It’s funny how we sometimes need reminded. For me recently, it was the value of personalized and relevant readings. I had been re-using some of my homemade readings in Spanish 2 and 3 (a good time-saving idea whenever possible). To my surprise, readings that used to be interesting to students were coming off dull and disengaging. I was confused at first and then it hit me. Readings that were a couple years old were already irrelevant. Characters such as Snooki, Megan Fox, Li’l Wayne and Channing Tatum were still known to students, but they were old news. Old news doesn’t really grab a reader. You know who does? Macklemore, Honey Boo Boo, Two Chainz, Ariana Grande (By the time you read this, they may already be “old news”). More importantly, the older readings contained no references to the students sitting in the class reading. I was reminded of a key to TPRS. For in-class stories AND readings,
STUDENTS ARE MOST INTERESTED IN WHAT IS PERSONAL
If it’s about them, it’s relevant. It holds them, maybe not forever but hopefully long enough to squeeze out every rep of a desired structure and soak them in contextual, natural language.
It is for this reason that I do not use novels or manufactured readings in class. I’ll use them for SSR or out-of-class book reports, but for focused in-class reading I use stories that I write. I’ve had the idea before of self-publishing all of the class readings into a book and giving it to students at the beginning of the year. But, I always dismiss the idea because I know the readings will quickly become irrelevant. There is usually nothing better than a story I write for each specific class. I often change the names of characters for each different section of a class. It makes for more work, but I don’t mind because . . .
1. The creative aspect of creating a story is one of my favorite parts of TPRS
2. The resulting student engagement is well worth the extra time