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Bodies of three teens holding books, standing against a low, wood wall

Motivating Adolescent Learners

Reading should not be presented to children as a chore or a duty. It should be offered as a gift. ~ Kate DiCamillo

When teaching older students the challenge isn’t just to provide engaging and thoughtful instruction but also to help them build confidence in their abilities and curiosity for learning. We often assume unmotivated or disengaged students have trouble reading and writing but that’s not always true.

Over time, students who struggle do tend to become disengaged but there are also many students who tune out in the classroom and who earn failing grades though they are in fact highly literate. They might be avid readers poring over their favorite blog in the morning or their treasured books at night; hosting their own podcasts or designing their own websites; or writing stories and poetry outside of school. And yet, in school they are disinterested readers.

Author Jason Reynolds Discusses How Poetry Can Engage Fledgling Bibliophiles

Whether students are merely bored or truly struggle with literacy, some of the answers may be more or less the same. Research strongly suggests that we give adolescents significant freedom in school to read and write about topics of their own choosing; that we help them find interesting and suitable reading materials; that we give them plenty of opportunities to interact constructively with their classmates, especially to discuss what they read; and that we define specific goals for reading and writing assignments.

Author Donalyn Miller on the Importance of Student Choice

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National Education Association (NEA)