Tuesday, March 1, 2011


 Okay, I know it isn't Wednesday yet, but I got way behind in my posts last week. New Motivation Wednesday in two days.
     Children want to succeed on their own. This includes reading, of course. A strategy I developed years ago never fails me. I call it The Line.
     A child, sitting next to me, falters as he reads aloud. I sense he could do better, a lot better. The passage is not too difficult.
     I take out a piece of paper, put it between us, and draw a line down its middle, separating the paper into "his" side and mine.
     "Now," I tell him, "whenever you read a word, you will get a point on your side. I will keep track as you read, and you can watch me as I mark the points. However, whenever you miss a word, I get a point on my side.
     "You need to understand that I hate, absolutely hate, to lose. So I have no intention of helping you. I'll let you get to the end of the sentence to correct any mistakes. But if you go ahead and read the next sentence without correcting the mistake, I will take that point. I plan on beating you, that's for sure." And I am true to my word. I'll even whisper "Miss, miss," every now and then.
     Every elementary age child I've worked with takes the challenge. And excels.
     His side fills with slashes -- 50, 100, 200. My side collects three or five or fifteen. He can't help but see what the paper shouts out, that he is reading far, far more words than he can't.
      The reading finishes. I count the points. When I get to my few points, I recount them over and over, acting as if I am counting new points."See how many I have!" I say.
     A word of warning, though -- The Line only works if you stay true to its intent -- letting the child be responsible for his own reading. The child misses a word or hesitates a bit too long? DO NOT GIVE HIM THE WORD OR OFFER ANY HINT. This is crucial. At the end the child must know that he, and he alone, earned those points.
     And as he carries off the score sheet, he knows it.