I really think that it is important that Spanish students begin reading real authentic works as soon as possible. As a result, with my eleventh grade students (A class that would mostly equate with an advanced level three or regular level four class), I developed a very intentional reading curriculum. During the first term, I used newspaper articles and current events with the students. At some point in the near future, I will post on using current events in the classroom. However, in the second term, I focus on literary works. While my students have access to the book Abriendo Paso, and we read many of the stories from this text, I also like to incorporate some element of choice. Therefore, I decided to use literature circles, much like teachers in elementary and middle school English classes. I made a list of the works that students could choose from and I created a series of worksheets which could accompany any literary work, as I knew that it would be important for my students to perceive the amount of homework as fair. The worksheets can be found at my TPT store, which is linked to the lower right hand corner of the blog. While the purpose of this post is not to promote the worksheets, I hope to give other teacher's ideas as to how literature circles can be completed without the seeming "unfair" component of different homework assignments.
Here is how I set-up the literary circles. In the class, I have informed the students that over the next twelve weeks, we will be reading six works (a work every other week). Upon the completion of the work, students will turn in the literary question worksheet, along with a personal reaction to the work that they read. The reaction specifications include items such as not summarizing the work because it is important to me that students personalize the story to their own lives. While the worksheets are all different, they contain similar elements. Some items that are included on the worksheets are asking students to find different verb tenses in the stories, or asking students to make word webs, or writing discussion questions for their literature circles. While I recognize that a two page worksheet is not overly long, I also count reading the work as part of their homework or class work, so I do not want to overload students too much as we will be continuing with grammar as well. Two days a week, students will meet with their literature circles to meet as a group and to discuss the work, their questions, items that they might write about for their reaction etc. Some days, I encourage the students to read the work together, especially in the beginning as they start new stories. Additionally. Every month, or after we have read two works, students will complete a project on one of the two works that they have read. Once again, the students are provided with numerous project ideas as to how they can both convey their knowledge of the work and add their own elements to the project.
I am generally fortunate in that my students are motivated to learn and practice speaking in Spanish, so I do not have to do too much reminding for them to try to use the target language; however, I have in the past, simply asked students to fill-out a small participation form in which students rank their use of Spanish in the class in the following manner.
4: I both stayed on task and spoke only Spanish
3: I spoke in English, but it was relevant to class and on task
2: I mostly stayed on task and mostly spoke Spanish
1: I had difficulty staying on task and speaking in Spanish
I found that having students rank themselves a few days in a row, quickly brought their conversations back into Spanish.
While I certainly recognize that a downside to completing literary circles is that students may not fully comprehend a work without a full class discussion to clarify certain elements. I generally find that students' enthusiasm for reading increases throughout the term, as they view their classmates projects and then are curious to read the story for themselves. Additionally, weaker students learn to ask me questions during the two days that they meet in-class with their groups, once they have received negative feedback on an early reaction or from the first worksheet being graded. Upon the completion of the term last year, most students viewed the literary circles positively when asked to complete an anonymous survey about the term.