I have the easiest, newest, most beginner-appealing books out on the table. The rest go in color-coded plastic mini-bins (far left)
[Note: This is an update/revision of a previous web page]
It has been over 6 years since I started doing fvr/ssr* regularly in my Latin classes. In recent years, we have seen an explosion of novellas that students can read and enjoy in their first 2-3 years of study. Just for perspective, when I started “lectio otiosa” in 2016, I had only a few resources that beginning students could actually read, and most of these were textbooks. Now, we have over 90 titles of easy Latin readers, or novellas, about which I’ve written elsewhere. In addition to the abundance of resources for students to read, the community of CI-based teachers (of many languages) has shared and developed strategies to encourage students to become strong readers, both independently and in groups.
Here I will describe how I use FVR time and novellas in my Latin classroom, with links to all documents, slides, and other support materials.
Twice a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, students enter my classroom, and go directly to a wide folding table on the side of the classroom, with a variety of books laid out on it. I like to lay out the easier and most appealing books on the table, in stacks of 3-7. Students are most likely to choose these books. I also have a number of bins, also on the table, which contain other books, mostly ones that are more difficult. Students know to take a book and go directly to their seat and start reading. I then set the timer for 8-15 minutes, depending on the class, level, or particular situation. At the end of this time, students are given an additional 4 minutes to write in their reading logs, and then put their books back on the table.
The Reading Log
In the interest of minimal external accountability, while maximizing metacognition, I have developed a log in which students are able to keep track of what they read in a variety of ways. They must write the date, title and pages that they read (e.g. pages 32-35). They are then invited to write or draw something that describes what they just read. They can use Latin or English words, or just drawings–or any combination of these. At the bottom of each daily entry box is a place for them to write at least one memorable Latin word. This could be a word that they had to look up, or a word that they recognize from another book or class activity, derivative, etc. In the past, I wanted these words to be only new words, but I think it is more valuable if students decide why a word is important or memorable.
The log has 6 spaces on it, so after approx 7-8 sessions (3.5 weeks), I will stamp students’ completed logs. I do this by going around the room during one of their sessions, taking a quick glance at each student’s completed log, and stamp the top (a date stamp from a stationery story will allow me to stamp “CREDIT 3/14/2022”, which allows me and them to keep track of their logs chronologically), and I check the student name on a roster I carry with me around the room. I then enter this in the gradebook later, and it is worth equivalent to a test or quiz. If a student does not have a complete log, or not enough information, I point that out and ask the student to complete and show me the log by next week. Students keep their completed log for the end of semester self assessment (below).
At the end of the semester, students are required to complete a self-reflection exercise, where they respond to a few writing prompts (in English) about their reading process, how they improved, and what challenges they faced. They are encouraged to look over their completed logs, and use them as specific evidence of progress or lack thereof. They then staple three completed logs to the assignment before handing it in. This encourges students to think critically about the process of Lectio Otiosa, and to look carefully at their own progress as readers. I tell them up front that I am not grading their reading progress or ability. Rather I am grading them on their metacognitive ability: to reflect on their experience and notes, to come to some conclusions about how they have progressed, what caused or hindered progress, and what could be done differently next semester (by them or by me).
This is still very much a work in progress, but I am happy with how most of my students have embraced (even if reluctantly) this process. It really helps that I have so many more books available for students, especially very simple books which nevertheless touch on themes that are interesting to a variety of students. I have had students tell me that Lectio has helped their vocabulary and knowledge of Latin more than almost anything else we do in class (Latin songs are #2).
This is not something that you can simply start doing without specific preparation. It depends on your students, how comfortable they already are with reading, and how prepared they are to work independently. I introduce Lectio at the beginning of semester 2 of Latin 1. Before then, I will introduce the class to various novellas (starting with the simplest ones), and I may even read the first few pages storytime-style with the class, or give a xeroxed handout for students to read along with. Also, during flex days on Fridays, I will start giving students the option to explore the book table.
In response to student requests for more guidance, I put together a checklist containing most of the books in the Lectio library, in order of difficulty, which I taped to the wall behind the lectio table, and also make available to students who want it (but not required). This way, students always know what to read next. Or, if they have picked up a book that is too difficult, they will be able to go up the list to an easier book. By using a checklist format, there is an implicit (but not explicit or required) challenge for students to see how many of the books they can read. Students are also invited to use the checklist in their self-evaluation of their reading progress.
Other reading opportunities
Books from the lectio table are always fair game for other forms of credit in the class. For example, they can always simply read a novella during flex time, and if they want points, write a short summary (English or Latin) which counts toward their required independent work points. They can check out a book to read at home, or they can choose to read (and log) during our flex days.
Novellas have many different uses (whole class reading, book clubs, etc) which I encourage you to explore. The nice thing about novellas is their flexibility.
Where to begin?
My recommendation is to purchase 3-5 copies of as many titles as your school budget will allow, and start with the easiest titles (see checklist), working your way up. This will ensure that the books you buy will have the broadest appeal. I say start with the easiest titles because you can use them with your more advanced students (they might really enjoy some stress-free reading), but not vice versa.
Documents and resources:
In this Google drive folder, you will find all of the resources I am currently using, including the reading log, instructional slides, book checklist, my classroom inventory (excel), end of semester reflection assignment, and some random stuff. Feel free to contact me if you have specific questions about resources or their use.
*fvr = free voluntary reading. ssr= sustained silent reading
NB: for a historical perspective, check out my eariler FVR page. You can see what resources I started with, and take a look at the FAQ’s I have there.