Setting a Purpose for Motivated Reading

Teacher observing student read
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Setting a purpose for reading helps keep students focused and engaged while reading, and gives them a mission so that comprehension can be reinforced. Reading with purpose motivates children and helps students who tend to rush, take their time reading so they won't skip over key elements in the text. Here are a few ways teachers can set a purpose for reading, as well as teach their students how to set their own purpose.

How to Set a Purpose for Reading

As the teacher, when you set a purpose for reading be specific. Here are a few prompts:

  • Read until you get to the part where so and so did this.
  • Stop reading until you find out about so and so.
  • Read until you discover___.
  • Read until you find out where the story takes place.
  • Close the book when you figure out the problem in the story.

After students have completed your task you can help build comprehension by asking them to do a few quick activities. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Draw a picture of what they think will happen next in the story.
  • Create a concept map recording elements in the story.
  • Write down a problem they discovered while reading the story.
  • Ask critical thinking questions, such as "What the solution to the problem in the story?...What is the purpose of this book?....What is the author trying to accomplish?...What issues arise in the story?"
  • Retell the story in your own words with a partner.
  • Compare how the characters have changed throughout the story.

Teach Students How to Set Their Own Purpose for Reading

Before teaching students how to set a purpose for what they are reading make sure they understand that a purpose drives the choices they make while they are reading. Guide students into how to set a purpose by telling them the following three things.

  1. You can read to perform a task, such as specific directions. For example, read until you meet the main character in the story.
  2. You can read for pure enjoyment.
  3. You can read to learn new information. For example, if you wanted to learn about bears.

After students decide what their purpose for reading is then they can select a text. After the text is selected you can show students before, during, and after reading strategies that match their purpose for reading. Remind students that as they read they should refer back to their main purpose.

Checklist for Reading Purposes

Here are a few tips, questions, and statements students should be thinking about before, during, and after reading a text.

Before Reading

  • What do I already know about the topic?
  • What can I expect to learn?
  • Skim the book to find out what I will be learning.

During Reading

  • Pause during reading to reflect upon what was just read. Try to link it to something you already know.
  • Do I understand what I just read?
  • Place a sticky note next to any question, unfamiliar word, or comment you would like to share in the text.

After Reading

  • Reread any passages that confused you.
  • Go over your sticky notes.
  • Summarize in your head what you have just read.

    Looking for more ideas? Here are 10 effective reading strategies and activities for elementary students, 5 fun ideas to get students more enthusiastic about reading, and how to develop reading fluency and comprehension.