Course Work



 Motivating the Unmotivated Students to Read

By Annie Schave

TE 891




Currently, I teach fifth grade at Barnes Elementary School in Flat Rock, Michigan.  Our fifth grade is split into two teams where I teach three science classes and one language arts class.  Our current class density consists of approximately thirty students with at least three students receiving special education services.  Combining the high density of students in each class along with emotional stresses that come from home lives creates a difficulty for motivating students academically. 



I have always believed that active lessons connecting to the real world promote motivation and excitement for learning where students are treated as thinkers and doers.  Students will achieve academic prosperity when teachers give them the opportunity to succeed.  This disposition will create for a successful learning environment.  To fully implement my action plan, I need to utilize novel strategies that motivate students to read in a world where students believe that reading has a lackluster appearance.  I also must understand what students need to jumpstart learning and promote social acceptance in the classroom (Roe, 2005, p. 502).


Personal Project Interest

Each day I give my students time to silent read a book of their choice.  During this activity I spend most of my time managing students who don’t want to read.  Some of the students will sit with a book in their hands, never flipping a page.  Others try to hide in the bathroom or in the book corner.  Others blatantly disrupt those students who are trying to read.  Parents complain to me that their child refuses to read at home and they don’t know what to do.  Previously, I required students to read at least one hour a week at home and get a parent signature to signify they are reading.  This, however, still didn’t get kids reading for pleasure.  Reading can open new avenues for student thinking, driving their curiosity and building new ideas.  As a teacher, I want to be able to encourage all of my students to not only read but to love to read.  I want students to be excited when they pick up a book.  I want my students to be motivated to read!  


The dilemma I face each day makes me question how I can do this.  What strategies will work best to motivate the unmotivated student to read?  If I want students to be excited to read, what strategies should I implement that will achieve this.  Inside of this question lie two major quandaries.  The first is what reading strategies should be implemented in a reading classroom.  Upon researching, I found an overabundance of reading strategies that claim to make students successful.  I want to find a few of these that stimulate reading excitement for all students in my class.  The second is what motivational interventions work best.  Some students enter the classroom ready and willing to learn.  I want to specifically target those students who enter the classroom lacking this readiness. 



Why Is Reading Important?

There are three main goals of reading.  First, all aspects of our lives involve reading.  Secondly, it is the main way to obtain information.  The last goal is enjoyment.  Without the ability to read, life functioning becomes difficult.  It is this reason that educators stress the importance of reading; however, this is not always directly stated and understood by students.  The problem is that children “who do not attach importance to learning to read will not be motivated to learn  (Roe, Smith, Burns, 2005, p. 3).  It is stated that children who are successful in school are those who enjoy reading.  Students who do not enjoy independent reading do not achieve the same successful academically or in life that those who like to read do (Grams, 2003).  As teachers we need to make sure that we build comprehension levels with those students who struggle with reading, especially at an early level.  According to Shinn, Walker, and Stoner (2002), “early academic experiences that consistently end in failure can easily decrease students’ motivation to engage in the hard work reading requires” (p. 736).  “Struggling readers lack the critical elements they need to become effective readers  (Commare, 2003, p. 5).  By the time these students get to the middle and high school levels, they inherently avoid the task of reading.  These students need to build their reading confidence at an early level as well as their comprehension strategies.  “Improving students literacy skills, therefore, must be a high priority if we want all students to value the gift of learning”  (Horton, 2004, p. 32).


The next question is then what can teachers do to improve literacy for students.  In Best Practice:  New Standards for Teaching and Learning in America’s Schools, Zemelman, Daniels, and Hyde (1998), suggest reading instruction needs to include many opportunities to interact with text as well as exposure to a variety of text (p. 30). It also suggested student choice in the reading program and student sharing of what they are reading (p. 31) in a low risk environment where students are willing to take risks  (Feathers, 1993, p. 34).  One strategy that fits with these ideas include literature circles where students gain independence, social and cooperative learning skills, and communication skills as well as improving comprehension strategies (Day, 2003, 10).  Another strategy would be to create an environment where students can engage collaboratively with each other, taking risks knowing that they will not be penalized for choices they make (Feathers, 993, p. 34).  To do this, the teacher needs to actively promote acceptance of all answers and build on questioning techniques in reading discussion.  This can be done by implementing a peer tutoring model where students work cooperatively, proving feedback to each other (Shinn, Walker, Stoner, 2005, p. 747).  This can be done by using PALS (Shinn, Walker, Stoner, 2005, p. 747) or a QAR strategy (Vaughn, Bos, Schumm, 2006, p. 367).  


What Is Motivation and What Is Its Importance In The Classroom?

According to Barbara Larrivee (2006), motivation is defined as “emotional tendencies that guide or facilitate reaching goals” (p. 231).  In the classroom, teachers strive to guide students towards goals.  This can pose problems when the students’ emotional tendencies are against learning and reaching these goals.  It is said by Rachel Cocks and Helen Watt (2004) that “students with mastery goals are intrinsically motivated to strive to develop competence by learning as much as they can about a subject, focusing on their development of skill and competence relative to the task” (p. 87).  Furthermore, the expectations teachers communicate towards students have a major influence on how that student sees their abilities and their achievements (Cocks and Watts, 2004, p. 86).   A teacher can alter a child’s intrinsic motivation with appropriate and valued academic constructs that the child will perceive as worthwhile.  According to Dr. Jere Brophy (1998), students come to school excited to learn but “over time may find the experience anxiety provoking and psychologically threatening” (p. 2). The students will then avoid concern for mastery goals and in turn concern themselves with the image the portray to others in the classroom.


To assist students with their motivation in the classroom, teachers need strategies that will help students build their self-esteem and confidence.  Brophy (1998) suggested modeling coping strategies (p. 5).  Since many students do not automatically learn these strategies, they need to be taught and modeled often.  Building these strategies will also encourage positive relationships in the classroom, (Larrivee, 2005, p. 228) decreasing misbehavior that often causes problems in the classroom.  Brophy (1998) also suggested that teachers should “including encouragement and shaping strategies in their response to the student” (p. 4).  To do this it is vital to reward improvement by “emphasizing the student’s hard work and effort” (Vaughn, 2006, p. 328).  The last strategy includes providing students with choices.  Cocks and Watts (2004) stated that intrinsic value will increase when there are academic choices for participation (p. 87).  Students who have choices in academic materials feel empowered and will be more willing to complete the tasks at hand. 




  • What strategies work best to encourage the unmotivated students to read?



  • How does motivating students to read relate to writing?
  • What effects does facilitating discussion have verses answering written questions?
  • How does including a class wide peer tutoring program effect motivation to read?
  • What types of encouragement motivate students?
  • What reading strategies can be used cross-curriculum to encourage students?
  • What types of assessments best continue to motivate the students in reading?
  • What ways can I push students to challenge themselves in reading without taking away their motivation?
  • How can multi-media play into motivating students to read?
  • What are the students’ attitudes towards reading for leisure?


Data Collection                                                

Best Practice (1998) informs educators to decrease the amount of teacher selected reading for individuals and for groups (Zeleman, Daniels, and Hyde, p. 54).   To do this, it suggests, “choice is an integral part of literate behavior” (p. 31).  To integrate choice into reading, I will use literature circles where students have the ability to choose the book they want to read.  During these literature circle meetings, I can either meet with the group to monitor their progress and book discussion or videotape it.  The videotape can be used for my own reflective purposes or to show to the class for group analysis, not grading.  Since reflective writing is important when reading to understand different perspectives and develop comprehension (Feathers, 1993, p. 100), I will have students keep reading journals.  These journals may include learning logs, letters, and role-playing exercises that may also be published online to create for more excitement.  The journals will be graded based on progress, not length of what is written.  To show students that reading continues into adulthood, I will also keep a reading journal and share this with students as they share their own.  Collaboration is important in the classroom, especially for students who are struggling.  Students who are struggling academically achieve success when they are paired with another reader in peer tutoring programs (Roe, Smith, Burns, 2005, p. 500).  To do this, the class will be trained and practice the proper interaction procedures of how to read together and question during peer tutoring.  Reading workshop is vital to teaching reading strategies.  I will utilize the Fountas and Pinnell (2001) model for reading workshop teaching mini-lessons and meeting with students in group settings (p. 142).  During lessons I will conduct think alouds along with metacognitive discussions (Commare, 2003, p. 38).  Also, I will conduct individual conferences during reader’s workshop where I can monitor what the students are reading, discuss their choices of books, and offer individualized support (Roe, Smith, Burns, 2005, p. 500).  For proper monitoring purposes, I will keep a journal detailing strategies that are effective, notes on student comments, and reflections on my own teachings.  Quarterly student surveys (See Figure 1) will provide me with the personal reading interests of students.


Data Analysis

  • With the student surveys, I will be able to determine which enjoy reading and the amount of time students spend reading for fun.  It will give me a good basis for the students’ interest levels in reading as well as their reflective progression throughout each quarter.  The survey will allow me to pinpoint students to conference with and discuss reading.  Also, I will how each student prefers to read and what they suggest we implement in the classroom.
  • Literature circles will allow students to gain control in reading as well as critical thinking while building their reading preferences (Thompkins, 2003, p. 369).  Students will become independent and enjoy reading with this open ended activity.
  • During reading workshop, mini-lessons will allow me to build strategies need to be an effective reader (Fountas and Pinnell, 2001, p. 142).  Conferencing with students will allow me to personally engage students in book discussions and build on their reading interests.  Here I can monitor each student in their progress and give personalized encouragement.  During the conferences, I will complete a log on each student and their responses (See Figure 2).  Students should make progress with their reading comprehension strategies as the year progresses.  Students will also benefit from individualized support during these conferences where I can re-teach strategies as I see fit.
  • Videotaping peer tutoring and discussion groups will allow me to see progress in student responses and pinpoint areas of weakness.  According to Roe, Burns, and Smith (2005), peer tutoring increases “academic achievement, self-concepts, social interactions, and attitudes towards learning” (p. 500).  Students should gain better ideas working with others enhancing their understanding.  Students should also begin to compare their understanding to their peers, deepening knowledge and sharing responsibility for work.  (Feathers, 1993, p. 36)
  • Journaling not only will allow me to follow student progress with what they are reading but it also gives me a chance to respond to them and offer “supportive feedback as a guide for further reading” (Roe, Smith, Burns, 2005, p. 324).  Journal entries will give me a writing sample to go along with the conference that I have with students.  I would be looking for progression in journal details that also correspond with what the student discusses with me in the conference.
  • My journal will be used to reflect on the reading strategies used.  I can analyze how I feel they went, what I would like to change and what dispositions students are having to reading.




  • Discuss project with grade level team
  • Meet with fourth grade teachers
  • Discuss project with parents at parent night
  • Discuss project with students
  • Hand out surveys and analyze results
  • Start reading journals and conferencing/model procedures
  • Begin class wide peer tutoring



  • Adjust reading and motivational strategies as needed
  • Monitor progress made with students
  • Continue to discuss with dispositions with students and share videos of peer tutoring and literature circle discussions
  • Make accommodations for students who need extra encouragement
  • Meet with grade level team to discuss and reflect on strategies
  • Meet with principal to evaluate strategies



  • Make final assessments of students progress
  • Analyze final survey to determine student progress
  • Meet with students on their progress during the year
  • Discuss final results with grade level team and principal



I predict that many of my students will understand the importance of reading by the end of the year.  I see many students who learn to talk about the books they are reading with others.  Also, I see most students making significant progress on their reading comprehension strategy skills. 




































Figure 1:  Quarterly Reading Survey


Name:  _____________________________________________

Date:  _____________________________________________


Rate the following on a scale of 1 to 5 with 1 being the lowest/never and 5 being the highest/always.  A 3 is middle or sometimes.


  1. I enjoy reading!  I read at home for fun!            _____
  2. I like to read a variety of book genres.  _____
  3. I read at least one hour a week at home.           _____
  4. I prefer to read quietly.                         _____
  5. I prefer to read with someone else.                    _____
  6. I challenge myself when I read choosing books that are not easy but not too difficult for me to read.                               _____
  7. I can see progress in my reading skills.  _____
  8. Tell me about the last three books that you have read.
  9. Tell me why you chose those books.
  10. What kind of books would you be interested in reading next?
  11. What ideas would you like to try in the classroom?
  12. Do you have any book recommendations?


























Figure 2:  Student – Teacher Reading Conference Form



Wow!  Great Job!


Doing Well!


On the Right Track!


Might Need to Reread Parts For Better Understanding/Reteach Strategy


Meet Again Later This Week to Rediscuss/Reteach Strategy

Student understood question being asked.  Student greatly elaborated with details from the book and explanations of their thoughts.

Student understood question asked.  Student cited examples from the book with some explanation.

Student understood the question and answered it with a brief response.

Student needs more support on the strategy.  Student took some time understanding what the question was but finally got it.  The response was brief.

Student needs support on the strategy.  Student did not understand what the question was stating and could not reference the book.


1.  What is the name of your book?                                           Rating:  _____

2.  What genre is your book?                                                    Rating:  _____

3.  Who are the main characters?                                              Rating:  _____

4.  What is the setting?                                                  Rating:  _____

5.  What are the big events that occurred?                                 Rating:  _____

6.  Tell me a cause and effect from the book?                Rating:  _____

7.  What is the author teaching you?                                          Rating:  _____

8.  What have you connected with in the book?             Rating:  _____

9.  What questions do you have?                                               Rating:  _____

10. What do you think will happen next?                                   Rating:  _____

11. Is there any figurative language?                                          Rating:  _____

12. Have you had to reread any parts and why?                        Rating:  _____

13. How would you rate this?                           Easy     Just Right          Challenging

14. Other questions and comments:












Professional References:



Brophy, J.  (1998)  “Failure Syndrome Students.”  Eric Digest.  ED419624


Cocks, R, & Watts, H (2004). “Relationships Among Perceived Competence, Intrinsic Value and Mastery Goal Orientation in English Maths.” The Australian Educational Researcher. 31, 81-111.


Commare, C, & Sedlack, S (2003). “Increasing Reading Ability Among First and Third Grade Students.” ERIC Digest.


Day, C.  (2003)  Reading and Responding in Literature Circles.”  Primary English Teaching Association.  1-13.


Feathers, K. (1993). Infotext Reading and Learning. Toronto: Pippin Publisihing Corporation.


Fountas, I, & Pinnell, G (2001).  “Guiding Readers and Writers (Grades 3 – 6):  Teaching Comprehension, Genre, and Content Literacy.”  Boston:  Heinneman.


Grams, David (2003, June 30). “E-Books, Motivating Students to Read Independently.” Retrieved July 14, 2006, Web site:


Horton, R (2005). “Boys Are People Too: Boys and Reading, Truth and Misconceptions.” Teacher Librarian. 33, 30-32.


Larrivee, B (2005). Authentic Classroom Management: Creating A Learning Community and Building Reflective Practice. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.


Roe, B, Smith, S, & Burns, P (2005). Teaching Reading In Today's Elementary Schools. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.


Thompkins, G (2003).  Literacy for the 21st Century.  Upper Saddle River:  Merrill Prentice Hall.


Shinn, M, Walker, H, & Stoner, G (2002). Interventions for Academic and Behavior Problems II: Prevention and Remedial Approaches. Bethesda: NASP Publications.


Vaughn, S, Bos, C, & Schumm, j (2006). Teaching Exceptional, Diverse, and At-Risk Students in the General Education Classroom. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.


Zemelman, S, Daniels, H, & Hyde, A (1998). Best Practice: New Standards for Teaching and Learning in America's Schools. Portsmouth: Heinemann.