only done one FVR session so far in class, although students did read their books on Friday after they were done with an activity, so we squeezed in another round of reading then. This is the way it works and will keep working (I hope):

  1. We plan to do FVR on Tuesdays and Thursdays. We are starting with 5 minutes; every 2 weeks, I will add 30 seconds to the time. Originally I wanted to add 1 minute every 2 weeks, but I think a more gradual build-up is going to be what we end up with. I project a timer on the board while they read – this may change if I see them checking the timer too much. (For a free timer, just Google “5 minute timer.”)
  2. It is the first thing we do in class. I don’t want to worry about them trying to pack up at the end of class. I also like starting class, if I can, with a calm and focused activity.
  3. I say “We’re doing Silent Reading today. You need to get your book from the milk crate. You can start reading as soon as you get your book, but I am not starting the timer until everyone is seated with their book. If you start reading on your own, keep your own time.” If they are keeping time on their own, they can use their phone’s stopwatch, but their phone must be face-down on their desk.
  4. Then… they read. I have a set of rules that I will share in a later post, but they are to be silent the whole time, reading the whole time, and dealing with words they don’t know (context clues, glossary, et al.) before they ask me about them.
  5. When they’re done, they fill out a simple reading log, which I will share in a later post. Right now the log is on paper. I’m considering moving it to a Google Form for easier data collection, but we’ll see.

The first day that we did this, they had just gotten a big talk about how they had to be silent the whole time. No talking to friends. In the middle of reading, I started hearing a student giggle. I turned around and firmly reminded them that they were not supposed to talk to friends during this time. The student looked really confused before saying, “Ms. Briscoe, I’m laughing at this book! It’s really good!” Heart-melting.

After our first session, a lot of my students (even the ones I was banking on not liking FVR) were really excited. It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows; some of them definitely weren’t excited and wanted never to do this again. I will find out why. With some of them, I think they chose a book that was too hard for them; with others, I think that they do not do much reading, period, and are struggling with reading for 5 minutes straight. Hopefully I can keep you posted on what solutions I find for this handful of kids. But for now, I will leave you with some real live quotes from my students after our first FVR session:

  • “This is really easy.”
  • “I only made it to the second page [of Cloelia] but I love it so far. The backstory is really interesting.”
  • “I was happy that I knew most of the words.”
  • “I liked it because it was funny.”

And… my favorite:

  • “I wanted to keep going so I could find out what happens.”

***

Update: There’s a follow-up post here on how I started FVR.