Saturday, July 27, 2013

Motivating the Kiddos

One of the most challenging parts of being a teacher is motivating students. That being said, I was delighted to find a new linky party that will give me new ideas for motivating students!  Hop on over to view it!

Today, I'm going to focus on motivating students to read. What I'm going to share today is something that I have used since I first started in the classroom. It has changed and evolved with time, but it seems to be successful for boys and girls in the classroom. Since I'm unable to get up to my classroom due to carpet installation, I have staged the pictures for you at home.

One of the things I collected growing up was stuffed animals - they were cute, cuddly, and could be found everywhere! My love of stuffed animals found it's way into the classroom the moment I started teaching. I brought in themed stuffed animals to share with the kids. It helped increase their excitement for a topic and brightened up the reading center. That group of kiddos was the ones who showed me the potential of stuffed animals in a reading center. They loved reading to them!

The idea of using stuffed animals has since evolved greatly in my classroom and I have found a new use for them that the boys and the girls love. It's also a great way of sharing the many beanie babies I collected growing up. I love knowing that they are being loved!

Instead of providing a few stuffed animals in the reading center, I have moved towards individual reading buddies. Early in the year, I allow the students to pick out one beanie baby from a pile to keep in their book boxes all year. I always have more beanie babies than students so that everyone gets to actually pick one.

After they select their reading buddy, we discuss how to care for the buddies and when they are allowed out. I will be creating a cute printable for that this year. The rules are pretty basic. Students are told up front that their buddy will "run away" if they aren't treated well. I've only had to take a few away over the years and they work extra hard to earn back their buddy. They grow quite attached to them over the course of the year and get super excited when I spill the last part of being buddies - at the end of the year, I let them take their buddy home. It's my gift to them in hopes that they'll continue to read at home.

Now, I said that they keep their buddy in their reading bin, but I didn't explain what their reading bin is. It's a simple white ice bucket from Wal-Mart (I'm going to cutesify them this year!) where they keep three leveled books for our "Read to Self" time that occurs during pack up (more on this in another post). Each student has a bucket that stays in their cubby. They select the three books from our classroom library. They have to check in with me before picking out new books and the books must be on their level.

Remember I had to stage these photos! My kiddos definitely do not have pink dog buddies or grown-up picture books about New York. I live alone with my furbaby so kids' books are not plentiful in our apartment. The three books and their buddy stays in their cubby unless they are reading from it at their seat. They are able to read these books as an early finisher activity and at the end of the day during "Read to Self."

Even though this started out as a reading motivation tool, I have seen students use these buddies in other ways too. Sometimes they will ask if their buddy can work with them on a worksheet. The rule we established is that their buddy could sit at their table if they were silent and working. This helped with on-task behavior. I have also seen quite a few stories starring buddies and buddies of their classmates.

I know I mentioned that I use beanie babies for my buddies, but you can use any small animal. The point is for it to fit in their book bin easily. I like using beanie babies because they come with names which adds to the fun of using them.

Sidenote: Don't forget that everything in my TPT store is FREE until the end of July. If you download something, I would love it if you left me some feedback on it! My Random Raffle winner has been chosen and will be announced and contacted after I upload new things to my store!


  1. What a cute idea! I bet your students love reading time! My favorite part is if they don't take care of their buddy they will run away! You're teaching responsibility and ownership too! Great motivator!
    Thanks for linking up and sharing!
    Head Over Heels For Teaching

    1. Thanks for stopping by! I love the linky - I'm getting a lot of great ideas from it. :)

      - Pam

  2. Such a cute idea! Everyone loves a reading buddy. Tomorrow I will be posting about monster book marks that could also be a reading buddy. Hope you'll stop over!

    Mrs. Laffin's Laughings

    1. I will try to stop by! Those sound awesome!

      - Pam