Classroom Library

A classroom library is a great addition to your second-language classroom, especially as studies have found that children in classrooms with libraries read 50% more books than children in other classrooms. However, just having books available in a classroom library is not enough. This article discusses several characteristics of classrooms and teachers that nurture voluntary reading.  In terms of second language acquisition, there is nothing else that would help students to acquire a language more than reading. While we can provide some time for free voluntary reading within school, we have a limited amount with our students. This means that we need to help children learn to value and enjoy reading so that they will read on their own outside of class.

In order to do this, there are several things that we as teachers can do in our classrooms. First of all, we need to provide an allotted amount of time for silent sustained reading (SSR) where students get to self-select their reading material. This reading material should come from a classroom library and it is important that the library be well-designed in order to entice children to WANT to read. According to Morrow and Routman, the following features are an important part in achieving this goal. A classroom library should be the focal area of the classroom: it should be attractive and highly visible. There should also be a private, partitioned area set apart from the rest of the classroom and there should be for five to six children. This can provide a quiet place for students to read when they have some free time. Comfortable seating for this area is a must, whether this means carpet, chairs, beanbags, or whatever you have at your disposal. The shelving for the books should allow for as many books as possible to be displayed cover-out (see Rain Gutter Bookshelves). The books should be organized into categories (ie. genre, theme, topic, author, reading level, content area, etc.) and there should be a wide variety of genres and reading levels. The library area can also be made more attractive with literature-oriented displays (ie. book jackets, posters, etc.) and props (ie. stuffed animals, puppets, etc.).

It is also helpful for teachers to present literature to their students daily, even if this involves just talking with the class about a good book that you read recently or a book that you enjoyed when you were their age. You should also provide children with opportunities, time and materials to engage in book-related activities.

Rain Gutter Bookshelves

In his book The Read Aloud Handbook, Jim Trelease recommends using rain gutters to create bookshelves in a classroom. You can read an excerpt from the chapter where he discusses this idea and why it works so well here. Basically rain gutters are a cheap method of storing many books and they don’t take up a lot of space, which is an important consideration for many teachers. In bookstores, publishers pay a lot of money for their book to be advertised with the cover facing out. The books that are prominently displayed are rotated depending on how much cover-time they have paid for. Publishers, as well as bookstores, know that the cover of a book is what sells the product. In general,  face-out marketing enhances circulation, so storing the books in a way that showcases their covers makes them appeal more to children.  In fact, after observing a kindergarten classroom for a week, researchers observed that 90 percent of the books that children chose had been shelved with the covers facing out.

After attending one of Trelease’s teacher workshops, principal Mike Oliver spent nearly $3,000 on rain gutters and had shelving installed throughout the school, including in his own office. Read more about his experience in this article.

Group Choral Read

This is the most commonly used strategy for TPRS teachers when reading a text with a class. However, you should really only use this strategy if you are sure that your students as a group know the meaning of the structures. Start by reading one sentence aloud to the class in the target language. Then, while pointing to each individual word on the overhead or SmartBoard in the same order that they appear in English, have the students translate the whole sentence into English. You can also “conduct” like an orchestra if they are reading from a book rather than a screen. Since the students say the answer chorally, no one is singled out if they don’t understand a word and it is immediately made comprehensible to them so that they don’t get lost. A laser pointer is very helpful for this activity.

Source: Michele Whaley, mjTPRS