Middle school readers are challenging to motivate. Those that love to read enjoy reading books in class and diving into rich classroom discussions enthusiastically. Those that struggle, or claim not to enjoy reading, sit in a fog of denial, selflessness, and bleak daydreams. This might be a bit extreme, but there seems to be two types of students in the Language Arts classroom: readers and nonreaders. Bridging the gap between these two by the time students reach middle school is a demanding process, but it is also a worthwhile process. When I glance at the students in my classes, I see the dread in the eyes of the reluctant readers when I divulge we are going to be reading a new text. Perhaps the wall students build to fortify their stance against reading is due to the fear of having to sit for long periods of time; the social embarrassment they face if they fail to understand concepts, words, or plot; or the belief that if they haven’t enjoyed reading by middle school, they will never enjoy it.
Doom. Do we, as educators, accept that reluctant and struggling readers will remain in this temperament? I believe we have to do whatever is in our power to help inspire and prepare our students to read. There are several ways to address these types of readers, but I would like to suggest that breaking up the monotony of “seated” reading can help motivate students due to an active versus a passive environment.
As I have been preparing for the Association for Middle Level Educators Conference in Minneapolis this week, I have selected several activities to help energize and motivate reading activities within the classroom. I will be presenting a workshop titled, Reading Through Movement. One of the activities I will showcase is a simple activity involving predetermined partners students need to find at various points in the reading process. The process was originally presented in a workshop I attended led by Kathy Stevens of the Gurian Institute:
This activity can be used as a Before, During or After Reading Strategy. It can be used as a Before Reading Strategy to activate prior knowledge, as a During Reading Strategy to check for understanding, and it can be used as After Reading Strategy to summarize a text.
One way to use this is to have students find 12, 3, 6, and 9 partners and write them down on the clock template. At various points, the teacher can tell students to find a specific partner to discuss a question or recall various pieces of the plot of the story. For example, a teacher may instruct that each student needs to find his or her “12” partner to answer a question regarding the conflict presented in the exposition of a short story. This strategy can be used for multiple questions during the reading of a text allowing students to move several times to find one of their partners (question #1 might be answered with the “12” partner, question #2 with the “6” partner, etc). Students can keep these same partners throughout the duration of the unit or they can change at the introduction of a new lesson.
There are several moments during the reading process that teachers either ask students questions, or they have students discuss in partners or small groups. This activity allows student to not only answer questions or discuss with their peers, but also to get up and move!