Saturday, August 31, 2013

Sparking Student Motivation Through a Book

Month 1 is done!
1 of my precious kiddos said, "You made it through the first month. Can you believe it is Labor Day weekend?" Such insight, wisdom, and cuteness in him.
It has been a long month, but towards the end of the week I started to feel more like all of it will be doable. This long weekend will be for me to catch up on lots of things, including cleaning the house. When we start school, lots of things at home gets put on hold. Laundry gets washed and dried but unfortunately it does not always make it to the drawers or closets. Slowly we will all adapt and get back in to all the responsibilities of our home and school life. I mean seriously, after a long day folding laundry is just not on my to do list.
Making dinner and helping the boys complete homework is at the top of my list. Since my youngest is Pre-K, it means Mommy has lots of homework too. Did they really expect him to write up the story behind his name, make the family collage, and complete the journaling activity when they sent the class mascot home for the week? I am all for being involved, but let's send home projects he can do, instead of homework for me! (phew, off my soap box!)
This week culminated in a visit from an author to kick off our school-wide Reading Stampede. We had the pleasure of visiting with Michelle Nelson-Schmidt. She is the author and illustrator of Cats, Cats, Dogs, Dogs, Jonathan James and the Whatif Monster, and Bob is a Unicorn. Her books are great and she comes to the school with the purpose of inspiring the children to strive to find their passion and discover who they are. Even though I teach 5th, her stories are inspiring for my students.
Last year she talked about the Whatif Monster and how we need to take risks because we won't know what we are capable of if we always heed to the "Whatifs." Although the "whatif" statements we hear can be scary, trying results in amazing things. This message struck with me. I was a worrying, and even though I don't want my kids to be anxious. worriers, or self-doubters, they unfortunately can be. So we own and read the Jonathan James and the Whatif Monster book and plush, using it as a way to avoid succumbing to those doubts. If you have worriers or super shy children, check out the book as a way to get the conversation started.

This year Michelle came back to talk about her newest book, Bob is the Unicorn.
Although it may seem to be a little too young for my students, we read it and I was amazed at the connections the kids made to the story. Her book sparked my students' interest and imaginations. After discussing why others doubted that Bob was a unicorn and how come they could not see it, one student came up with the most amazing idea. We ran with her idea. She suggested we show up to the author visit as unicorns. Wow! Brilliant idea! A secret that was hard to keep from others, but they kept it a complete surprise.
That seed idea led to girls dressing as princess fairies with wings, and other kids dressing as unicorns, sporting their favorite mustaches, and 1 rabbit with a tail and ears. I also did something my son said was embarrassing to him, but something many will never forget. It was out of my typical straight-laced approach, and I am so thankful I did it. I dressed up along side them. I sported a tutu and wand during our author visit, lunch, and recess. I even got my co-teacher to dress in a tutu with a wand.
In the end, I discovered a lot about my students and they learned that I will support them as they take risks exploring their creative sides.  The kids loved it. My principal was surprised, but praised me for joining in the fun. Our media center specialist praised us for embracing the spirit of the book. And we made the author's day!
Michelle's message this year was about discovering yourself and accepting those who look and see things differently. An amazing acceptance message hidden in a story about an elephant dressed as a unicorn. She reiterated that it was ok for people to see themselves differently. Our dress-up ended up having an even more powerful impact, probably more than I expected.
At first we earned some weird looks and whispers. But, through Michelle's inspirational speech we ended up being widely accepted and perhaps envied for having courage to be ourselves.

The author really was touched by our costumes and support. The kids got to talk to her for a few minutes after the presentation and got their special "Hi, My name is Bob!" nametags autographed. I know that brief visit will never be forgotten and I learned that this group of kids will strive to excel the more I let them embrace their creative side. So this year we will complete more creative projects and I plan to add more dress up days to our plans.
I absolutely love this picture and this will be the theme of this school year, Discover You!

The inside of the book cover of the Harback copy of Michelle Nelson-Schmidt's book,  Bob is a Unicorn

Like I mentioned earlier, it has been a rough start to the year, but I know that my hard work is paying off. I had tons of participation in our dress up time (they initiated it and brought in items on their own - for those without dress up items I had items they could use and they jumped that opportunity). I also overheard these comments that helped me keep going, "I have decided 5th grade is just as much fun as kindergarten, I love 5th grade!" and "This is the best class!" Those little comments made my heart smile! That is enough to keep me motivated to keep offering authentic opportunities to discover our potential!
How are you sparking your students' learning this year? How are you motivating them to love school? Need some ideas of how to Spark Students' Motivation, check out the links at Head Over Heels for Teaching

Disclaimer: This post is my own opinion and I did not receive any reimbursements for sharing Michelle's books. The images are from Michelle's website and our her products.


  1. What a great idea. I'm so glad you received some encouragement this week! It's always nice to know the kids appreciate some of the things you are doing.

    Hunter's Teaching Tales
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    1. Bethany I am really thankful for your on-going support.

  2. What a great week you had! That Whatif book sounds perfect to get kids to take risks! I bet the author was super impressed by their costumes! What a great learning environment! Thanks so much for sharing and linking up! Hope to see you again next week! :O)
    Head Over Heels For Teaching

    1. Thanks Joanne for your supporting words and taking the time to read my post! I will definitely try to link up again, I am learning a lot from all the bloggers and pushing myself to motivate.

  3. They will never forget that you dressed up with them:).

    1. I am so glad I went out of my comfort zoned and showed them my softer side.


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