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Helping Kids Set Purpose and Choice in Reading

Choice is a powerful factor in human motivation. When teaching reading, teachers need to give provide student choice as well as time to practice reading skill. Children who choose what they read are more likely to complete the books they begin. When teachers explain to their students why it is important to make these choices, a lifelong reading habit is established. Teachers studying for a master's degree in literacy can learn explicit teaching strategies to help students learn how to set a purpose for reading as well as how to make good reading choices.

Setting a purpose for reading

When teaching reading, teachers must help students understand that to read effectively, they must identify a reason for reading. Although teachers or assignments sometimes set purpose, skilled readers incorporate and internalize external purposes, such as entertainment, education or persuasion. Teachers with a master's degree in literacy are likely to have studied lessons designed to help students identify a purpose for their reading. Modeling is the best method for teaching students to set a purpose for reading. For example, a teacher picks up a book and asks students why anyone might read the book. Students brainstorm not only those reasons but also the strategies they used in identifying this purpose, including making inferences, reading the title of the book, checking to see if the book is fiction or nonfiction, and reading a blurb about the book. Helping students identify reading purpose helps them understand the value of accessing prior knowledge as well.

Making choices in reading

Study after study has shown educators that giving students a choice in what they read improves motivation exponentially. Teaching reading in the classroom effectively requires an extensive knowledge of books written especially for children. When teachers sit in circle time and “book talk” about the books the kids can choose, those teachers are encouraging students to begin making better independent book choices. When children choose what they read, they are less likely to only pretend to read. Giving children a choice in reading requires organization and knowledge about appropriate grade-level books, including which books are one or two levels higher or lower to ensure there are books to reach every child in the classroom. Some teachers who earn a master's degree in literacy take courses in children's literature to ensure they understand how to give kids this powerful choice.

Using choice and setting purpose across the content areas

One of the best strategies for ensuring students learn content such as science or social studies is to encourage identification of purpose in reading nonfiction and to provide a variety of books so students can choose books that appeal to them. Teaching reading in the content areas is imperative as children get older because much of their school reading will emphasize these areas. Students must learn to set a purpose for content area reading so they can gather the correct information in minimal time. Many students find research daunting because of the density of information in nonfiction. Teachers who have completed coursework for a master's degree in literacy may be familiar with research techniques and can model good strategies for kids in the classroom.

Giving students opportunities to set a purpose for reading and choose which book they use to fulfill that purpose can make a notable difference in how students perceive their time in school. Students who learn to be self-sufficient and self-regulating may fare better after they leave school. Teaching reading requires more than just phonics and accurate reading aloud. Students must also be engaged in their learning so that they can problem-solve and use their knowledge to connect to new information.

Learn more about the LSUS M.Ed. Curriculum and Instruction: Reading & Literacy online program.


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