Several teachers have approached me before asking how they can revive or motivate their reluctant readers. This issue seems to be a common problem for teachers alike. So I thought I would take a minute to share some ideas on reading motivation. Today I’ll be sharing 4 ideas and mindsets to help even the most reluctant readers in your class. These strategies have worked for me over my years as a classroom teacher and I’m sure they can help you and your students as well!
This is a question I got from a teacher just recently. She asked, “My upcoming class of fourth graders are somewhat unmotivated. How do I keep them engaged and excited about reading independently without forcing them to?” This was a great question that I’m sure many of us as teachers of had so I thought I would share some ideas. I’ve got 4 ideas for this teacher and for you!
You’d be surprised at how often our kids are simply responding to our own attitudes. If we come into class tired and really down, they’re probably going to follow our lead. But, if we come super excited they’re going to hopefully follow that lead as well. So be really excited about the books that your reading. Get really into it, even dramatic. I promise you, its okay.
One year when I was teaching fifth grade, I had a group of student that got really into the Bermuda Triangle. They couldn’t understand what was happening to all the boats and the planes. It turned into a huge mystery within our class. So guess what I did, I collected as many books about the Bermuda Triangle as I could find: informational books, option books, magazines, articles, chapters books, picture books, personal narratives. Any type of book, realistic or fiction, that I could find about the Bermuda Triangle, I collected. This got my kids, who originally weren’t very motivated, really interested in reading those books. Because we were socially engaging in conversation so much around the Bermuda Triangle, they wanted to read about it as well. They were really motivated. We also got really into Bigfoot that year, whether the Sasquatch was real or not, so I also collected a bunch of books about that. So whatever your class gets really involved and into, start collecting books and articles around that topic and build it up.
So if you have kids who are reluctant readers but know they are really into video games, look for articles or books, about cheat codes or how to win a video game. Get them excited about those types of readings. When you have a reluctant reader but have a book they’re interested in finding out about, it changes their whole demeanor.
When you are talking to your students about books that their reading, sometimes we can get caught up in collecting grades or taking notes from them, but let’s just try and pause for a second. Have a conversation about books just for fun. Model to them what real readers in the real world outside of your reading workshop class do when they talk about books. Ask questions like “Did you like the book? Was it fun? Oh my gosh, that sounds amazing!” And if you only are getting one-word answers from them, be really engaged and interested. Make good eye contact and just focus on that conversation. I know as teachers we have 1000 things going on, but just slow down, and take a minute with those reluctant readers. Tell them that’s fascinating. If they mention something about a boat getting lost in the Bermuda Triangle, tease their interest. “You’re kidding me?! It got lost? I need to know more about this.” I use this specific three-word phrase all the time: “Tell me more.” And they’ll reply with “Well the boat just never got back.” You know, because they don’t really want to talk, they’re reluctant. So I’ll say “It got lost? How in the world did it get lost? Tell me more!” And I’ll change the way I phrase “tell me more” so that they stay engaged and I slowly begin to peel the reluctance back layer by layer. That simple phrase gets them thinking intrinsically to want to say things about the book they’re reading.
The overall theme, is to be really, really excited. Be the motivation for them to actually want to take ownership over what they’re doing in the class. I hope this has helped you to get excited about motivating your reluctant readers to want to read more. If you would like to try a FREE sample of my Reading Intervention Program you can click HERE!If you enjoyed today’s lesson you can find this post and many more on iTunes, Spotify, or Alexa Briefings. Click here to listen