The ABCs of Providing CI Through Remote Learning: N is for Novels

After I read some of Dr. Stephen Krashen‘s academic papers about the incredible importance of reading in the target language (TL), I implemented a pretty robust reading program in my world language classes composed of independent reading and whole-class reading. (For more on reading a novel as a class, click here. For more about independent reading in a world language class, click here). Things were going well until the current pandemic hit. When my school district closed, my seventh grade French class had only finished four chapters of Carol Gaab‘s novel Brandon Brown Veut un Chien.

The company that published the novel, Fluency Matters, generously provided access to the Brandon Brown Veut un Chien online e-course, first for free and then at a reduced and very reasonable price. The e-course included online access to the novel that students could listen to and read, access to the glossary, and three quizzes per chapter. The software automatically corrected the quizzes and recorded all grades in an online grade book. It was all very convenient and easy for me as the teacher.

Not all Fluency Matters novels are available as an e-course, but the company does offer other novels in an e-book form, meaning that it is still possible to listen to and read the novel online but the online quizzes and grade book options are not available. As far as I know, Fluency Matters is the only company that sells CI novels in electronic form, although the company TPRS Books and independent novelists like Mira Canion offer audio downloads.

Disclosure: I have no affiliations with Fluency Matters or any other businesses mentioned in this post. I just like sharing tools that are easy, free, and help World Language teachers provide more CI to their students. 

At first, I thought I was all set with remote learning work for my Grade 7 class, but very quickly I realized that assigning a novel presented a problem. I had a large number of students who plowed ahead and stayed current with their work, but I had others who didn’t engage with the novel right away, or even at all in some extreme cases. Since the work was cumulative, students couldn’t do the current week’s assignments and then go back and makeup work from previous weeks. It pretty much guaranteed that students who realized that they had to go back and start at the very beginning were even less likely to start the e-course, because ten chapters and thirty quizzes just felt like SO MUCH WORK.

My school district is already saying that we may still be teaching remotely in the fall. I’ve already decided that I will not do another whole-class novel remotely unless it’s the kind that doesn’t have a continual story arc developing from chapter to chapter. Alternatively, I may offer an e-course as a choice of assignment for those students who like to read, or I may differentiate and only assign a novel to students who successfully completed the Brandon Brown Veut un Chien online e-course (For more about classroom choice, click here. For more about differentiating while teaching remotely, click here). But I guess I’ll have to wait and make my decisions once those in authority have decided what our fall instruction will look like.

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