Are you looking for easy ways to motivate your ESL students in the classroom?
Here are the final five classroom tips to help you do just that (Part One is available here).
Motivating Can be Easy if You Take the Following into Account
Acknowledge Jobs Well Done
Whether you are teaching second graders or secondary school, telling your students that they are doing a good job means a lot. Perhaps getting positive feedback from our teachers meant more when we were children than it does as adults, but that doesn’t mean that we no longer need to hear praise from our teachers. When we know that our efforts are appreciated and that those efforts have helped us reach our goals, we are more motivated to make additional efforts in the future. Teachers can praise their students in many effective ways. Perhaps the most simple is saying, “Good job” when our students do something right. Praise given one on one or in front of the class will have a positive effect on your students. But don’t stop there. Take time to make comments on homework, tests and projects that you receive from your students. Not only will that build confidence in your students, it will give them something they can see and hold that shows how much they have accomplished. And they will want to get that positive feedback on future assignments as well.
Make it Personal
Personalized attention and assignment modifications can do a lot when it comes to motivating your students. Whether you teach a class of five students or have fifty in the course of a week, one or more of your students will struggle. By taking time to help students one on one, you let them know that you care about them and are walking with them through their struggles. When possible, spend some one on one time with each student during class. You may choose to do this while the rest of your class is doing independent work or group work. When you talk to each of your students, find out what is difficult for them, and ask if there is anything you can do to help. Giving students the individualized attention they need might also mean spending time outside of class with your students. Offer office hours or afterschool help to those students who need it. It will show them that you care. Also, be willing to modify assignments to help your students succeed. You may need to make homework easier, shorter or flexible. For example, letting someone read to your student rather than making him read himself might be a way to help a student with dyslexia. Get creative with your modifications, and encourage your students to share their thoughts with you as well. You don’t necessarily have to okay all of their modification plans, but by working together you should be able to come up with a solution acceptable to you both.
Make a Team Effort
As frustrating or invigorating as it might be, the other students in your classroom also play a role in motivating each of your students. If only a few students are pursuing fluency and being courageous in their speech, students who only care about grades may make them feel out of place. When you can get these groups to work well together, it will help your students motivate one another. It is the teacher’s job to try and make the most effective groupings and assignment teams as possible. Sometimes this might mean grouping students with similar goals and attitudes as well as skill levels. Other times, it will mean mixing things up a bit. In any case, being involved in group activities and encouraging your students to help each other learn will be essential. This also means you should include activities in class or out of it where students will need their partner for successful completion of the assignment. Don’t shy away from giving grades to group work. This may be just the motivation some of your students need to really focus on the task at hand.
Use the Buddy System
Learning a language can be stressful, and in life’s difficult moments some of our greatest support comes from our friends. This is particularly true when a student is studying overseas. You should encourage your students to build friendships with their classmates. You can do this by including team building activities and get to know you activities right from the start. When your students have a support network right there in the classroom, they will feel stronger and more capable of attacking the hurdles that lay before them. If you have a student or students who are struggling with relationship building, try matching them with someone you think would be good during class activities. Stress to your entire class how important friendships are in the classroom, and make sure you plan times for your students to simply have fun with one another. Sometimes this might tie into an English lesson (e.g. performing a skit or playing word games). Other times, though, it’s okay to put the curriculum on the back burner and just let your students enjoy being together.
Make Things Practical
If you have gotten this far in your classroom motivation, you are doing great. Your students have what they need, they are engaged in learning and they are supporting one another. What else could a teacher want? The final key to motivating your students is to take a moment and look at the long term goals of their English education. What is it that your students want to do with English? Will they be attending an American university? Will they use English in the workplace? Take time to talk with your students about their goals, and then show them how the language that they know (and that they will learn) has practical application to their futures. No one wants to do busywork just for the sake of doing it. When you make your instruction practical and show your students how their success will help them long term, they will see the bigger picture and take their studies seriously. When they see their present efforts paying off in the future, they will work hard in their English education.