Reading Program Update Part 4: Data of Student Preference

This is part 4 of a 5 part series on the recent advances in my free choice reading program.

In this post, I explore how reading data can reveal student preferences, which the teacher can use to ignite future reading interest. Here’s the spreadsheet for one of my classes. Open it to check out in detail what I’m talking about.

Book Analysis

It is super interesting to sort the spreadsheet by student and then by rating. In each and every case, conclusions can be made.

Take Rachel for example:

Rachel Tumba 53 8
Rachel Billy Y Las Botas 49 7
Rachel Soy Lorenzo 50 7
Rachel Pobre Ana Moderna 57 6
Rachel Problemas in Paraíso 72 6
Rachel Robo en la Noche 74 6
Rachel La Clase de Confesiones 61 5
Rachel La Familia de Federico Rico 92 5
Rachel La Maldición de la Cabeza Reducida 58 5
Rachel Los Baker van a Perú 50 5
Rachel Patricia Va a California 45 5
Rachel La Chica Nueva 49 4
Rachel El Capibara Con Botas 37 3
Rachel El Escape Cubano 35 3
Rachel El Nuevo Houdini 62 3
Rachel El Ratón Pablito 109 3
Rachel El Silbón de Venezuela 42 3
Rachel La Bella Mentira 62 3
Rachel La Casa de la Dentista 114 3
Rachel Brandon Brown Versus Yucatán 57 2
Rachel Daniel el Detective 45 2
Rachel Don Quijote el último caballero 52 2
Rachel Edi El Elefante 98 2
Rachel Brandon Brown Dice la Verdad 81 1
Rachel Brandon Brown Quiere Un Perro 69 1

Rachel clearly needs some help with browsing strategies. She has read 19 books that she hasn’t liked (rating of 5 or below). I’m kicking myself right now for not having collected data sooner, which I will be sure to do from the start of the reading program in the future (one step at a time, though, right people?). It’s not a perfect trend, but the tendency is that she prefers more advanced books. Yes, she’s highly ranked Tumba and Billy y las Botas, but other than those two, the 4 books she’s ranked 6 or higher are more advanced in text type and more mature in intended audience. And ALL the books she ranked below 5 are toward the basic end of text level and/or are thematically intended for younger audiences.

I’m thinking that perhaps more advanced texts and/or mature themes will bring higher ratings for her. On Monday, you can be sure I’m going to give her a stack of books to peruse containint the likes of the following: Esperanza, Sobrevivientes, Casa Dividida, Todo Lo Que Brilla, La Hija Del Sastre, La Guerra Sucia, Vector, and Hasta La Sepultura. Among those titles, there are books of war, revolution, the triumph of the human spirit, mystery, tragedy, the suffering under dictatorships, corruption scandals, the fierce fight for the moral right, exploitation of the poor, etc. There are a number of formats from historical fiction, to fiction, to mystery. I’ll also throw in Bryce Hedstrom’s Conexiones, which is a more basic text than those others I’m going to suggest, but is unique in that it is the only expository texts. Perhaps she’ll love that. We will see.

Nearly every student’s data reveals valuable information on preferences.

Take Amanda, yet another interesting case study:

Amanda Cuentos de Chonko 50 10
Amanda Cuentos de Chonko 50 10
Amanda Cuentos de Chonko 50 10
Amanda Fiesta Fatal 74 10
Amanda Piratas Del Caribe Y El Mapa Secreto 53 10
Amanda Piratas Del Caribe Y El Mapa Secreto 53 10
Amanda Billy Y Las Botas 49 8
Amanda La Casa de la Dentista 114 8
Amanda Quíen fue George Washington 101 8
Amanda Billy Y Las Botas 49 7
Amanda El Silbón de Venezuela 42 7
Amanda Los Piratas Del Caribe Y El Triángulo De Las Bermudas 88 7
Amanda El Capibara Con Botas 37 6
Amanda La Vampirata 71 6

I can read between the lines here and infer that not only does she have a broad reading interest, but she is also drawn to books with an element of adventure or sci-fi themes. The three books with Pirates are all buccaneering sort of adventures. Additionally La Vampirata and  El Silbón de Venezuela have Latin American legends or mythology as part of their plot underpinning. With this in mind, I might pull a few titles for her to check out: La Calaca Alegre for its afterlife or supernatural themes, La Llorona for its take on the widely-known Latin American ghost legend of the same name, El Ekeko Boliviano for its inclusion of the supernatural ekeko legend and for its similarities to El Silbón de Venezuela in intended age audience, and maybe I’ll slip in the biography Santana as a stretch in a new direction, since she seemed to like the bio of George Washington (rank of 8) and I know she loves her band class and is an avid violin player.

I could go on and on. And I will over the next couple of weeks in class as I have individual conversations with students about possible future books to select. Collecting data on reading has definitely given me a glimpse into each students’ reading style, a glimpse that will aid in making suggestions for future reading choices and hopefully, in the long run, the development of a full-blooded reading habit.

Disclaimer: I haven’t analyzed anything other than two sections of Spanish 3 Honors. My gut tells me that it will be much harder to infer reading preferences with level 1 and 2 kids because the breadth of possible reading options is drastically limited by their more novice vocabularies. They all start out with Edi El Elefante, the Brandon Brown‘s, etc… I still think over time, even at lower levels, collecting data will be really helpful in working with students to find great books for them.

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The research is unequivocal: reading for fun is an extremely efficient technique for language development, in any language. Collecting this data will definitely help me take my free choice program to the next level! Maybe, just maybe, my suggestions will help students identify as a reader and develop an intrinsically motivated reading habit! That’s the goal at least!

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