Research shows that if the environment is motivating, students read more and their comprehension improves. The question is: how do we motivate students to read more often and effectively?
There are several important points to keep in mind for motivating students:
1. Self Efficacy
Researcher Albert Bandura defines self-efficacy as the belief we have in our own competence that causes us to engage in specific activities, encourages us to put forth our best effort, and gives us the stamina to persist in the face of difficulty.
Bandura notes that one of the most powerful sources of self-efficacy in the classroom is the experience of mastery. When students evaluate their efforts and feel successful their confidence increases. Then they are more likely to want to try similar or even more challenging tasks.
2. Modeling Mastery
One way to increase motivation is to model mastery for your students. A good way to do this, both on the elementary and secondary levels, is through read-alouds and think-alouds followed by small group discussion. When teachers read and think aloud, they model and promote the type of thinking they want their students to emulate.
Small group discussions encourage even the most reluctant students to actively participate in the learning process. It gives all students the opportunity to speak, debate, interact with peers in a positive and intellectual way, and find joy in academic discussion.
3. Book Choice
Students are motivated by book choice. If students have some say in what they read, and have choices that are both appealing and suitable for their reading level, they are much more likely to be interested in the text. The texts should be suitable for their age, at their skill level, and well written. Guthrie and Wigfield (2000) suggest that providing genuine student choices increases effort and commitment to reading.
4. Reading with a Focus
If students know what the expectations for reading a specific text are and have a clear understanding of how they are to construct meaning, they are much more likely to be successful and motivated to read.
Rewarding students for reading continues to be a debate. However, research shows that carefully selected rewards can enhance motivation for reading. Rewards that lead to more reading and more learning are the most effective. Students love contests and challenges, and these types of activities can be used to motivate students to read and learn more information. Teachers may also have students create a bulletin board where they display their favorite books and magazine articles and explain why they recommend these texts to their classmates. Teachers should also reveal their own reading passions and contribute their favorites to this board.
Click here for your bonus lesson: Ignoring student data when designing lessons.