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What motivates students?

Building Robust Reading Skills in Students

“Americans are not good readers,” writes Daniel Willingham. “The problem is…bad education habits engendered by a misunderstanding of how the mind reads.” While Willingham makes a case for the role of background knowledge, he also reveals the large part thinking plays in “filling the gaps” that enable full comprehension. After children learn to decode, how do we teach them to comprehend? This was one of the initial questions that launched the Foundations & Frameworks Reading Program.

Learning: More Than Input → Output

Betsy Hill’s writing on cognitive skills presents several strong connections to Architecture of Learning. For example, consider this sentence: “After our brains have taken in information, sorted it, organized it, and given it meaning, it is time for us to do something with it.” As teachers, we need to design our teaching to fit what we know about how the brain learns. We need to plan instruction that, as Hill writes,, engages the “mental processes our brains use to take in, organize, understand and retrieve information.”

The Pen is Mightier Than the…Pencil?

Can simply changing writing instruments help foster a learning mindset? Courtney Sears’s experience suggests that it just might! When pens, rather than pencils, became students’ main tool for all of their work, beneficial things happened—for students AND teacher. As a result, Sears concludes, “Now the tools in my classroom match the teaching.”

Motivating Through Choice

The goal is to get the right book in the hands of students while protecting reading time as much as possible.


Want your students to read more? Intrinsic motivation naturally increases when students are given choices. Educator Susan Barber reminds us that “the goal is to get the right book in the hands of students while protecting reading time as much as possible.” Barber details nine ideas that incorporate student choice in the classroom using the instructional time you already have.

The Foundations and Frameworks Instructional Reading Program encourages students to choose texts from a predetermined list (provided for the teacher). Students become acquainted with them in many ways, including those described by Barber. These books are then used to develop and practice comprehension and thinking skills.

Today’s students are learning in an info-rich world. By offering high-quality book choices, we can use the brain’s natural motivation networks to equip students for success.

If You Know the Reading Level, Why Ask
Students for Their Input…?

One of the most common questions asked about Foundations & Frameworks is, "If you know the reading level of the book, why do you ask students for their input in making selections for a unit?" This article by Donalyn Miller offers a thoughtful response. As we visit schools, I see this overzealous commitment to readability levels actually holding students back. When a child is highly interested in a book, that motivation can carry him/her up to the text's readability demands, AND reading that book can become a major developmental milestone for the child. Readability matters (even though readability "scores" for any text can vary widely between different scales), but it is only ONE piece of a more complex puzzle.
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