3 Ways to Motivate Young Readers


Question: How do we do a better job of cultivating young readers? 

The panacea to motivate young readers – an observant and informed teacher! Informed educators use variety of tools and resources to cultivate readers; from  reading inventories, and noticing and noting reading behaviors during conferring and small group instruction, teachers can place high-interest books in the hands of their students, as well as identify possible barriers that make accessing a text difficult and limit the enjoyment of reading for many children. Fostering an environment that supports literacy, encourages relationships, and promotes reading as a social activity where ideas and connections are shared with partners or in literature circles can also help to cultivate young readers.

A common currency shared by all students supplying intrinsic means to develop lifelong readers is difficult to pinpoint. Unfortunately, many educators turn to extrinsic rewards as a way to entice students to read. And although research supports an increase in page numbers read through the use of points, rewards, or reading logs; research also concludes that there is where the gains end. Students do not become lifelong readers, and in fact, research shows that overall, extrinsically motivated readers will not increase achievement in the long term (Wigfield & Guthrie, 1997).

With this information and the realization that there is no silver bullet or one program to transform all students into readers, there are factors educators can focus in on to increase student motivation and drive in reading.

Building off of the work of John T. Guthrie who shares 3 reading motivations to target for cultivating young readers: Interest, Dedication, and Confidence.  An interested student enjoys reading, a dedicated student finds value in reading, and a confident student reads because he or she can do it (Gambrell & Morrow, 2015).

3 Ways to Motivate Young Readers

  1. Motivation: Interests


Young readers are motivated by choice. When students have no choice in what they read, they are limited to read what the teacher chooses, squelching passions and interests, similarly to the situation in the previous videos. Students as young as Kindergarten should have choice in their independent books from the classroom library. To optimize choice within the classroom library, educators should estimate needing around 20 books per student. Texts should cover multiple topics, themes, and genres. Don’t forget digital texts and epubs as options in the classroom.  Providing accessible texts for kids is important in a classroom library.  Include books ranging in levels that would be appropriate for your beginning readers, as well as texts that are 2 levels above your advanced readers. (Students should not be limited by levels according to their score when choosing books). Poignant topics and relevant information help to strengthen young readers who are Interest motivated.  Goodreads, a digital space to share the love of reading, also provides lists of books related to themes, genres, and grade-level; a great resource for teachers. Wonderopolis is another resource for students and teachers. Wonderopolis ignites creative thinking, sparks inquiry, and supports young readers by providing resources to dig deeper and question more!

2. Motivation: Dedication 

Although one of my favorite commercials about reading is actually an advertisement for Scotch, it depicts readers who are motivated by dedication. Just as in the commercial illustrated, many of our students are motivated to read because of behavior-related factors. Dedicated readers realize their outcomes are directly related to the effort they put forth. Students are motivated by the value they believe reading has in their lives and will play in their future. Tapping into this belief system, an educator can provide specific examples of how reading can change a person’s life. For instance, the NYTimes Learning Network provided a collection of resources related to Malala, along with other social justice issues for students connect with and explore in the classroom. Similarly, Web of Stories is a website providing a collection of famous scientists, authors, movie makers, and artists telling their stories to inspire others. Located under the “Theme” tab on the site is a collection of more than 300 videos tied to education!

3. Motivation: Confidence    

The third type of motivation that drives young readers is belief-driven, Confidence. To increase confidence in young readers, focus on accessibility, feedback, and expression of learning. A misdiagnosis of a student’s lack of comprehension of a text, often times is actually attributed to vocabulary and accessibility and not comprehension. Informed and observant educators realize these barriers and work to provide access to complex texts through scaffolding, and a rich supply of books and articles at a student’s independent reading level. Technology and digital resources provide an ever-growing supply of leveled texts, especially in the areas of non-fiction. A few of my favorite digital resources to support young readers: NewsELA, JellyBean Scoop, and  TweenTribune . Consistent feedback can also boost confidence in young readers, just as the video demonstrated the growth in language acquisition in the students who were paired with the retired grandparents. Feedback options to consider besides face to face in class: voice comments, virtual book clubs or mentors, or even through video. Recap is a new app that allows students to express understanding by creating a short video response. Classroom threads can be saved and shared, increasing the feedback a student may receive to others beyond the school walls.   

When students leave our classrooms we hope they take with them a love of reading, not because we want them to keep up with coursework demands in the next grade, but because we want students to be lifelong readers! There is not one program or motivating factor that will cultivate every student into a reader. In fact, many students are motivated by a blend of the factors previously mentioned. But, a well-informed and observant teacher can focus their instruction and differentiate content to meet the needs of all students, motivating and cultivating lifelong readers.

Special thanks to George Courous – videos were spot on!


  • Gambrell and Morrow. Best Practices in Literacy Instruction. 2015.
  • Guthrie, John T.”Motivating Students to Read.” Best Practices in Literacy Instruction. 2015.
  • Wigfield, A., and Guthrie, J.T. “Relations of children’s motivation for reading…” Journal of        Education Psychology. 1997.

Blogging in the Classroom: Student Roles

blogging in the classroomIn 2009, I began my personal journey in blogging, as well as implementing blogging into my classroom. Josh, a senior that year, walked into my classroom and told me and his peers that he hated writing and was going to hate this class. Instead of questioning him, I simply stated that this year we were going to try something new with in our writing class and I hoped that it would change his mind – Blogging.

Fast forward 2 months, and Josh had a personal blog, a classroom blog, a large following of readers, and had changed his views on writing overall. In fact, I often brought him with me to speak with other educators and students on the power of blogging, student choice, and a public audience. Not only did he revel in this new found role in speaking, but he became a writer, and actually enjoyed it.

Blogging is the one strategy, that I share with other educators, as the most powerful shift in my teaching with the integration of technology into the traditional ELA classroom. My students were empowered to share their voice, honed multimodal communication skills, and wrote real pieces for a different audience than the traditional, lone teacher.

I am often asked for blogging advice to support educators new to blogging in the classroom, so, this will be the first post in a series I will write. You can find my “Classroom Blogging Expectations” HERE. Feel free to use these as a starting place for your own classroom.

When considering the roles of student bloggers I offer the 5 following considerations for you and to be shared with the students:

Student Roles

  1. Write, Write, Write – Blogging requires students to write, and write often. To maintain an engaged audience, students must write and publish frequently. On average, my students publish two posts a week. Not only did this require them to be constantly writing, but to have multiple pieces started and in different places in the writing process. The amount of student writing inside the classroom doubled, but the most interesting surprise was the amount they wrote outside of the classroom, to keep their readers satisfied and wanting more!
  2. Purpose and Voice – While this did not happen overnight, students soon realized their writing required purpose to appeal to their readers. Through blogging, students discovered their own, unique voice and their purpose for writing was uncovered. Starting off with a general blog was how many students began their journey, but the more they practiced and published, and the more they read posts from other peers and writers, they realized that most blogs had a niche; and they needed one as well. From original music, xbox tips and videos, to a co-authored blog publicly debating controversial issues; my students refined writing skills, uncovered and developed their own niche, and unearthed their voice as a writer.
  3. Publishing – Another student role in a blogging classroom is the responsibility of publishing regularly on a public platform. Publishing their work to someone different than the traditional, lone teacher increased engagement and developed explanatory and argumentative writing skills. It also provided students an opportunity to shift from digital consumers to digital creators. Having spent most of their lives reading online, students now created the same types of texts they read daily. This exposure to practice writing multimodal texts demanded knowledge and demonstration in structure, format, design, audio, visual, etc. (some posts were in the form of images or vlogs – video blog posts) .
  4. Community – Starting off, I knew the pitfalls of having students blog; one being who would read their posts. Before I introduced blogging to the students, I connected with other educators across the country to develop a blogging community for the students. This way, not only would they have their peers reading their thoughts, but also peers from around the country would be reading their work on a regular basis. This element is essential. Plan carefully to ensure someone reads what your kids post, or else it will loose purpose and engagement will dwindle. This community of writers was created to share ideas and encourage growth in all kids. Students commented on and followed each others blogs. Their charge was not one to edit or evaluate each other, instead, to be an active participant in this learning community and respond in a way that moved all writers forward. (How I taught my students to respond is found in the blogging expectations linked above). This collaboration and connection provided powerful reinforcement for writing!
  5. Finally, it is a student’s responsibility in a blogging community to not only reflect and respond on the other writers in the group, but also a personal reflection of growth as a writer. This was done throughout the year and ended in a reflection sheet containing links to posts in which they felt demonstrating their strongest displays of writing or which met standards. They reflected on their growth as a writer and their contribution to the community as a whole. They reflected and shared stories of their own writing, but also included stories how they helped other writers move forward!

There are many roles and responsibilities of student bloggers that could have been included on this list, but in retrospect, this list encompasses the top 5 roles my students found themselves in most frequently.

Next time, I will share the roles and responsibilities of the teacher in a classroom that blogs!

5 Google Resources to Support Student Writing

Pathways to the Common Core- Accelerating Achievement (2)Supporting students in the writing process involves explicit instruction, modeling and utilizing resources to support their development. Sharing high-quality, digital resources with students will increase accessibility and independence in all student writers. Writers, professionals, and adults use digital and non-digital resources to improve their writing, so why wouldn’t we provide the same experience and guidance to our own students?

This list of 5 Google resources are practical and easy to use with all writers! They support a wide-range of ability, mimicking what is commonplace in the classroom. From the struggling writer, English Language Learner writer, and the gifted writer; Google resources can support all kids!

  1. Google Doc Research Tool – Search on Google, Scholar, Images, Tables, and Dictionary to access the information you need without leaving Google Docs. The Research tool allows users to cite information using multiple formats.Pathways to the Common Core- Accelerating Achievement
  2. Google Keep – Google Keep captures your thoughts via text or voice. Create lists, add images and access across multiple devices. Notes are shareable to friends and teachers making brainstorming, tasks, and source collection easy with this resource. Students can set reminder notifications as well! Google Keep
  3. Grammarly – Grammarly is an App that can be added to your Chrome browser. This app detects plagiarism, and helps to improve your writing. It recognizes spelling mistakes, as well as errors in Grammar Usage and Mechanics. It offers suggestions to users. A great app for students to utilize as their first support in editing. Grammarly
  4. Read and Write for Google – Read and Write for Google provides accessibility for docs., the web, pdfs., and epubs. Options provide support to all students! Struggling readers and writers can use the Google Docs tool bar to read aloud and highlight text. Use the picture dictionary to support emerging readers and writers. The translator option supports ESL students as they write and struggle translating ideas in another language. Free for teachers and can be pushed out to your entire domain! Read and Write Google
  5. Voice Typing Tool – Google voice typing allows writer to easily put their words on a page by speaking them instead of manually typing. Voice Typing is located under the “Tools” tab in Google Docs and appears as a microphone symbol, on the side, once selected. When trying out for my own use, I was surprised on the accuracy and would recommend this to teachers and students without hesitation. Pathways to the Common Core- Accelerating Achievement (1)

Uncovering the Why: the Importance of Beliefs

BeliefsFor many years, my professional learning consisted on the “what” and “how” in the classroom. What were your kids reading? writing? discussing? What tech were you using? How are you using portfolios? How do you grade? How do you differentiate? 

While all of these questions are important to answer, it wasn’t until I drilled down the Why, that I truly appreciated learning. Understanding the why, helps provide a framework in which all other decisions can be based upon. Why do I teach Shakespeare? Why do I have students blog? Why does it matter that students publish to  public audience? Why do I prefer the workshop framework over traditional instruction?

Currently, I am reading Read, Write, Teach by Linda Rief. The introduction provides insight into the purpose, design, and the Why for writing this book. She starts with the Why because it “grounds her choices of the what and how.”

The following are images of my own Whys on Literacy, inspired by the work of Linda Rief. I encourage you to not only explore your own beliefs on teaching and learning, but also to bring the conversation back to your departments, buildings, or even districts. Do we have similar beliefs? What is gained and what is lost when staff members have the same beliefs? Is a common set of shared beliefs necessary for our students?

Read, Write, Teach- Rief (1).jpg

Read, Write, Teach- Rief (2).jpg





Practice What We Preach: The Art of Coaching Kids for Transfer



As a child, my love affair with the sport of soccer helped me to develop skills, self-esteem, and friendships. Throughout high school, you could find me sporting brightly colored Pumas, juggling between classes, and joining pickup games on the weekend. I was a bit obsessed.

As an adult, I have shared my love of athletics through coaching; and I have been privileged to coach incredible, young-women throughout my life! I believe I am a better teacher because of my coaching experience and often find much of the same philosophies interchangeable. It is with this interchangeable lens I wish to approach the topic of “practice” within the classroom.

If you don’t know about Train Ugly, now is the time to start investigating. Marrying Growth Mindset and Motor Learning to Train Ugly, Trevor Ragan’s video on block vs. random practice was shared at my last AIW meeting and has inspired this blog post.

My Takeaways:

  1. As teachers, we aim to maximize retention and transfer of skills.
  2. A skill is much more than just “technique” it also includes the “reading” and “planning” before the execution.
  3. Very few skills in life are stagnant and repetitive in nature, but the majority of practice we request of our students is just that, skill and drill to show mastery.
  4. Research supports the use of random practice as a more effective way than block practice for high-impact retention and transfer of real learning!
  5. We need to find better ways to track progress (another resource to add in the case against letter grades).
  6. When practicing a skill, students need a growth mindset and randomization; never do the same thing twice (different opportunities to use skills).
  7. Finally, poor practice is a teacher issue, not a kid issue. We fear the uncontrollable, we want improvement but are not used to a slower process that takes more time, and we slip back into traditional practice because it is comfortable.

Reflecting back, there were many times I resorted to block practice, whether on the field and having athletes take hundreds of penalty kicks, or in the classroom, the repetitive use of worksheets to drill grammar rules; I was contributing to the transfer problem and reconfirming the notion of “work for school’s sake.” Unknowingly, and through the implementation of PBL (Project Based Learning) and the Workshop Writing Classroom my focus and practice shifted resulting in more Random Practice. When I no longer taught to “The Test” but focused on moving all students forward, the transfer ensued (even on the high-stakes tests).