Sunday, July 5, 2015

Maha on Motivation

Jigsaw Discussion and Reflection on Motivation
Maha Qazi

Within our home group discussion on the articles related to Motivation, there was a common theme running through the 3 articles Lulu, Matt and I read which was primarily how to engage struggling students, or how to engage students to get motivated about reading. One of the articles which we discussed, “Reading, Gender and Engagement” looked at the role of gender and it’s influence on reading, providing examples of five developed countries (United States, Germany, Korea, Finland, and Ireland) and middle school students. Girls tend to do better in reading, especially print reading; whereas the gap between males and females narrows for digital reading.

While the gender article provided recommendations how to motivate boys more to become interested in reading, the other two article on the “Seven Rules of Engagement” and the “The Social Side Of Engaged Reading For Young Adolescents” was more targeted to HOW to engage both girls and boys. Here are some ways to increase motivation in students:
1)    Students’ readings have some connection with their life.
2)    Students can access a variety of reading materials, for example comics, novels..
3)    Students are given choices about what to read.
4)    Students are able to socially engage and talk to their peers about what they read.
5)    Students are praised in a way that reflects their efforts, more than the result.
6)    Students get time to read in classroom, and it can be anything they enjoy, fiction or non-fiction.
7)    When students think they are reading something that is a little challenging they have the incentive to read it.

As someone who enjoys reading, especially fiction, I felt reassured that even this type of reading is fine, because it reading should be a process of “social engagement” where the reader becomes engaged with the writing, the plot, characters and stories to the extent they can visualize themselves in it and how they would respond to a given situation. It’s all about engaging the different senses to enrich the reading process.

One of the things that I don’t necessarily agree with in the readings is that it’s not probably always the best idea to have a male figure be a mentor to a male student to improve their reading. The motivation does not have to rely on the person being a male, just someone who can be an effective of change. Another one of the articles (“The Social Side of Engaged Reading for Young Adolescents”) focuses too much on catering to the students likes constantly. Sometimes it’s important that students are taught that new things can be fun and meaningful if they are willing to take a step outside what’s familiar, otherwise, how else will they learn about the world around them, which is important to critical-thinking. Reading should not be about only what one likes, although it is a big part of reading, but not the only way. I really do agree that access to books is a very important issue facing a lot of students especially in the developing world.
It is not that they are not motivated enough, it’s that they don’t have the opportunity.
If students had more opportunities, they would run with the readings and motivation would not be such a problem. I also tend to think that family and home plays a big part in how students think about reading. This is again about access. When there isn’t a figure to model after due to lack of a reading environment then the student would not know any better. A self-motivated individual is rare, and that person is someone who is able to rise above their surroundings to motivate themselves and doing this through books can be very empowering. I have seen such examples.  


  1. Maha, this a a very clear synthesis of the readings. I especially like how you outlined simple steps to motivate readers. I agree with your disagreement about male role models brought into the classroom to motivate boys to read. I believe that this just reinforces the constructions of masculinity that boys adopt which do not align with reading as an activity boys can enjoy. I am also leery of recommending "boy books." I really think we need to know the interests of the child and work from there to match the book to the student. You opinion about "The Social Side of Reading" is interesting. Gay Ivey has been writing about this topic for years and I can see how her suggestions may not be practical in the classroom, especially in an age of high stakes testing and teacher accountability. I like her stuff because it is a good reminder to us to at least try to match kids interests to good, authentic texts. Often literacy classes rely on anthologies that only teach a particular skill and only use an excerpt out of a larger piece of writing. Interestingly, Ivey says that we need to be careful of overuse of reading strategies as well. There has been a huge emphasis to explicitly teach reading strategies to students to help them comprehend texts and become strategic readers. The problem, according to Ivey, is that the strategy instruction has taken the place of the reading and the focus is learning the strategy which can, if overused, become a task simply to be completed rather than focusing on the content of the text.

  2. It's true that the joy of reading should not be taken away from children/students and allowing them to read in the way the way they are most comfortable is a very important element in continuing reading. I was never taught how to read and in a way that suffocated my interest in reading, and I really appreciate that.

    1. It is difficult for teachers and parents to give up that control. They want to push their children to their potential which is honorable. However, this can be done in more subtle ways. I think not allowing a certain book to be read or complaining about the reading that the child is doing is damaging. This is especially true since we know that the sheer volume of reading is important and builds significant background knowledge.

  3. I agree the main thing is to help students access and read different kinds of reading materials out there that they can enjoy and become engaged in. Sometimes children/students have to be encouraged in this direction, and some students are self-motivated to do this by themselves. A lot depends on the home environment, socio-economic status, learning disability, and other factors.

  4. From Drew.....Maha,

    I’m going to disagree with you about the idea of catering to student likes when it comes to reading. Yes, it is important to show students that new things can be fun, but I really, really think it’s important to allow students the freedom to choose their own reading. Literacy is so vital to success and there are such problems with literacy levels that I think anything that can be done to leverage student interest in reading should be done.

    I would add the caveat that, like in our debate, this mostly applies to developing readers, but they are going to encounter so many areas of school that aren’t interesting, or are challenging, or simply inaccessible for whatever reason, that when it comes to reading we should really, really let students choose their own way in.

    Another thing is that kids have such little choice in their lives that any way we can give them a sense of choice is really helpful to their development and behaviour. They don’t get to pick their school, their schedule, and often even their food or their clothes. The least we can do is let them pick their own books.

    Once we’ve got a classroom full of expert readers, then it’s time to start hitting them with stuff they haven’t read yet. “Oh you’ve read six books this month and you’re bored of girl-centric fantasy? I don’t believe you, here’s Mists of Avalon. Try that on for size.” Or, “I see you’ve read every single Batman comic on the shelf, and you loved King Arthur you must really like detective stories and the middle ages here’s The Name of the Rose see how that grabs you.”

    1. I would be glad if students made their own choices for reading, and as you say it's so important to success. My point was that if readings are always going to be upto the student's choice and they stick to one genre, or type of reading then isn't it also the teacher's responsibility to offer opportunities and encourage students to try readings something that is new? I think so. Let them read it and reject it, or go with it. That's giving them a real stake in their future.

  5. From Nate..........Maha I agree a lot with what you said. However, I think to motivate the growing learner you must adjust your approach to finding the closest way for them to connect with the idea of reading. One reason many students are lacking motivation is feeling that they are not free and not interested in the text prescribed. Like any type of profession, there are a huge number of disciplines and specialties and most people become interested in these professions for these choices, not for the greater subject as a whole. By allowing students to have a say in what and how they will read it take the huge step in getting them engaged. Once they are engaged, teachers can then slowly taper off their choices into required readings. But if the affective filter is still up, students will merely get through the material, they will not retain the information. These choices are the key to them becoming independent readers and independent learners.

    1. True! I appreciate all your comments.