Reading Specialist Winter 2014

LE 3: Differentiation and Motivation


In this LE, we investigated how to be leaders in the areas of differentiation and motivation in reading. You shared your thinking and then you shared a wealth of ideas and resources. I have collected all your resources and shared them here so that you will have access to them even after the course has finished.

Resources for Differentiation in Reading

Resources for Motivation in Reading


I was able to post most of the artifacts (sorry, the format of some of the images didn't allow me to post them here). For some of the artifacts, I posted the explanations as well.

This is the artifact and explanation that Shelley shared with us.

I choose this artifact to represent student motivation in reading. One morning before the winter break, my grade 1 student’s entered the classroom and a note was written on our white board. Right away the students were trying to read what the note was about. The note caught their attention because it was something new and they realized it was from a teacher at our school. The teacher has been working in the classroom every day offering students support so all the students are familiar with her. I enjoyed observing the students excitement trying to read certain words and trying to figure out the meaning of the message. As a group, we read the message and we figured out that Mrs. McCall’s reindeer nose off her car was missing. Mrs. McCall later came to the classroom asking if we had read her note and how disappointed she was that she no longer had the reindeer nose. As a class, we often go on neighbourhood walks and some students had noticed the holiday decorations and some cars had reindeer antlers and noses on them.

The students really wanted to help Mrs. McCall so they started asking her questions about what the nose looks like. Students then started the discussion on how do we find things that go missing? We looked on the computer and read some stories related to finding missing items. As a class we felt that missing posters were needed to find the nose. Students worked together drawing pictures of the nose and described what the nose looks like. Students demonstrated different skills by preparing posters that had pictures, drawings and even photos on them. We went around the school and hung our missing posters up and asked students to please let us know if they find it. A few days later went on our neighbourhood walk looking for changes in our community and we saw something red in the snow. We were all very excited to find Mrs. McCall’s missing nose in the snow!!!!!!! (I had bought a new one for the students to find) The students were so excited to share the news with others and return the nose to Mrs. McCall.

Mystery Guest Reader

The artifact I want to share isn’t an image, poem, activity or book, but an idea that I think has been particularly motivating at our school: the Mystery Guest Reader (MGR). I wish this idea had been mine, but I give credit to our fantastic library-prep teacher, who created and implemented this program at our school this year. The idea of the MGR is that once a week, someone who is not a staff member will come to the school and read in the library during one of the recesses when the library is open. We don’t know which day, what time, or who the MGR will be—even the teachers don’t know. The MGR doesn’t interact with the students at all, he/she just comes and reads and is seen reading the students. Our teacher-librarian takes a photo of the MGR and we have a big bulletin board where we track the readers and the dates they read in our library. We have had parents, local politicians, local businessmen, former teachers from our school and most recently, Spiderman! (Superman is coming later in the year.)

The MGR program has been so motivating because it brings students into the library who might normally not give up a recess to do so. Many of my reluctant grade 5 boys will spend time in the library waiting for the MGR to come and, while they’re there, they inevitably discover a new book that they want to try out. The MGR always brings a book that he/she is currently reading, so it proves to the kids that people from all genders, races, occupations and walks-of-life not only read, but enjoy reading. A beloved former custodian read a how-to manual, and others have read a variety of books, from fiction to non-fiction to cookbooks, so it’s not just another adult coming in to read a book to the students, but it is an adult reading for the love of reading. It has been amazing!

Millie's Artifact Explanation

We were asked to think of a student who seemed to be disconnected, lacking in social interactions, or just was unmotivated at school. We wrote the name down and then exchanged the name with another teacher. Until the next staff meeting, our task was to try and connect with that child and find out more about them. This was not only a great way to meet a student you might not have had many interactions with, but it was also a way to find out more about the student and find out what motivates them. This was a powerful task that demonstrates the importance of knowing our students and how to motivate them. I admired Admin for facilitating this activity. It was interesting to hear some of the teachers comments, some felt pressured to engage in a conversation with a student who isn't in their classroom while others made connections immediately.

Karina's Artifact Explanation

The artifact I chose is one that depicts differentiation (and motivation due to choice) in reading. This artifact is a response sheet that I have used with both Grade 1 and Grade 2 students. On this sheet, students respond to a story that they have read or that they have heard. In order to complete their response, students need to apply their knowledge of the comprehension strategies that we have learned or practiced in the classroom. At the top of the activity, there are pictures and words to show the different strategies that we have discussed. Students need to think about which ones they want to apply in their response.

Once students have thought about the text and the strategies, they need to circle the strategies that they are going to use in their response. Then, they will need to include the title, write their response, and draw a picture to match their words. I have uses these during our reading lessons, with guided reading groups, and at the listening work station.

Marlene's Feedback Folder

The folder is actually a portfolio-style folder with two pockets. On one side, is a picture of a person climbing steps (toward a goal) with the words, “Getting There” and on the other side is a picture of a star and the words, “I did it!” What I do is print a mini copy of our current learning goal and a very short list of success criteria, to keep it simple for my grade 2 students, and place it in the folder for them to refer to.

While conferencing with individual students, we look at their work together (i.e., a comic-strip retell of a story), and I tell them what I think their strengths are in their work, write the strengths on a sticky, then place it on the “I Did It!” side of the folder. Then, I explain to them one or two specific things that they can do to improve, and have them repeat it to me. I mentioned this before, but if they can articulate what they need to do, they are more likely to remember it and to do it. This was suggested by my VP and I have been practicing it ever since. I will then write these next steps on a sticky and place it on the “Getting There” side. The Feedback Folders are differentiated because the descriptive feedback given is individualized for each student. During our follow-up conference, we look at whether they have achieved the next steps, then move the sticky over to the “I Did It!” side once their goal has been achieved.

Straight Lines (by Georgia Heard)

All the kindergartners

walk to recess and back

in a perfectly straight line

no words between them.

They must stifle their small voices,

their laughter; they must

stop the little skip in their walk,

they must not dance or hop

or run or exclaim.

They must line up

at the water fountain

straight, and in perfect form,

like the brick wall behind them.

One of their own given the job

of informer—guard of quiet,

soldier of stillness.

If they talk

or make a sound

they will lose their stars.

Little soldiers marching to and from


their hair sweaty

from escaping dinosaurs

their hearts full of loving the world

and all they want to do

is shout it out

at the top of their lungs.

When they walk back to class

they must quietly

fold their pretends into pockets,

must dam the river of words,

ones they’re just learning

new words that hold the power

to light the skies, and if they don’t

a star is taken away.

One star

by one star

until night grows dark and heavy

while they learn to think carefully

before skipping,

before making a wish.

And a Few Extras. . .