Increasing Motivation to Read and Research at the End of the Year

This semester students in READ 6306 were required to contribute a blog post on a topic related to the course content.

By S. Schelstrate

A recent reading motivation study conducted in a Florida middle school by Kelley and Decker (2009) found that reading motivation declined with grade level.  Sixth graders were more motivated to read than seventh graders and seventh graders more motivated than eighth graders.  Researchers also noticed a difference in sex, as female students tended to view themselves as readers more often than male students.  The study postulated that lower standardized test scores seemed to correlate with lack of reading motivation; although, a full study into this trend was not completed.  In a similar study conducted by Mucherah and Yoder (2008) test scores and reading motivation were measured.  Researchers concluded that specific motivation characteristics, such as reading for social reasons or desire to read difficult material, did affect test scores.  Students who chose only to read socially (ex: with friends) were shown to have lower scores than those who preferred varied and complex stories (Mucherah & Yoder (2008).

As we wind towards the end of the year it becomes more and more difficult to get students interested in anything besides socializing and watching movies.  Their constant cries of “But the test is already over” drown out any pleas for following the curriculum and preparation for next year. It is even more complicated when the curriculum calls for having students write a research paper the last six weeks. However, there are ways to keep students motivated to learn and even to read without resorting to extrinsic motivation.  Here are some methods I have tried that have kept even the struggling readers engaged up until the last day of school:

1. Have students conduct research on a person of interest to them.  My one rule is that they must have at least one book about the person they pick (so that I can show them how to cite sources for both a book and database article).  This is where having a really diverse classroom library comes in handy.  You might also check books out from the public library and bring them into the classroom.

2. Have students perform research on scary stories, ghosts, or haunted houses.  I have an excellent book I use for this called Unexplained by Rupert Matthews.

3. Have students carry out research on their favorite poet.  Remind them that songs are poetry too!


4. Have students make a glogster or prezi (PowerPoints are also acceptable, but glogsters and prezis they can access and work on from home) on their topic and present it to the class. (;  I made an account under my name and have all the students use it which makes them very easy to grade)

 5. Have students use Moviemaker and develop a movie about their topic using the information they found in their research and present it to the class.

 These research projects can take anywhere from three to five weeks depending on access to labs and disruptions (field trips, awards ceremonies, etc.).  Because they tend to choose topics of interest to them many share the same desire to know more about the topic and pay attention; however during the presentations I have a rubric for each student to rate the others to ensure they respect each other and listen. 

I usually begin with the biography research as it is the easiest.  Once they get the hang of citing sources, taking notes, and writing an outline, then I move to either the scary stories or poetry research.  As an 8th grade teacher I can usually get in two of these research projects before the year ends.  The first I call practice—where I spend a lot of the time guiding them and the second is more of an individual project.  Using these ideas, even though it is the last few weeks of the school year, I have less discipline problems than other teachers, more students reading and even students staying after school to finish their projects!


Kelley, M., & Decker, E. (2009). The current state of motivation to read among middle school students. Reading Psychology, 30(5), 466-485.

Mucherah, W., & Yoder, A. (2008). Motivation for reading and middle school students’ performance on standardized testing in reading. Reading Psychology, 29(3), 214-235.





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