Spark Student Motivation with Choice

While at the IRA conference last weekend, one of the biggest themes I gathered from all of the presenters, was that we need to allow more student choice while reading.  I am not in a common core state, but apparently it mentions specific texts as suggestions (?), and so people were concerned that teachers and/or decision makers will see that as a required reading list to teach to.

It was mentioned that as adults, we rarely read things that we do not want to or that we are not interested in.  Yet, as kids get older, we give them less and less choice about what to read.

Extrinsic motivators for reading generally seemed to be frowned upon, because they ultimately do not result in a love for reading inside and outside of school, and it was even suggested that they may even inhibit intrinsic motivation from developing.

Apparently the IRA has both a student choice book list and a teacher choice book list.  Only ONE book has ever appeared on both lists!  Here is the link to the lists.

We should not be dragging kids through books, instead they should be reading things that are interesting to them so that they develop a love for reading.  No matter how hard WE work, it is ultimately the student who needs to want to read.  

It was suggested to incorporate lots of open ended responses that could be done with any book.  For example, if students are writing questions or completing a graphic organizer, they can be working on the same skill using any text they want.  The teacher could also narrow the choices down to a particular genre or give a reading group a choice of several texts, etc. to allow for more control but still have the option of choice.  Many of the presenters commented that students are often capable of more than we think when they WANT to do it.

It was stated that elementary classrooms need about 1,000 books of wide variety to meet the needs and interests of all the students for the entire year.  Thankfully, this is something I have accomplished!

Here's how I incorporate student choice with reading:
*Students have independent reading book boxes to keep books they are interested in
*I have a large library, some of which is leveled and the rest is organized by genre
*I try to rotate books in the library as the seasons change, etc. to keep it fresh
*Students participate in read to self and read to someone, reading whatever books they choose
*I will sometimes have students complete graphic organizers, such as story maps, or identify text features, etc. with any book they choose as long as it is the same genre we are working with (I need to do more of this)

Goals for next year:
*Provide choice in small group
*Start a book review or what are we reading board to develop a community of readers
*Read aloud more to expose students to new books and get them hyped about reading different things
*More independent/partner reading time
*Figure out an organized way to record and track reading conferences

How do you incorporate student choice when it comes to reading?


  1. This summer I read The Book Whisper and had the realization that I wanted my kiddos to have more personal choice in my room. I started teaching reading using the Reading Workshop model so that I can give my kids time to read personal choice novels everyday. It has been awesome to watch them grow this year. The main way I hold them accountable is by using a Reader's Notebook and having weekly conferences with them.

    Hunter's Tales from Teaching

  2. I don't know about older grades, but the Kindergarten Common Core does not list specific books. There are companion pieces on unpacking the skills that list suggestions for teaching skills, but they are not required.

    When I was in grad school we talked about how important student choice is. We also talked about teaching kids how to read things they didn't like. Just to be clear, I'm not advocating forcing kids to read dry, boring material. However, we DO talk about reading books through to the end and reasons that people might not like a book. One of the questions we discuss after a read aloud is "Did you like this book? Why or why not?" My students know that it's okay not to like a book, as long as they have a reason. I think it's important for them to realize they won't like everything they read because
    1. I have yet to read an engaging and entertaining piece of literature on a state test and
    2. I do have to sometimes read things I don't like or enjoy.

    My Kinder-Garden

  3. I don't know how many books I have in my classroom library but I know it is not enough. I am so impressed that you have accomplished it. I make sure that I get books from the public library to keep things fresh and keep the kids interested. I usually have at least 40 books signed out from the public library to match our classroom themes or seasons. I love that you already have your goals set for next year. Thanks for sharing what has been working for you and your students.

  4. Such great food for thought! I've started adding some modified choice into my guided reading groups. Sometimes I'll give students a choice between books. I love your ideas- definitely something I need to work on! Great post!!

    Smiles from 2nd Grade

  5. Wow Jessica! What a great post! I agree that book choice is motivating! I have a book issue, so I'm happy to say I'm meet the classroom library requirement (x6-sshhh!!! I have lots of literature circle sets (6-8) books and this is how I give my small groups book choice. I also organized a bookcase dedicated solely to "double books" for paired reading or buddy reading. Individuals found books that interested them and then found someone who also had the same interests. They set their own pacing and deadlines. They really enjoyed it and it gave them an opportunity to pair up with someone new. Thanks for sharing and linking up!
    Head Over Heels For Teaching

  6. I have to say that I LOVE YOUR POST and I couldn't agree more! I haven't always given my students as much freedom as I do now and boy has it made a difference. They are reading up a storm and talking and sharing books with each other all the time. Choice truly is a beautiful thing for all of us! Best thing I ever did as a teacher! :) Thanks for sharing this post.
    Creating Lifelong Learners

  7. Oh, and I wanted to add that I posted about an app called Confer on my blog a few weeks ago. I use it to keep track of my reading conferences and it has been a game changer! Kind of expensive, but very worth it!! Hop over to my blog and read about how I use it in what we call BOOK TALKS. Great for conferences. Just a thought since you are looking for ways to keep track. :)
    Creating Lifelong Learners


Back to Top