Sunday, July 5, 2015

Francis on Motivation

One question that has been frequently asked by teachers around the world is “How do I motivate my students to read?”  Teachers are particularly interested in finding ways to motivate their students to read because to a greater extend their academic success depend on their ability to read. Reading is the vehicle through which much of the content is transmitted to the students.  I feel no different than the teachers I am describing above. In fact, everyday in my classroom, I keep thinking of what I can do to motivate my students to read more.

In the article Seven Rules of Engagement, Linda Grambell offers some wonderful tips to motivate students to read more. She for instance says that students are more motivated to read if the tasks and activities are relevant to their lives. I definitely see how this can increase student motivation to read. However, I keep wondering how possible this is for all the texts that the students will read. I feel that some times, students may be reading texts that have nothing to do with their lives. How then do I proceed?

Having access to a wide range of reading materials is another tip to increase motivation. As a teacher, developing my own classroom library based on students’ interest is a good way to do this. I would even suggest asking students for their ideas in terms of what books they would like to have. In lower elementary, this can be a challenge but to the greatest extend possible, teachers should involve the students.

Teachers should also give ample time in class for their students to just read. Granted, many would argue that there isn’t enough time to cover all the content and still have time to read. Well, it is true that teachers don’t have enough time. But it is also true that if we value something, we can create time for it. Promoting literacy should be an important thing for all the teachers. Beyond the reading, reading is a way to create social interactions amongst students, as they generally like to talk about what they have read with their peers.

If we give our students the opportunity to make choices in terms of what books they want to read, their motivation to read is very likely to increase. I have heard some teachers say that this is not practical as they have many students who need help, as they cannot make good choices. For struggling readers for example, as teachers, we can choose a selection of books that are at the students’ reading level and then present the books to them and have them choose. We would have identified the right books for them but they still had the choice.

In the article Reading, Gender and Engagement, I found out that girls are generally more engaged in reading than boys. Finding ways to encourage the boys becomes an important undertaking. One thing I can do is to have a wide range of reading materials that include themes and topics that boys are generally interested in. I feel that I would have to be very careful as I do not want to promote some interests as belonging to only boys and others for girls as this would be solving one problem but creating another.

I would also consider running a book club after school activity for boys. While this would be a forum to bring the boys together to read, I would also use it as an opportunity to find out other ways of motivating them to read. This may mean having them lead book discussions in class, having reader buddies in the lower grades where they go and read to the younger students etc.


  1. Francis, I was so happy to read this post because it really seems you got a lot out of the readings and the discussion. This comment you struck me..."I feel that some times, students may be reading texts that have nothing to do with their lives. How then do I proceed?"....It is completely valid for students to read texts that do not relate to their lives directly if they have an interest in reading them. In fact, it is the sign of a mature reader who is seeking experiences outside of her own context. What Ivey and others are saying is that when we choose required reading for students that mean little to the students, then that becomes problematic. However, there are ways around that as well. For required reading that is dictated by the school curriculum you can get creative to find connections to students' everyday lives. Kelly Gallagher explains this better in his book Readicide. If you get a chance, I highly recommend picking up a copy.

  2. Yes, it would not always be easy for elementary students especially to find that books they read have linkages with their lives, as they have not had a vast experience in life. However, the motivation to read can stem from curiosity and being able to do something for oneself, and knowing that it has a value when the child/student sees people they like also reading. In this context, having a guest volunteer like an older sibling come into class to read would be a welcome change from the usual routine of get your books out and read drill. It would help students associate reading or being read to with expression as a happy experience they want to know more about.
    I agree with Jim's observation that reading books outside one's own experiences is a sign of a mature reader, and I think that comes with time perhaps, or just plain love for reading.

  3. Hi Francis, I think when kids really like something they will try to explore things that related with one another. I think when student especially elementary students, it's hard for them to interact with their live. Even for adults. But, when they interest in reading books, that's a good sign. Sometimes we can read just for fun not link to real life. In the mean time students still can learn the vocabulary.
    I like when you say teachers should create time for students to read. Also, I want to say, sometimes students struggling with reading may not because of the reading level. What if students have a disability for instance have a hard time to focus, how can a teacher to help them to read?

  4. Hmm. Great topic. So, connecting the classroom to the outside world for me is an endeavor that needs some looking at. Indeed, hypothetically, having education that's in no way related to the world at large does seem a bit pointless, but at the same time, if what happens in the classroom is meant to be completely connected to the world or directed by the world, what's the point of the classroom in the first place? It's an interesting question, isn't it? What's the classroom for? One answer could be that it's just there out of necessity because a certain class of kids needs to be addressed simultaneously in their learning and so we're all just in one space. However, I like to think about the classroom as a space that is intentionally removed from the world in some way, in order to take a good look at the world rather than being absorbed in it. The tile in the mosaic art can't see the whole piece, it's only when we take the step back that we get the whole picture.

    As a math teacher, I'm really sick of this trend where everything seemingly needs to be connected to students' lives and practically-applied in order to be useful and engaging. Like it really makes me sick, lol!! That's so goofy to read myself type but it's true! I'm totally not saying that math has no place in the real world (at all), but real-world math is icky sometimes because the numbers don't work out all the time, and there is context to any real-world scenario that is cumbersome enough to explain that it takes away from the actual math sometimes, and even if we "get" the context in the classroom and apply the math and it seems we're successful, the real learning won't actually happen until we're confronted with the honest-to-gosh real life scenario in the real world itself. I like to think about math class as skill-building in a pretty brain-related way. Math hones in on analytical, problem-solving, logical, and rational thinking skills in a really pristine way. Solving the equation, analyzing the graph, applying the formula,'s sort of like lifting weights. Do we lift weights for practical application? Most of the time, I don't think so, unless we're training for a sport or something. Probably it's more along the lines of something like "Well, I feel better about myself afterward" or "I want to keep my body healthy". The same reasoning could be applied to the classroom. Except with the mind instead of the body. I'll be the first to tell you that you won't need to solve quadratic equations in your daily life, but I'll also be the first to tell you that that's not the point.

  5. So, back to reading...The world of books! It's so vast! The classroom is a perfect place to explore. It's a safe place to voyage into new ideas and questions. School-age kids can't do that in such a way in their real-world lives. That's the gift of the classroom. Their real-world lives are limited. Most of the time they're overly dominated by sports or gossip or video games or...whatever else. Instagram? (I don't even know what that is) Anyway, I'm not saying those things aren't useful, but I am saying that they are limited. A fantasy story has probably very little to do with the lives that the students are living, as might a science fiction story, or a mystery, or, well, most of the books out there. So, my point is that giving students the outright choice right upfront about reading material won't always be the most productive if they gravitate to the things they already know. Another useful question to consider is, with a given book or text, and totally independent of whatever lives the students are leading, what about it is worthwhile? What messages are there? What insight does it provide about humanity, or virtue, or what matters in life? Big questions like that don't apply to all readings, but I'd at least say two things 1) they're hopefully fulfilling in that engagement-fostering way we're looking for and 2) a student probably can't anticipate that meatiness from the start. Are they the ones that know best what will be the best for their educational growth? In some cases probably, in others, probably not.

    Maybe some of the conversation needs to look at the other side of the coin. Instead of figuring out ways that the real-world can enter the classroom, what about the ways the thinking we do in the classroom entering the real-world?

  6. From Kevin....First of all, good take as always from the reading. However I am interested to know how you see a lot of this information transferring to a foreign language classroom where you don’t even use a textbook. I’m sure it is just as applicable but just curious how you will you use it? Do you have a Spanish language library for your room? Have you been able to find and Spanish comics of other material as scaffolding for your students? I also enjoyed your idea about having reading buddies with children in lower grades, I think this is a great idea. Think of the impact those older kids could have on the younger children. The younger kids would be encouraged to read and you could even have the older students teach something which could be a very rewarding challenge for them. What were you thinking reading buddies would look like?