The way we teach doesn’t only affect the skills and knowledge students acquire, it also affects how motivated they are to learn. When students are motivated, they are more engaged with learning, and they get more out of teaching. This is especially important in reading. For children to become proficient readers, they require hours and hours of engaged, or attentive, reading. This means they need to be attentive during classroom reading instruction, continue to read outside of the classroom, and be willing to persist when they encounter challenges.
In classrooms that foster motivation, students are more curious, engaged, and willing to take risks. All of this helps them learn more effectively. How, then, can we foster motivation, especially for students who are struggling with reading, and who may be feeling discouraged?
In my research and practical experience, I’ve delved into what methods can promote reading motivation, and how to implement these within the classroom. What I’ve observed is that when teachers actively work to promote motivation, students are more attentive, more willing to work, and happier. They also progress faster in their reading. Below, I share some tips on how to create engaging reading instruction.
Promote a growth mindset
For students who are struggling, competitive environments can make them feel like they will never be good enough. In many cases, this can lead them to give up easily, or to avoid difficult tasks completely. Students learn best when they are driven by interest, curiosity, and a desire to grow. Tips to promote a growth mindset include:
1. Give students multiple chances to revise and resubmit assignments. Show them how to create a portfolio of their work, so they can see their improvement.
2. Give rewards for effort, time on-task, and perseverance, not just grades.
3. Provide concrete and goal-directed feedback students can incorporate into future work.
When students are given opportunities to be independent, they can take ownership of their learning, which supports their motivation. Tips to support autonomy include:
1. Teach students how to self-regulate: How and when to use reading strategies, and how to monitor their thinking (set goals, plan how to reach them, and evaluate their progress).
2. Incorporate group work in which students share responsibility for a task. For example, all team members read a book, then one person prepares comprehension questions, one answers them, and one moderates the discussion.
3. During individual or peer work, give students choice over assessment formats, learning games, and books.
Build on students’ interests
Students are naturally curious and interested in the world around them. Building on this during reading helps them to see authentic reasons for reading, and fosters engagement. Ideas to build on interest include:
1. Concept-based reading activities, in which students first learn about an interesting topic, and follow-up by reading independently on the subject.
2. Engaging formats for reading instruction such as readers’ theater, in which students are asked to rehearse a text and present it to their peers.
3. Provide many different types of texts (novels, information books, cartoons, etc.) to reach all students’ interests.