Teacherís Top Ten: Top 10 Ways to Motivate Your Students
Even the best students have days when they are not motivated for classroom learning. With a little nudge from you, you can turn those dreary days into successful classes in their ESL careers.
We have already discussed student motivation before. Here are 10 more ways you can motivate your students today.
10 Teacher-Tested Ways to Increase Your Students' Motivation Quickly and Easily
Children fulfill the expectations that the adults around them communicate. This does not mean that every student will score 100% on every test we write. It does mean that if you communicate to a child that he or she is failure, he or she will fail. If you communicate to that same child that he or she will succeed; you will often find that that is the outcome. With every opportunity, encourage your students that they are making progress in their language learning. Point out to them the areas in which you see progress and improvement. For areas in which a student struggles, try to portray a picture of what success will look like. Encouraging your students to visualize their success will aid them in accomplishing those goals you set before them.
Making sure you are teaching to all the learning styles in your classrooms is another way to motivate your students. It is unrealistic to expect an auditory learner to be successful and motivated if her sole instruction comes from reading a textbook. Likewise, a kinesthetic learner will be frustrated listening to his teacher lecture class after class. Make sure, as you plan your lessons, that you are teaching to all the learning styles in your classroom. If you do, you will engage students who might otherwise struggle to pay attention in class.
When a student disengages from class, it is a good opportunity for you the teacher to notice what methods you are using in class. Although some practices may be fine for most students, timed tests, independent learning time, self checking methods, for example, there will be students who not only do not connect with these methods but who suffer negatively when you use them in your classroom. If a student begins to disengage, be aware of the methods you are using and look for patterns. Though it is difficult to meet every need of a classroom full of language learners, you can take pains to avoid certain methods when it is possible to help certain students perform better in class. This will also help you be intentional about using a variety of methods with your class further engaging all of them.
Sometimes motivating your students is as easy as changing the material you are using. For most teachers, the school chooses a curriculum that they expect each teacher to follow in his or her classes. Even when this is the case, it does not mean that you cannot bring additional resources to class. Sometimes students are turned off by the style or approach of certain curriculum authors. Bringing a different perspective into the class will reengage your students who are turned off by your current materials. In addition, it will challenge those who are already seeing success from the assigned curriculum.
Varying your environment can also be just the thing a reluctant student needs to find fresh motivation.Field trips are always a great way to learn in a practical setting, but even if that is not possible, take your class outside for today's lesson. Your students may also benefit from a class meeting in the library or in another classroom. You can still meet your daily class goals even if you take your class beyond the classroom walls. Try setting your students to research at the library, observe another class, or listen to native speakers in a public area. There is always language to be learned, so meet your listening, speaking, and reading goals outside the confinement of students' tables.
Providing students with accountability is an important element of being a teacher. Without the idea of a deadline and a grade, many students would never have the self-motivation that is required to successfully learn a language. Be clear with your students when you tell them your expectations. Make sure they know the deadline for a project’s completion and what standards you will use to assess that project. You may also consider contracting grades with your students who are at more advanced levels. When you contract grades, your students sign a contract which outlines the requirements to receive an a and a b. Do not give options for lower grades. The student selects which grade he or she will receive in the class and then must complete those requirements satisfactorily. From the start of class, your students know what they need to accomplish, and they know that their success is completely dependent upon themselves. This will get them to be self motivated learners and help them engage themselves in the learning process.
Have you ever seen a child, or perhaps you have one, who is angelic when in public and a terror at home? Some young people have similar behavior patterns when it comes to the classroom. For you they misbehave repeatedly, but a substitute teacher would never know it. You can break them out of this pattern by bringing outside influences into your classroom. Invite a guest speaker or trade classes for a period with a fellow teacher. The change in style and authority, even for a short period, may be enough to spark some motivation in your students who have become accustomed to your teaching style and expectations.
Competition is a great way to motivate students. We do not suggest posting grades publicly or otherwise embarrassing your students, but there are many ways to foster a friendly spirit of competition in your class. Games are fun for reviewing and they motivate and engage students. You can also group your class into teams and set them to a challenge. Who can collect the most authentic examples of the grammatical structure you are currently studying? Which team can write the most entertaining skit with this week’s vocabulary words? Whatever you are studying, there is some way to add some competition to the mix.
One never fail motivational method you can use with your students is giving rewards. Tell your students that if everyone in class earns an 80% or higher on a test you will have a pizza party. Tell them that with successful completion of the class novel you wills spend a day to watch the movie together. Even something as little as a sticker on a teenager’s paper can be enough to spark some giggles and winks but with it some fresh motivation. Design your rewards to your students’ personalities, and tell them what your plans are. Students look forward to even the simple pleasures that you can dole out on an ordinary day.
Finally, though not as enjoyable as other techniques to motivate, consequences of certain actions can also be a motivator to students. Make your expectations clear, and communicate to your student what the consequences will be to certain behavior or work ethic. No one likes to be punished, but when positive reinforcement and lively change ups do not work, sometimes there has to be negative consequences to your student’s actions. Keep your students after school if you have to. Communicate with a child’s parents if possible and when necessary. Discipline should be a last resort motivator and only used sporadically.
Everyone struggles to be motivated at some point. When you see your students in that place, try some of these fun ways to engage and enliven your class. If all else fails, it may be time for some consequences.
Variety is enjoyable for students and teachers alike. Avoid getting stuck in a rut and your students will probably find themselves motivated without you even trying to make it happen.
Susan likes to enjoy every day to its fullest whether she is freelance writing, teaching homeschoolers, or developing her special talent of instigation. When she is not imagining sand castles or catching others off balance, she cooks, sings, reads and takes walks in the sunshine. She earned an M.A. from the University of Delaware in Linguistics and an M.A. from Trinity School for Ministry in Youth Ministry. She currently lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with her wonderful husband and her three cheepy cockatiels.