Dana Blackaby has a good read on student motivation. The six-year veteran educator who assists dyslexic students at The Academy at Nola Dunn Elementary School recently encouraged her learners to join the Great Reading Games 2017.

Now, 30 second through fifth graders across the school are vying for points and the bragging rights that accompany a high rank on the class leader board. A casual stroll through school halls reveals kids chattering about how many pages they’ve read and the total points they’ve earned.

Boosting the excitement for students, Blackaby has teamed with fellow educator Matthew Kitchens, the Burleson ISD Learning Technologies Coach assigned to The Academy. Together, they are teaching students to connect quotes from their favorite books to their own lives – a two-fold step to deepen each child’s critical reasoning skills and make reading a more rewarding experience.

Once a student has selected a quote, Blackaby and Kitchens use Google Draw to help students design an Internet meme containing an author’s treasured words. With proper parent approval, the memes are posted within the hashtags #GRG17 and #Read4All on Facebook and Twitter.

More plans are in the works. Blackaby and Kitchens aim to teach the students how to make short video clips, where the kids can narrate their thoughts about the quotes. Those projects, too, will be posted online for the world to see.

As a bonus, the Great Reading Games has tapped children’s author Jeff Kinney to judge book-related artwork posted on the social-media hashtags. As any fifth grader will testify, Kinney is the author of the popular book series Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Entries he deems most creative in each category will win a Chromebook.

Needless to say, the kids are stoked to see their own work on social media. Right now, Blackaby is struggling to keep up with her students’ constant demands for point updates and approving the memes the students are generating – both of which are nice problems to have.

Dyslexic students and other kids with visual impairments are sometimes reluctant readers – as their conditions make deciphering letters and words a challenge. Blackaby’s students demonstrate they have the right stuff – powering through books to sit currently at 23rd place in a national contest.

Prizes for schools in the top spots include a few Chromebooks and gift cards for class parties.

Perhaps the students are too young to realize the real prize in a contest like the Great Reading Games is the act of reading itself – savoring words like honey and losing oneself momentarily in written worlds.

However, no one is telling the students that now. Everyone is simply happy to see the pages turn and turn.

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Matthew Kitchens

Learning Technologies Coach at Burleson ISD
Matthew Kitchens
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A Tech Twist on Reading Student Motivation