Motivation…it’s what I’m lacking this morning, but I think motivation is increasing in my classroom, and I thought I’d share a few ways I’ve added spark to make that happen. I can’t take credit for all the ideas though. Many have come from what I learned by reading The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller. Have you read it? If not, I suggest you grab a copy for this summer.
Over the summer, I read The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller, and the sequel, Reading in the Wild, which was just released is up next for me as soon as I finish this one. So what have I taken from this book??
Well, in the first few chapters, Donalyn talks about current practices in reading (whole group novels, reading study guides, and the amount of times kids actually spend reading). We teachers like to talk, and when we spend all the time talking, the kids are getting less and less time to practice. Whole class novel study…hits about 1/3 of the group. The other 2/3s are either not interested in the book or read above or below the book’s level. So what do we do to change this? The answer is in choice.
Match Reader to Book
One thing students are motivated by is having book options that fit their interests and reading level. We all know “One Size doesn’t Fit All” especially with reading. Some students need high level picture books (poor attention…picture support…need for vocabulary). Some students have the perseverance for chapter books, but have decoding struggles. Books with controlled vocabulary helps with that or getting into a series such as Ready Freddy or Magic Treehouse. Others need to find the right book to fit their interests in order to persevere. A little basket with “recommended” books might point children in the right direction. This child is selecting from my high level picture books basket. (Upper grade teachers…don’t overlook the value in Polacco, DePaola, Cherry, and VanAllsburg. They have fabulous vocabulary and model plot development and characterization well. Gail Gibbons and Seymour Simon’s nonfiction are challenging too.)
Making Connections with Your Students
Making connections with kids is really important too, and I started after Christmas inviting my kids to come in before school to read. It’s my planning time, and I carry on with things I am doing in the room much of the time, but this time is building a community of readers and a culture of reading. It allows me to check in with kids in the morning about the night before, what exciting things are happening outside of school, talk about their favorite sports teams and *about what they’re currently reading*. Yes, there are times that it’s not convenient to have a crew in my room, and sometimes, I have to cancel with meetings, but I just love it. I captured this picture yesterday. It was so quiet in my room that you could have heard a pin drop. I have a corner of my room dedicated to my library with cozy beanbags and crate chairs. The kids just pile in, and I just love it! Sometimes we’ll head back their for reading group time too. It’s also not unusual for kids to carry their laptops back, prop them on the crate chair, and type from the floor. It works for me as some kids don’t “sit well” and need a distraction free area to work. That motivates them too.
Assess Your Readers
Miller categorizes readers as developing, dormant, and underground readers. My kids are mostly developing readers, but a few are dormant. Developing readers are building fluency and comprehension skills. They have lags, so book selection for them is really the key to getting them moving along the reading continuum. For the dormant reader, motivation is ticket. They’re fluent and comprehend well, but they just do not like reading and aren’t reading outside of school. They haven’t found the right books to awaken the inner reader in them. So what’s the answer? Well, that’s where we come in. We need to spark that interest TODAY. (Well, technically…Monday 😉
For other ways to spark motivation, you can check out Joanne’s blog, Head Over Heels for Teaching. I would also love if you share your ideas for sparking reading interest in the comments below. I’d love to hear what others do that works well too.