Making Connections…

Pre-reading:

Motivation is a very complicated issue.  There have been several different motivators for me in my education thus far, but something that might motivate me might not motivate someone else.  My motivation to read for myself comes from enjoyment and interest–I read because I want to read.  Reading for school, however, has sometimes been for the sole purpose of academic success.  Especially in subject areas I wasn’t interested in during high school and college, the only thing driving me to pick up a text was a grade.  While grades can be effective motivators for some, they fail many others.  They also are probably not the best motivators for even high achievers because many, including myself, develop the ability to fake comprehension for a grade.  I think the best motivator, which is difficult to cultivate in a classroom, is genuine interest.  Unless students are coming into your class already interested, which is unlikely, the way I see this being achieved is only through passionate and creative teaching.

Post-reading:

The texts, for me, brought light to the importance of prior knowledge and metacognition in reading comprehension and motivation.  Though I have background knowledge about schema theory and have an understanding of how important metacognition is in the reading process, it was helpful to read about specific teaching strategies that make use of these theoretical principles in the classroom.  In this way, the readings didn’t change my mind about prior knowledge and metacognition, but rather gave me ideas of how to apply these theories in the classroom.

The Spires and Donley article was helpful in that it provided research-based evidence the for effectiveness of prior-knowledge activation strategies.  The point I found most interesting, though, is that not only did the PKA group outperform the other group, but they also displayed a more positive attitude toward reading.  They write, “One potential reason for the more positive attitudes exhibited by the PKA group is that the inclusion of personal knowledge is inherently more motivating than the relatively low-interest task of extracting main ideas” (Spires & Donley 9).  This ties directly back to my pre-reading assertion that it is genuine interest that best cultivates motivation.

Closely related to the suggestion that a positive attitude toward reading leads to motivation is the textbook’s claim that self-efficacy is also directly related to motivation.  Many of the prereading scaffolding strategies that the text gives, I deduced, were designed to develop the students’ sense of self-efficacy.  For example, I particularly liked the section about making predictions, because I think doing so helps students feel like an active participant.  Also, tools like the anticipation guide for Night can be helpful in making the text relevant while increasing students’ self-efficacy through active construction of the text.

Though I see the value of many of these strategies that are designed to aid the student through the reading process, I do feel that overusing them can suck the fun out of reading.  I’ve thought about this a lot in relation to writing; in our high-stakes testing era, the emphasis, at least in my experience, is exclusively on the 5-paragraph analytical essay.  While I know students need to learn how to execute this proficiently, I think it’s important to let students explore other kinds of writing so they have a shot at developing a love of the art.  Also, in my experience, writing just to write has value, which is why I think activities like an ungraded daily journal have value.  By the same token, I think that reading just to read has value as well.  If all the reading I did in school was scaffolded in ways detailed in the textbook, I don’t think I would enjoy reading at all.  While I do plan to use many of the prereading  strategies designed to engage students’ pre-existent knowledge, I think they can be overused.  Their implementation should be thoughtful and have a specific purpose.  RCA2011.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Making Connections…

  1. You are right about the process of making predictions because it does make students feel as though there are an active participant in the class and they don’t have to say the most intelligent thing to be a part of conversation. The more that we can make students feel like they are a part of their learning and make it relevant to their lives the better their self-efficacy will be. Of course they will feel better about their skills when they are able to use them and feel as though they are valued. The more self-efficacy they have, the more they will participate, and the more they participate, they better their self-efficacy and they continue to build off of each other throughout a student’s life.

  2. I completely agree with you about “faking comprehension”. It is so true in elementary school. I especially liked reading how you recognize that the greatest motivator to read is a joy of reading. I always wondered which came first, the reading comprehension problems or the lack of enthusiasm about reading. I tend to see the below level readers do not like reading. Is it because they can’t read that high? Or do they have reading problems because they simply aren’t interested in learning how because they don’t enjoy it? I think you brought up some great points. I agree students should have chances to simply write to let out their ideas and to read just to explore a different world. I don’t know what grade or age level you teach, but do you have DEAR time? Or just silent reading time?
    Great job on your blog!
    ~Amber

  3. Cris

    That’s a very interesting point, Hannah, that an over-emphasis on formal writing (the infamous 5-paragraph theme) has all but sucked the life out of the teaching of writing and that excess scaffolding can do the same to reading. The real purpose of scaffolding is to provide support in a way that students develop a metacognitive awareness of how they can apply the strategy so they become independent learners. Continuing to scaffold once the strategies are internalized only serves to make the lesson boring and the learners less independent.

    That’s why I like the Reciprocal Teaching strategy so much. Students work collaboratively toward developing their reading competence and can reduce the amount of scaffolding as they feel more confident.

    In the whole class, knowing when to scaffold and who to scaffold for can become a real way to differentiate.

    Thanks for “writing against” scaffolding. George Noblitt, professor of education and sociology, has described this as the best way to really learn about an issue/topic.

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