21 Ways To Improve Student Motivation

By Teach Thought Staff

The best lessons, books, and materials in the world won’t get students excited about learning and willing to work hard if they’re not motivated.

Motivation, both intrinsic and extrinsic, is a key factor in the success of students at all stages of their education, and teachers can play a pivotal role in providing and encouraging that motivation in their students. Of course that’s much easier said than done, as all students are motivated differently and it takes time and a lot of effort to learn to get a classroom full of kids enthusiastic about learning, working hard, and pushing themselves to excel.

Even the most well-intentioned and educated teachers sometimes lack the skills to keep kids on track, so whether you’re a new teacher or an experienced one, try using these methods to motivate your students and to encourage them to live up to their true potential.

21 Simple Ideas To Improve Student Motivation

1. Give students a sense of control.

While guidance from a teacher is important to keeping kids on task and motivated, allowing students to have some choice and control over what happens in the classroom is actually one of the best ways to keep them engaged. For example, allowing students to choose the type of assignment they do or which problems to work on can give them a sense of control that may just motivate them to do more.

2. Define the objectives.
It can be very frustrating for students to complete an assignment or even to behave in class if there aren’t clearly defined objectives. Students want and need to know what is expected of them in order to stay motivated to work. At the beginning of the year, lay out clear objectives, rules, and expectations of students so that there is no confusion and students have goals to work towards.

3. Create a threat-free environment.
While students do need to understand that there are consequences to their actions, far more motivating for students than threats are positive reinforcements. When teachers create a safe, supportive environment for students, affirming their belief in a student’s abilities rather than laying out the consequences of not doing things, students are much more likely to get and stay motivated to do their work. At the end of the day, students will fulfill the expectations that the adults around them communicate, so focus on can, not can’t.

4. Change your scenery.
A classroom is a great place for learning, but sitting at a desk day in and day out can make school start to seem a bit dull for some students. To renew interest in the subject matter or just in learning in general, give your students a chance to get out of the classroom. Take field trips, bring in speakers, or even just head to the library for some research. The brain loves novelty and a new setting can be just what some students need to stay motivated to learn.

5. Offer varied experiences.

Not all students will respond to lessons in the same way. For some, hands-on experiences may be the best. Others may love to read books quietly or to work in groups. In order to keep all students motivated, mix up your lessons so that students with different preferences will each get time focused on the things they like best. Doing so will help students stay engaged and pay attention.

6. Use positive competition.
Competition in the classroom isn’t always a bad thing, and in some cases can motivate students to try harder and work to excel. Work to foster a friendly spirit of competition in your classroom, perhaps through group games related to the material or other opportunities for students to show off their knowledge.

7. Offer rewards.
Everyone likes getting rewards, and offering your students the chance to earn them is an excellent source of motivation. Things like pizza parties, watching movies, or even something as simple as a sticker on a paper can make students work harder and really aim to achieve. Consider the personalities and needs of your students to determine appropriate rewards for your class.

8. Give students responsibility.
Assigning students classroom jobs is a great way to build a community and to give students a sense of motivation. Most students will see classroom jobs as a privilege rather than a burden and will work hard to ensure that they, and other students, are meeting expectations. It can also be useful to allow students to take turns leading activities or helping out so that each feels important and valued.

9. Allow students to work together.
While not all students will jump at the chance to work in groups, many will find it fun to try to solve problems, do experiments, and work on projects with other students. The social interaction can get them excited about things in the classroom and students can motivate one another to reach a goal. Teachers need to ensure that groups are balanced and fair, however, so that some students aren’t doing more work than others.

10. Give praise when earned.
There is no other form of motivation that works quite as well as encouragement. Even as adults we crave recognition and praise, and students at any age are no exception. Teachers can give students a bounty of motivation by rewarding success publicly, giving praise for a job well done, and sharing exemplary work.

11. Encourage self-reflection.
Most kids want to succeed; they just need help figuring out what they need to do in order to get there. One way to motivate your students is to get them to take a hard look at themselves and determine their own strengths and weaknesses. Students are often much more motivated by creating these kinds of critiques of themselves than by having a teacher do it for them, as it makes them feel in charge of creating their own objectives and goals.

12. Be excited.
One of the best ways to get your students motivated is to share your enthusiasm. When you’re excited about teaching, they’ll be much more excited about learning. It’s that simple.

13. Know your students.
Getting to know your students is about more than just memorizing their names. Students need to know that their teacher has a genuine interest in them and cares about them and their success. When students feel appreciated it creates a safe learning environment and motivates them to work harder, as they want to get praise and good feedback from someone they feel knows and respects them as individuals.

14. Harness student interests.
Knowing your students also has some other benefits, namely that it allows you to relate classroom material to things that students are interested in or have experienced. Teachers can use these interests to make things more interesting and relatable to students, keeping students motivated for longer.

15. Help students find intrinsic motivation.
It can be great to help students get motivated, but at the end of the day they need to be able to generate their own motivation. Helping students find their own personal reasons for doing class work and working hard, whether because they find material interesting, want to go to college, or just love to learn, is one of the most powerful gifts you can give them.

16. Manage student anxiety.
Some students find the prospect of not doing well so anxiety-inducing that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. For these students, teachers may find that they are most motivated by learning that struggling with a subject isn’t the end of the world. Offer support no matter what the end result is and ensure that students don’t feel so overwhelmed by expectations that they just give up.

17. Make goals high but attainable.
If you’re not pushing your students to do more than the bare minimum, most won’t seek to push themselves on their own. Students like to be challenged and will work to achieve high expectations so long as they believe those goals to be within their reach, so don’t be afraid to push students to get more out of them.

18. Give feedback and offer chances to improve.
Students who struggle with class work can sometimes feel frustrated and get down on themselves, draining motivation. In these situations it’s critical that teachers help students to learn exactly where they went wrong and how they can improve next time. Figuring out a method to get where students want to be can also help them to stay motivated to work hard.

19. Track progress.
It can be hard for students to see just how far they’ve come, especially with subjects that are difficult for them. Tracking can come in handy in the classroom, not only for teachers but also for students. Teachers can use this as a way to motivate students, allowing them to see visually just how much they are learning and improving as the year goes on.

20. Make things fun.
Not all class work needs to be a game or a good time, but students who see school as a place where they can have fun will be more motivated to pay attention and do the work that’s required of them than those who regard it as a chore. Adding fun activities into your school day can help students who struggle to stay engaged and make the classroom a much more friendly place for all students.

21. Provide opportunities for success.
Students, even the best ones, can become frustrated and demotivated when they feel like they’re struggling or not getting the recognition that other students are. Make sure that all students get a chance to play to their strengths and feel included and valued. It can make a world of difference in their motivation.


How To Start The Conversation With Your Child About Sexting

I used to wonder how I could bring up awkward subjects with my children, and as far as those go, sexting is pretty high on the list. At the time they start doing this, kids already understand the basic concepts of sex. In fact, a lot of them consider themselves to be experts who need no further information or instruction from mom and dad because they already “get it”.

DoSomething.org has reported that about 40% of all teens have sent sexts, and these numbers are weighted heavily by age – the older a teen is, the more likely they are to engage in sexting at some point. Given all of this, it’s clear that you need to talk with your child about sexting. Here’s how to do it.

Start with a strong opening

Tell your child to put their cell phone down, then say flat-out that you want to talk with them about sexting. Start by asking them how much they know about it – teens are often uncomfortable when put on the spot, but you really do need to know how familiar with the subject they are. If they ask why you want to know, just tell them that people have killed themselves after sexting and you want to make sure they’ll be safe.

Be honest, and avoid judging

Regardless of your personal feelings, you should try to avoid saying that sexting is wrong. If your teen has already sexted – or even just favorably considered the idea – they’re probably going to interpret that statement as a reflection on them. “Sexting is bad” becomes “You don’t trust me”, and few things will make a teen stop listening faster than the idea that you’re still treating them like a child.

Instead, focus on the safety aspect of it, starting with the statistics cited at DoSomething.org (through the first link above). Once both of you are on the same page, it’s time to address the problems with it. There are three particularly important issues to address.

1. Sexts are effectively child pornography

Most teens don’t think of it this way, but it’s true. If they share a sext with someone else, even if it was just passed to them, they are actively involved in the spread of child pornography and could get into legal trouble as a result.

2. You have no control of messages or pictures once they’re sent to someone else

No matter how much your child likes their current date, that relationship probably isn’t going to last… and people have been known to use sexts for revenge pornography. Once something is out on the internet, it’s almost impossible to stop it, and a significant number of sexts end up shared.

3. Many people, of both genders, are pressured into sexting

Dates may use phrases like “prove that you love me” or “I really want to see you” in order to pressure teens into sending sexts. However, teens should think carefully about whether or not they want to be in a relationship with someone who pushes them into something they’re not comfortable with.

This is not exclusive to girls. Boys can be pressured into sexting, too – and that kind of pressure is wrong no matter who is on the receiving end.

Keep the emphasis on their safety

Your goal shouldn’t be to stop sexting, per se – many people (including quite a few adults) think of it as a normal, healthy way of expressing their sexuality. However, you should try to keep your child safe, and that’s where the focus of the conversation should be. If you need additional help, you can look into tech safety and keeping a closer eye on what they’re doing – most teens don’t like being monitored, but if they know you’ll find out about their sexts anyway, they’re more likely to talk to you when they’re worried… especially if they know you’ll be sympathetic and help them, rather than threatening to take their phone away.

Talking about sexting isn’t easy, but it is important. Of course, every family is different, so don’t be afraid to change parts of the conversation to better fit your own family’s values and the personality of your child. Don’t wait too long to start, either – the sooner they understand the topic, the safer they’ll be.

Hillary Smith is a freelance journalist who specialized in telecommunications. As a graduate of NorthWestern’s prestigious Medill School of Journalism, she’s combines her love of technology, gadgets, and bulldogs with a career in freelance writing to make the world a more enlightened place.


Helping Kids Manage Stress

Stress and kids

Only adults are under stress right? Well not really. Stress is relative to situations and age. Worrying about paying your bills at the age of forty is probably the equivalent of worrying about having your lunch money stolen at the age of ten. So kids do worry, suffer from anxiety and feel the discomfort of stressful situations as much as an adult. A parent or a teacher may not take the child’s stress as seriously because they have their own stress and the kids stress just seems to be hard to understand. They may communicate their worry to us and it may get blown off with words like “don’t worry about it, or when I was your age, or you don’t know how good you have it.”

Mom and Dad Can’t Do It

Adults don’t manage stress well in our society; and there is a lot to be stressful about: the economy, unemployment, relationships, and their own upbringing; which has everyone dragging the baggage of their own imprint from childhood into adulthood. That youth conflict that they had at the age of ten is now an adult conflict and they are still searching for answers to some of life’s most basic problems and that includes how to handle stress.


From an evolutionary standpoint the brain stem or the reptilian brain developed first, that’s where the heart rate, respiration and adrenalin flow comes from. Something the caveman needed as he battled and hunted animals for food or ran away from when he was at a disadvantage and felt like he was going to lose the battle. That type of stress was necessary for survival and one minute or two of this type of stress helped keep this guy healthy and fed. But what happens when a brain is placed under stress for years, like thirteen; the amount of time that a kid spends in school. Stress hormones end up swamping our bodies for days, weeks, months. Research shows that cortisol, specifically, chews up the brain if it loiters there long-term. When lab rats in Israel, Germany, USA, China, and Italy were given daily injections of rat cortisol for several weeks, it killed brain cells in their hippo-campus region, leaving them depressed, anxious, fearful, immature, needy, and unable to learn new behaviors.

None of this is good for the adult brain, but children’s fast-developing brains with dendrites numbering in the millions are especially vulnerable to the ravages of cortisol. Study after study has found that children who are exposed to extremely stressful situations — via violence in the home or corporal punishment — have significantly lower IQ’s than children not exposed to such traumas.

Different Reasons For Stress

In a modern society we don’t battle saber tooth tigers, our stress come from slow drivers, our kids, our boss, and at times our spouse, and other things that frankly we have very little control over. We worry, fret, get uneasy when we have to have a confrontation and we assume too many responsibilities that we were never intended to have. For sure at times we put ourselves in bad situation because of poor choices and the lack of self control by over eating, drinking, spending, and by going crazy when the toothpaste tube doesn’t have a cap on it. Unwittingly we put our minds and bodies under constant stress and we operate in a state of constant survival. The primary function of the brain is survival of its owner and all that stress puts us in survival mode daily with those stress hormones eroding our brains. We will either run or fight but in reality as a society we don’t handle stress very well. It makes us sick, obese, it could result in the onset of high blood pressure, heart problems and type 2 diabetes. We meditate, exercise, practice yoga, seek therapy, and when all else fails we begin to believe in God again and pray.

Our Kids Need The Help

A bleak picture you say. Well yes it is, but things will get bleaker if we don’t help our kids manage stress and develop the resiliency to cope with the trials of life. There are more young people today who are anxious, depressed, and who fear age appropriate responsibilities then in past generations. Responsibilities that are just basic to a household like taking out the garbage or to school like completing a homework assignment. This fear of responsibility has resulted in higher levels of anxious and depressed adolescents than ever before. In America today, high school and college students are five to eight times as likely to suffer from depressive symptoms as were teenagers 50 or 60 years ago, according to Psychology Today.

Responsibilities Produce Pressure

When kids are not held accountable for their responsibilities and are let off the hook they begin to view their responsibilities as nothing more than pressure from adults. They are completely aware of what they need to do but lack the motivation and the desire to complete tasks or follow through on requests from anyone. This awareness with age activates that fight or flight mechanism that we mentioned earlier and kids will either start arguments when they are confronted by an adult with a request (like completing a homework assignment, or taking out the garbage) or run for the hills and disappear when there is work to be done. This now young adult feels the stress and may become anxious or depressed. They can get labeled as lazy, disaffected, unmotivated, and careless. They may seek to ease the stress through the use of a substance such as alcohol or a prescription medication that is gotten either legally or illegally and may begin to think hypochondriacally. (Believing that they may become or are seriously ill)

Responsible Behavior Can Reduce Stress

Do we need to help kids manage stress in a more effective manner or do we need to help kids take their responsibilities more seriously? Irresponsible behavior leads to stress. What is done in moderation as a child gets done in excess as an adult and adults currently are not managing stress very well. The model that the kids are getting is one that stress gets handled by drinking, eating, spending, or medicating. Mom and Dad may just be producing children that manage stress far less effectively than they did and they weren’t very successful.

So let’s teach our kids to manage stress more effectively right? Wrong. Let’s teach our kids to be more responsible adults and instead of running or fighting help them learn to see responsibility as an opportunity rather than pressure.

Looking For The Plan? Jim Burns’ New Book ” Helping Kids Manage Stress” will be out in the spring of 2016. You can pre-order in the comments section.

Stop Watching and Start Grooming

grooming image

Why did our parents stand the test of time 50 years ago and stay married, and manage money so well? Why have the last 3 generations suffered so much financial difficulty, and been involved in one divorce after another? We observed our parents being financially responsible, and we observed our parents remaining married. The problem is we observed, but we never learned. It’s almost like watching a car mechanic fix a car, but never learning how to fix it ourselves. Wisdom, wise decisions, wise behavior, needs to be learned. We needed to know why our parent’s did what they did and we needed to be shown how to do it.

If society is going to develop the wisdom, common sense, or street smarts it has to start with grooming the kids of today and giving them the instruction they need to deal with money and relationships. When you get right down to it there really isn’t much else left. The challenge is great because parental role models are not as wise today as they were in days past. Parents can’t be asking their children what they want to be when they grow up, they have to taught the best career choices and then pointed in that direction. Parents have to teach their children how to handle money at a young age and show them how to save and invest for the future. Parents have to stop thinking that they don’t have a say in terms of who their children choose as a marriage partner. They have to speak up; if they believe that who their son or daughter is dating is not good for them they need to instruct them about the qualities they believe are important in a life partner. Society believes after a certain point that kids know what their doing and they’ll be fine. Parents don’t want to interfere. They don’t want to ram something down their kid’s throats. If parents don’t ram something down their kid’s throats some else will. If society is going to become wise again, it will have to spend more time teaching, and less time watching. We can start to teach our kids now when their young, or wring our hands as they get older and wonder where we went wrong.