Saturday, February 8, 2014

Reading Workshop: Increasing Motivation and Accountability

When it comes to reading workshop, we as teachers want it to run like a well-oiled machine. You, the teacher, are sitting at your back table with a small group of students. Your small group is active in rigorous learning that is differentiated to their specific needs. You and your scholars are really honing in on crucial literacy skills! The rest of your class is working independently around the room individually, in pairs, creating a soft buzzing sound as every single student is engaged in learning. One student sits at a desk using scrabble tiles to spell his spelling words for the week, another practices her high frequency word flashcards, another cozies up against a pillow as he reads to himself, two students follow along in a book with headphones on their ears at the listen to reading station, one student is taking a comprehension quiz on a student laptop, a pair of students point together in a big book as they whisper read together... This is what your workshop looks like EVERY SINGLE DAY, right? I know that for myself, this is what I want. And sometimes, in fact, a lot of the time, this is what I see. However, we all have those days in teaching where our students seem to get "a case of the crazies." Or, we have those specific students who need lots of time, patience, and scaffolding to really build this independence. 

That's where having a specific tracking system for reading workshop that increases motivation and promotes accountability comes into play. Ultimately, I want my students to be intrinsically motivated. I want THEM to WANT to read and write because they DESIRE to do it. I want them to have to struggle to tear themselves away from that page-turner of a book like I do when reading at night. However, I have to meet my students where they are at. And not all of our students come to us at school with this intrinsic motivation in place. Thus, we have to help build a bridge for these students using extrinsic motivators. Through extrinsic motivation, we can move them step by step towards intrinsic motivation coming from one's self.

I spent a lot of time thinking about what I could use to keep my students motivated during reading workshop time now that the novelty of the newness of it all has worn off. I put myself into the mind of second grader, and tried to remember, "What motivated me as an elementary student?" That's when I thought of Girl Scouts. I have great memories not only of the cookies (can we say thin mint craving happening right now!?) but of the experiences. Art work, the great outdoors, community service, there were so many different activities I participated in, and at the end of each experience, something very special was earning that badge or pin to add to my sash as a tangible symbol of my growth and learning. I treasured my badges and actually still have them in a box in my basement, which I will pull out from time to time to reminisce. These badges are what sparked my idea of how to keep my kiddos motivated during reader's workshop in the classroom.

First, I created a tracking chart for my students to use to keep themselves accountable for the work they are completing each day. I use the Daily 5 (read to self, read to someone, listen to reading, work on writing, and word work) structure to organize my reading workshop. To download my tracking chart for free, click on the photo below or HERE.

So that students aren't victims of the desk monster eating their tracking charts, I staple all of them to our reading workshop bulletin board. Then, students get to use paint pens to mark the choices they are completing each day. Who doesn't love a paint pen!?

Once I had my tracking system in place to increase accountability, it was time to develop the reward system to build motivation. I wanted to get that feel of badges as I experienced with Girl Scouts, so I came up with a set of 25 unique "badges of honor" all connected to literacy for students to earn, one each week.

Then came the task of how to display these "badges of honor." How about necklaces? I went to the store and bought a big spool of lanyard, lanyard snaps, and beads. I made the necklaces and then brought in the beads to have my students actually string them. My students loved choosing their own colors and really took pride in and ownership of their workshop necklaces. Now, we were ready to start earning badges! 

To earn a badge, students need to have at least one stamp in each of the Daily 5 categories (read to self, read to someone, listen to reading, work on writing, and word work) on their tracking chart. This really helps my students to do ALL of the stations vs. just their favorites (aka the student who just wants to use stamps each day for word work or the student who always wants to read to self). Also, I made it very clear that quality work needed to be done at these stations, and we have had ample discussions about what "quality work" does and does not look like. Since my workshop is an hour long, students complete two different activities a day. This means that if students are doing what they are supposed to be doing independently when they are not with me in small group, they should have one stamp in each Daily 5 category with room to pick some of their faves over again and get a second stamp.

So far, with this new tracking and rewards system, I have noticed some great results. I had 2 students initially that would try to sneak in doing the same exact station each day, and now, they are hitting all of the Daily 5 categories. Also, my students as a whole class are excited to get their badges on their necklaces, and they wear them with pride during workshop.

To get your very own "badges of honor" pack to increase motivation and accountability during your reading workshop time, click the picture below or HERE.

My hope is that my students at the end of the year have a necklace full of badges. They can then take this home to keep as a memento of all the great learning they for reading in second grade. And who knows, maybe someday they will store it in a box in their basement too.

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