I love to read and was a voracious reader throughout my childhood and adolescence. Unfortunately, most of my students don’t seem to share the same interest in reading as I did when I was their age (which wasn’t all that long ago!). Since many of them dislike reading in English, getting them enthusiastic about reading in French is no easy task!
I do my best to make the actual process of reading more fun for my students and I often read to them to provide them with input that is both comprehensible and accurate. From time to time I like to take the heat off of myself and have the students do the reading – but I also don’t want to have to worry about students making comprehension errors when I step back, which means that I would have to work double-hard to undo something that had been cemented into their heads incorrectly.
Enter…volleyball. It’s a technique I picked up a couple of years ago at a TPRS Workshop and it is probably my students’ favorite reading strategy. It works best with smaller chunks of text at a time – say, an Embedded/Extended Reading or perhaps 1-2 pages of a chapter in a novel – and it provides students with LOTS of repetition and CI (provided that the text you pick is comprehensible)!
First, the students and I read through the text together; I give them the French, and they respond together in unison with the English translation, line per line. This is what helps to provide comprehensibility. If it is a text that features a lot of structures the students are already familiar with, I will ask them to read it together with a partner, and circle or underline any words/phrases they don’t know. Before we start volleyball, I will clarify the translations of those words or phrases.
Then…we play! Students sit with a partner, and they begin to “volley” back and forth; Student A reads the first line of the story in French; student B translates that line into English, and then reads the following line in French. Student A translates that line, then reads in French, so on and so forth. During this time, I am circling and listening for accuracy; if I hear an inaccurate translation, we clarify, and I send them back to the beginning of the story. After an indeterminate amount of time, I call, Arrête (Stop)! and the students stop reading. If Student A was in the middle of speaking when I called stop, then Student B gets to mark one point on his/her paper and vice versa. I do my best to vary when I call stop, so that the students can’t predict when I’m going to say it. If they get to the end of the reading sample before I call stop, they are to go back to the beginning and start again.
Whichever partner has the most points at the end of the game is the “winner” – and students usually ask for a rematch, which I love – more repetitions! and the students love – more game time!