What do you find to be the most difficult thing about teaching beginning and struggling readers?
We recently asked this exact question open-endedly to educators as they registered for our latest webinar. Of all the varying responses, there was one that stood out as the most common response (being mentioned in about 30% of all responses): keeping struggling readers motivated.
As I was researching this dilemma, I ran across these charts from the Reading Rockets website:
It’s great to have a picture of what you want your students to feel, but how to do you make them feel that way? Here are some ideas on how you can remove the following demotivating practices from your instruction:
If your students don’t see how reading material or reading in general will help them in their life, they aren’t going to be motivated to improve their skills. If they aren’t provided or exposed to material that appeals to them, they aren’t going to want to read. Not only will texts that aren’t interesting or relevant to them demotivate struggling readers, it will also demotivate strong readers.
Ask your students what interests them. Learn what they care about and show them how reading can open up information about the things that do interest them. If they don’t see how what they are learning or suppose to read connects to the other things they are learning or are interested in… they are going to feel like reading is irrelevant.
Researchers have found that one of the core ideals that motivate each of us is that of autonomy. We want to feel like we are in control of our lives. We want to feel like we can choose how we spend our time. The more we feel this freedom, the more motivated we are. Forcing students to read materials they don’t care about is not going to motivate them. The more your students get to choose what they read, the more motivated they will be to read.
It is critically important that your lessons are not perceived as being too difficult. If students feel incapable their defenses will go up and they will resist anything that they believe will make them feel like a failure. In order to avoid making your lessons seem too difficult it is important to use effective strategies when teaching and to assure your students understanding by constantly asking them and observing what they are and aren’t understanding.
Frequent Individual Work
It is important to use both group work and individual work. Although group work is motivating for some students, your more introverted students may prefer to work alone. Switching approaches or allowing choice to work alone or in groups, allows students to work in the way that most motivates them.
If your teaching doesn’t have a natural flow to it your students will get frustrated or confused and lose their motivation. When teaching reading strategies it is important that they systematically build upon each other in a natural sequence. It is also important to connect new concepts to past concepts so students see how they connect. You may be using a strong sequence, but your students may still be confused because you have not explicitly explained how the concepts you are teaching relate to other skills you have taught your students.
What have you found helps motivate your struggling readers?