JoAnn M. Clayton, Fielding's School of Educational Leadership & Change
To improve students’ reading abilities, an elementary school staff decided to supplement the regular curriculum with a free Internet reading program. To promote student participation in the supplemental program, the media specialist designed the Gumball Reading Program, which included student requirements and rewards. The requirements included parent signatures to verify students’ reading at home, book reports, and testing on books read. The rewards for progress in the program included free passes to local baseball games, ice cream, candy bars, and gumball machines.
Data showed that lower grade students participated more than upper grade students in the program. Fifth grade had only 4% of their students complete Level 6, while first grade had 76% of their students reach the same level. The faculty and staff at the school were interviewed to gain their perspectives of ways to enhance the program. Thirty-nine of the 44 participants invited participated in the action research study.
Teachers and administrators acknowledged they had great influence regarding motivating students to participate. They also felt the lack of parental involvement discouraged student involvement; however, the vast majority of participants felt requiring parents to sign reading logs resulted in an inaccurate representation of students’ participation and had a negative impact on effectiveness. At the upper level, other activities such as an emphasis on mathematics competed with the reading program. The findings suggest students should be encouraged to write book reports in class rather than at home and that class time for silent-sustained reading especially in the lower grades would be helpful. The study uncovered a need for teachers to schedule media center visits to help students check out appropriate grade-level books.
Most teachers said their students were willing to work for the prizes and most liked the rewards offered in the program; however, students in the lower and upper grades appeared to prefer different types of rewards. Recommendations were made to enhance and change some of the rewards, such as making rewards more frequent.
Key Words: action research, student motivation, elementary school, supplemental reading program