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Homework: READING




estimated reading time 4:18


Teacher friends always joke, “I should have taught P.E., then I wouldn’t have all of this work to [assess].” They would say “grade,” as would we. We’re from that generation, you know, the one that collected every homework assignment and actually put a grade on it. The one that - in those days - would subtract partial points (yes, PARTIAL points!) for misplaced accents. The one that, as education and students began to change, tried desperately to hold on to our red pens.


To those who have been tightly gripping those pens for so long that calluses have started to form: those days are over. It is time for a paradigm shift. Or a couple. Let’s start with teacher workload. It’s a lot. Too much, really. So, what’s a teacher to do?


I have no advice for teachers of other subjects, but I do have a couple of nuggets for those at the helm of world language classes. The first tidbit is to examine the WHY behind teaching a language. One Spanish teacher we know once said to her own students, “Speaking is really the best skill I can help you practice.” Isn’t it, though? 


It’s the end of 2023 and folks all over have access to the world (and translation programs) at their fingertips. It doesn’t take but a few clicks to have a phrase translated for whatever the purpose might be. Since the dawn of the smartphone - and definitely post-pandemic - what is missing is human connection. And guess what? Language is used for such communication! If we can shift the focus of language education to learning to USE the language (proficiency) rather than learning about it (grammar), we all might be a lot better off, be having a lot more fun and really working at curing the affliction that is monolingualism here in the United States. Honestly, it’s embarrassing.


The second tidbit (more like a bite) is about a change in homework for your classes. The DigiGals will like to suggest that the homework assignments be changed from [whatever you’re doing now] to reading. Yes, reading. At any and every level. 


But:


  • what if the students are novice-learners?

  • (there are comprehensible readings for students of all levels - plus, with glossaries, they can do it!)

  • what if the students don’t do it?

  • (fact: not all students do the work that you assign now)

  • what if it’s too hard?

  • (given that you make it low stakes, you might find even your reluctant readers will make an effort)


What if…


We say:


  • what if reading assignments reinforce and help develop the skill?

  • what if students DO do it and DO learn how to tackle something challenging?

  • what if students are allowed to read what THEY want to further develop their interests?

  • what if it IS hard and students use the glossary to figure it out?

  • what if students are given a reading assignment that they can do on their own schedule (not having to read at the pace of their classmates)?

  • what if the whole exercise generated enough excitement that students wanted to get to class to talk about the book they’re reading?

  • what if you didn’t have to assess any of this work?


Okay, it’s no secret that the DigiGals want students to read. We are delighted when we earn enough money to buy a fancy Starbucks drink. But really, we are passionate about reading as a skill (a reading populace is an informed populace), but we also want you to have to work less. Let reading do a lot of your work for you, keeping in mind, of course, your new rationale for teaching language: communication.


The DigiGals are not going to steer you wrong. We know this works because we’ve been doing it for years (so have language arts teachers, by the way). But, if you don’t want to hear it from us, just read the message Jen received from a student who read one of her books:





So, there you have it. Language for communication and reading for acquiring that language. Some of that other stuff, pull an Elsa and LET IT GO. You’ll thank us.


Oh, you don’t have a library of comprehensible readings for students of all levels? Ha! We DO! Check out our library at www.digilangua.co. There you can sign up for a free trial to check it out. And, if you’re game, check out the platform for a month. You can get up to 180 students reading for only $29.

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