As people across the nation look forward to seeing the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers play in the Super Bowl Feb. 6, a group of 36 St. Louis School students have scored their own touchdowns. First- through fifth-graders in Mary Jo Reer’s reading resource classes have been participating in a Touchdown Readers project since August. “I started the year with a football theme to coincide with my classroom behavior plan, and thought I could extend the theme into a reading activity that would motivate the students with an authentic purpose,” she announces. Each student chose books to read independently. After finishing a book, he or she completed a book report and had to conference with the educator about the story. If the reports were filled out thoroughly, the child put his or her name on a mini football note and attached it to a football field hanging in the hallway to advance down the field. Each grade level team worked together to score a touchdown and all have succeeded. Because of their individual and team efforts, they have been named The Herald-Tribune’s Classroom of the Month for January. Each team will receive a prize from Reer since they scored before Super Bowl Sunday, and the fifth-grade team, which scored first, will be rewarded with a grand prize. “Kids of all ages like competition to a certain level. Even though their task was independent, they had to work collaboratively to reach their team’s end zone goal. They were learning while having fun,” Reer emphasizes. “The students have focused and improved their sentence structure by filling out various genre reports. From this project, I have observed a carryover into our classroom discussion. Students can more easily identify narrative elements of a story, which is one of our Indiana state standards. “As an educator, it was a pleasure to watch the students gain self-confidence in their ability to read as they joyfully added a mini football to the gridiron. I especially liked the one-on-one conference as they felt success retelling their story through their oral and written report,” she adds. Second-grader Grace Eckstein likes the project because “you get to read a lot of books.” Her favorite was “Diary of a Wimpy Kid.” When her class made the touchdown, “I felt really happy.” Adam Scott enjoyed the Magic Tree House books because the characters “have fun adventures .... They went to Ireland twice and went to the Revolutionary War and other places.” The second-grader reports he learned “how to read a little better .... (and) what the setting and the characters are.” Fourth-grader Monica Gerstbauer likes to read realistic fiction. “My favorite book was ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid’ book No. 5, ‘The Ugly Truth.’ “I liked that we were working as a team to get the reward.” How did her team encourage each other throughout the competition? “We would say, ‘This is a really good book you should read.’ .... It was fun to do because it's like a game, yet you get your reading skills from doing it.” Kimberly Mateo, a member of the winning team, reports, “Some of the books I read were fantasy, classics, Young Hoosiers and science fiction.” Her favorite was “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.” To support her classmates, the fifth-grader recalls, “I tried to tell them to do their best and try to get a football .... (and) all of us were really happy because we came across the end zone first, and we feel great about it.” Reer stresses, “Setting goals that are attainable for children develops intrinsic motivation. Any goal met, big or small, is worth celebrating.”

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