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Teacher Reading Tips: Motivation

In this section, you can´┐Ż

  • Review dimensions of motivation
  • See what research suggests about motivation
  • Read techniques to see what motivates your students

    Students in middle school vary widely on a number of dimensions. These dimensions play a significant role in the teacher's ability to motivate students to read. These dimensions include:

  • Cognitive
  • Learning Styles
  • Reading and Language Abilities
  • Emotional/Attitudinal
  • Literary Experiences

    Cognitive differences relate to differences in what is commonly referred to as intelligence. Our traditional view of intelligence focused mainly on two types of abilities — verbal and mathematical. The work of Howard Gardner (1993) on multiple intelligences has broadened our understanding of the abilities children possess and can further develop. He theorized eight types of abilities: linguistic, logical-mathematical, musical, spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and naturalistic. This new view not only allows teachers to look at student's abilities in a more comprehensive manner, but challenges them to create classroom activities that both assess and promote the various inherent abilities. Students are more likely to respond favorably to instruction that allows them to develop and excel in one or more of their abilities.

    Learning Styles
    Related to ability is learning styles. The research of Rita and Kenneth Dunn (1983) has theorized eighteen elements within four categories that represent how individuals learn. These areas are:

    1. Environmental — sound, light, temperature, casualness/structure
    2. Emotional — motivation, persistence, responsibility, structure
    3. Sociological — peers, self, pair, team, adult, varied input
    4. Physical — perceptual strengths, intake, time, mobility

    Knowledgeable teachers use informal methods to discover which students respond to different learning style elements and make corresponding adjustments to classroom routines and organization.

    The above listed learning styles elements must then be considered in light of the range of teaching styles. The Dunns (1975) list four types of teaching styles:

    1. Traditional — minimum grade level standards
    2. Individualized — diagnosing and prescribing for each child
    3. Open — pupil selection, within limits, of curriculum, resources, schedule, pace
    4. Alternative — maximum pupil curriculum choice

    Teachers can analyze not only their predominant teaching style but be sensitive to how students respond to various teaching styles.

    Reading and Language Abilities
    Students enter middle school with a wide range of literacy skills. These differences are partly due to the cognitive factors discussed earlier, but are also due to prior home and school experiences. Middle school students vary greatly in vocabulary development, decoding skills, reading strategies, and the ability to read a variety of narrative and expository texts. These factors can have a significant effect on motivation in that students are not likely to develop and sustain interest in instruction that uses reading materials that pose considerable obstacles to understanding. Knowing the reading and language abilities of students helps teachers identify material that matches the student and affords a reasonable, yet appropriate, challenge.

    Another important motivation dimension lies in the affective area. Students in middle school have developed definite emotional and attitudinal traits. These personality or character features play a crucial role in motivation. These features include:

    1. Attitudes toward reading — Many students are voracious readers and read at every opportunity at both school and home, while others only read as required. Some students perceive reading as saying all the words right while others reflect on the meaning and connect it to personal experiences.

    2. Self concept — Students vary greatly in their opinions of themselves. These images of self-worth, developed in infancy, are strong and resistant to change as children get older. Self concept plays a significant role in motivation. Students with poor self concepts are less likely to respond to instruction. They also tend to be low risk-takers (although a series of studies found poor self-concept children to be also extremely high risk-takers). Risk taking is essential in schooling. A moderate degree of risk-taking facilitates the desire to try something new. It helps an individual rebound from unsuccessful attempts and influences the degree of persistence one applies to a new learning experience. Teachers who know their students' risk-taking levels can better structure learning experiences that not only account for these differences but provide the opportunities for success that are vital to improve risk-taking and self-concept.

    3. Experiential — Intermediate students vary in two types of experiences - life experiences and literary experiences. The life experiences vary because students come from a diverse set of families. This heterogeneity has increased dramatically in many areas of the country. Many classrooms, schools, and school systems now reflect a multicultural diversity unparalleled in American education. This diversity translates into a wide range of experiential differences. These differences are caused by a number of factors. Americans are more mobile than ever before. This mobility can be caused by economic reasons, business or military transfers. This mobility can provide schools with children that have had a variety of national and international experiences, but can also indicate disrupted educational sequences and considerable differences in prior experiences. In addition, cultural and ethnic differences vary the experiences students have had with language, customs, foods, and relationships.

    Literary Experiences
    Students also differ in their literary experiences. In some families literacy is interwoven into daily life. There are books in the home, magazine subscriptions arrive with regularity, family members are seen reading, sharing, and discussing books. Family members have library cards and use them often. TV is viewed in moderation. In other families literacy is not as evident. Contact with reading and writing may be functional and limited. Literary experiences also vary because of school factors. Some students may have had more or less exposure to significant children's literature, poetry, biographies and expository texts.

    See what research suggests about motivation

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