Poster 5: When You Read in a Foreign Language

Beforehand, find a children’s book with big enough pages to be seen by all. It must have a big picture of an object and the word for the object below the image. Then you can give this little speech about reading:

“OK, so let’s talk about how reading in [name of language] happens. Can you see that on each page of this book there is a picture of something, like a ball? And underneath the picture is the word ball (or whatever object you have with a picture and the word for it beneath the picture). “So what happens, and this is the beginning of reading, is that the person reading to the toddler says the word, and the toddler hears it and recognizes it because he has heard the word before and he associates the sound he hears with an actual ball because he has played with a ball before.”

“So the toddler hears the sound, makes the association with the actual ball, and now, sitting on mom’s lap, he sees the ball, and, since he can’t read, he doesn’t pay any attention to the squiggles beneath the picture. But each time he looks at that book and mom says the word ball, he notices the squiggles making more and more sense to him. So he associates the B sound with the first part of the word and so on.”

“That is how we learn to read. First we hear a word, we associate it with something that we have seen or heard, then we see the word below the image and pretty soon we can read a sentence like ‘The pig chases the ball.’ in [name of language].”

“That’s how reading works!”

“As I have said, we will be reading in Phase 4 of the Star.” (Show the poster again so that they can see Phase 4.) In fact, you can see here how we are going to do a LOT of reading activities this year. That is because reading is just about the most important thing that people who want to become educated can do. It’s the #1 thing.”

Poster 5 - Point 1

“So now let’s talk about the individual points on this poster. Will someone read Point 1?” (Someone reads it.)

“Now, here we see that I’m just asking you to read for fun. So, here in the Create Phase of the Star [refer to the Star poster here], first we create a story by speaking, that is to say that we kind of “speak” the story into existence. And then once we know what it means, we review it here in Phase 2 of the Star, then in Phase 3 I write it, and then in Phase 4 we do some reading activities made from what we created together in Phase 1 here. Then we do some extension activities on what we did in the previous four phases of the Star.”

“But the first point about reading here on this poster is that you have to enjoy reading silently. Any questions?”

Poster 5 - Point 2

“OK, let’s go to Point 2 on the green reading poster.”

(Someone reads Point 2 on Poster 5.)

“OK, this is almost the same thing as Point 1, right? It isn’t a competition! You get to relax and read knowing that you won’t be tested on it. That’s the way you learn [name of language], not by being tested or compared to others.”

Poster 5 - Point 3

(Someone reads Point 3.)

“Point 3 is about cognates. Does anyone know what a cognate is?” [Discuss, defining the term as ‘a word that is the same in both languages’.] “See, the thing about cognates is that they exist in languages that all come from the same mother language that they spoke in Rome 2000 years ago: Latin is the mother language and the five romance languages that come from it are Spanish, French, Portuguese, Italian and Romanian. [Explain here that the label “romance” for these languages means only that they came from Rome.] We’ll learn about the history of languages later.”

“But basically, although English didn’t descend 100% from Latin, it still has lots of Latin-based cognates in it, so sometimes when you read [name of language if you teach a romance language] when you read you can identify cognates.”

“Like you may be reading along and see the word important. (Write it on the board.) In Spanish, French, Portuguese, Italian and Romanian it looks almost exactly the same as it does in English. That’s a cognate.”

“So, if you are already lucky enough to know a romance language like Spanish, this class should be very easy for you. And even in English, you can look for cognates, because, for example, the word important is the same in both English and [name of language being studied if it’s a romance language]. The only difference is that they are pronounced differently.” (Say ‘important’ in both languages so they can hear the difference.)

“Cognates definitely help you become a better reader.”

Poster 5 - Point 4

(Someone reads Point 4.)

“This is a really good way to learn how to read. Since we make the stories up by talking in class - and we only read them after we know what they sound like and what they mean, right? - we hear it before we read it - then what Point 4 is telling us is that if you try to sound the word out, you may be able to figure out what it means because you may have already heard it in a story over here in the Create Phase of the Star.”

Poster 5 - Point 5

(Someone reads Point 5.)

“We’ve talked about the word ‘context’ before, right? It means that a word has other words around it that help you know what it means, right? Remember when we talked about how individual words like ‘pig’’ by themselves can’t convey an idea unless they have other words around them? They can only convey a picture, but one without action, right? We talked about that. And then we said that when an individual word like ‘pig’’ has words around it, for example ‘That pig is blue’, then that means it is ‘in context’, right?”

“So, when you read, if you know all the words in a sentence except one, just look at the words around the one you don’t know, and you might be able to figure it out from the words around it, that is, from context. So that is just a little trick to help you be a better reader.”

Poster 5 - Point 6

(Someone reads Point 6.)

Note: Whether you have a lot or just a little information on your classroom walls doesn’t matter. I prefer less information. The point is that you want to encourage your students to have free access to whatever information they can find quickly anywhere they can find it, but without looking in a dictionary.

Important point: if your students can’t read something you give them, then that is because you haven’t given them enough listening first. That is also why in Star level 1 classes we don’t ask our students to read the little chapter books that are out there. It is unfair to too many of our students who haven’t had access to reading materials in the years they were growing up. It is unfair to ask kids to read books that they haven’t first listened to and understood in context. Therefore, use those “novels’, the chapter books, in level 2. Don’t use them in level 1.

It is not equitable to give the advantage to students with a strong background in reading, that is, usually kids of privilege. Try to limit what you ask your students to read to what they have created with you and their classmates in class in the Create Phase of the Star. It will prevent your class from splitting down racial and economic lines, thus keeping everyone’s confidence high.

Poster 5 - Point 7

(Someone reads Point 7.)

“Are there any perfectionists in this classroom? Point 7 of this poster reminds you that you will never be able to read perfectly, so don’t feel bad or fret about it. Sometimes you students are your own worst enemies because you have been made to believe that success in school means “knowing everything”. It’s not true! As I have said, language acquisition takes years and years and years! Give yourself a break and allow yourself to not be perfect. Read what you can and leave the rest. That’s what this last point on this poster means.”

Complete and Continue