At the grade three level, children are motivated by goals, targets and contests. I begin the year with a contest called “Read Across Canada”. Come January, the children lose interest and are ready for another challenge. To coincide with the Winter Olympics in 2014, I adapted a “Reading Olympics”. In the spring, we move into “Spring into a Great Book” or “Fishing for a Good Book”. The goal is to motivate children to read books at their own ‘just right’ reading level and to foster an excitement of reading.
For “Read Across Canada”, you will need:
• A large map of Canada with dots stretching across the map
• Small figures to represent each student
• Reading Record page
• Incentives or targets (such as coupons like “Choose a game for the class to play in P.E.” or little prizes like bookmarks and pencils)
• Lots of great books
Children create a figure to represent themselves. For each book (or specific number of pages, such as 100 pages), they can move their figure one dot across the map. The children also record the titles, author and number of pages for each book completed on a Reading Record page. I often have students so motivated to read, they read across Canada as a ‘person’, then take a return voyage as a ‘train’ or a ‘car’. (some have even crossed Canada 3 or 4 times!)
The map is created out of laminated poster boards. When fit together (like a puzzle), a map of Canada appears! Notice the dots for the students’ mini figures.
In January, we moved into Reading Olympics. To coincide with the Winter Olympics in 2014, I adapted something I read about on the internet while searching one day for ideas. I designed charts as a way to motive my students while introducing them to a variety of genres besides the widely popular “Geronimo Stilton”. The students would earn paper trophies and a small prize for each level completed. Each time a student completed a level, I would hold a mini Awards Ceremony. While playing the theme song from the Vancouver Olympics, I would shake the student’s hand and present him/her with the trophy. This was certainly a highlight!
The students loved reading through the levels! In fact, some were so motivated, I had to create additional levels just to stay one step ahead of them.
To read about variations of “Reading Olympics” and “Reading Bingo”, check out this link:
After spring break, we were ready for something new! Some years, I used “Spring into a Great Book“. Each child made a flower to hang on the bulletin board. As books were completed, he/she would write the title of the book and the author on the stem/leaf and attach to the flower. It quickly became a contest to see whose flower could grow the fastest. For some, the flowers extended from the top of the bulletin board all the way to the floor. (I originally found these on http://www.theteacherscorner.net)
Other years, I used “Fishing for a Good Book” to coincide with our science pond unit. Each child created a fishing license to display on the bulletin board. With each book completed, the student would fill in the details of the book (title, author, number of pages) on a template of a fish. These fish would then be hung on a pipe cleaner key ring to add to the bulletin board.
Regardless of which ‘reading incentive’ we used, the children were motivated to read! My own son was in my grade three class a few years ago. Throughout the year, his love of reading soared as he devoured about 10 chapter books each week. (Three years later, he still loves to read and collecting books has become almost an obsession).
I realize there is some controversy over the use of Reading Incentive Programs. Alfie Kohn in his blog post “A Closer Look at Reading Incentive Programs”, states that “What rewards do, and what they do with devastating effectiveness, is to smother people’s enthusiasm for activities they might otherwise enjoy.” Although I can see Kohn’s point of view, I have witnessed many children develop a love of reading through such programs that offer praise, encouragement and perhaps a small prize like a bookmark or a pencil. If the designated reading incentive was the sum of all a teacher did in class to foster a love of reading, I can agree with Kohn as he argues that “reading has been presented not as a pleasurable experience but as a means for obtaining a goodie” (Kohn. 1999). Through additional reading activities such as Read Alouds, partner reading, and book talks, reading is continuously viewed in class as a wonderful experience and a gift for all to enjoy.
What are your thoughts in this debate? Should schools/teachers use reading incentives?
Jennifer. (surname removed) (1998-2015). Spring Bulletin Board Ideas. [Web log comment]. Retrieved from http://bulletinboards.theteacherscorner.net/theme/spring/
Kohn. (2009). A Closer Look at Reading Incentive Programs. [Web log comment]. Retrieved from http://www.alfiekohn.org/article/reading-incentives/
Mrs. ReaderPants. (2013, July 7). Reading Incentive Idea: Reading Bingo. [Web log comment]. Retrieved from http://www.readerpants.net/2013/07/reading-incentive-idea-reading-bingo.html
Yanofsky, N. (2010). “I Believe”. CTV Montage 2010 Olympic Winter Games. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cowe84zw32c