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   Reading buddies?
 From: Judith Hochberg
 To: Language Educators
 Posted: 08-24-2017 17:25
 Message: I teach Spanish at the university level. This semester I'll be teaching, for the second time, the final class required for the language requirement. (It is also the first class required for non-native Spanish majors.) This class continues to build language skills -- the main new element taught is the imperfect subjunctive -- but starts to segue into reading. In their previous classes the readings are all in the textbook, and are at most a few paragraphs long, but in this class the readings can be three or four pages long, and include fiction, memoir, and poetry.

As a non-native speaker I generally empathize with my students' language-learning challenges. I vividly remember practicing verb conjugations, memorizing vocabulary, and doing object pronoun drills, and I still struggle to roll my r's! But reading Spanish came naturally to me and I think this makes it harder for me to teach this skill. It especially pains me when a student has clearly made an effort to look up the new vocabulary in a reading, but is unable to put it together and extract meaning.

I do teach specific reading techniques (which students were supposedly exposed to in earlier courses), and I'm confident that our in-class review of the assigned texts is helpful, but I think the most important thing is for students to slow down and focus on understanding one sentence at a time. (I somehow think of this as "machete-ing" their way through a reading.) This is what I do when I meet with students one-on-one, but there isn't the time or opportunity to do this with all my students.

For this reason, this time around I'm thinking of assigning each student a "reading buddy", someone they work with to understand each reading. Ideally this will give them something akin to the experience they would get in a one-on-one session with me. I would assign each student a buddy at their own reading level, but also give stronger students the option of helping a weaker student. Buddy pairs would turn in a single set of answers to reading comprehension homeworks.

I also think that for many students there is a fair amount of fear involved in tackling a full page -- or pages! -- of text in a foreign language, and that working with a buddy would help.

Has anyone tried this in their classes? Any advice in general for teaching reading?

Muchas gracias,
Judy

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Judy Hochberg
Fordham University
Author, ¿Por qué? 101 Questions about Spanish
jhochberg@post.harvard.edu
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