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.
My parents owned a bar and from the time I can remember which was about four years old I spent my time sitting on a bar stool. Most kids were playing with their friends or some toys that they had I was always talking to strangers and playing with beer boxes. It did have its advantages, like as I got older I had a built in job and I really learned how to talk to adults. You always had to agree with them because you didn’t want to lose them as a customer. Always polite always considerate and never giving anyone a hard time, of course I learned how to curse like a sailor at a very young age and got a taste of beer when I was about ten years old. The place had its characters that were both humorous and sad at the same time. I always thought it was normal for a guy to spend 4 or 5 hours drinking at the end of a work day before they went home. Many times as I got older I would drive some guy home who was to drunk to drive. When I got him home I found out why he spent that amount of time in the bar after work, his wife was less than happy to see him when he got there not because he was drunk she just didn’t like the guy.
One of the things I loved as a kid was the fact that there was always cash around. I would ask my dad for a dime or a quarter and he would reach into the till and hand it over. One warm summer evening around 5 o’clock I asked my dad for a quarter and he said “no.” I asked again and he said “no.” I finally said “c’mon dad please.” He did not give in. I got as mad as an 11 year old could get and walked out passing four customers sitting at the bend in the bar right by the door and on my way out I said “CHEAP.” As soon as I said this I knew I was in trouble and I tried to think of words that sounded like cheap that I could use to try and convince him that he just heard wrong. Then I had to find a way to get back in without him seeing me. There was only one way in and that was through the bar. Well I rode my bike for a while and then decided to try and get passed the blockade. When I got back to the bar the bar was closed. The bar that was open 364 days a year was closed. He locked the door and made me knock to get in. I knocked on the door and he opened it. I asked him to hold the door open so I could bring in my bike. He stood there grabbed me by the arm and said to me “What did you say on the way out of here.” I told him I said “cheap.” The grip on my arm got tighter and he said to me “After all the nickels, dimes, and quarters I have given you, you call me cheap.” I said “sorry dad.” He then loosened his grip and told me to go upstairs. My dad took a break around 7o’clock for dinner and took a nap until 9 when he went back downstairs to work. Around 8:30 I learned the biggest lesson of my life. He called me into his bedroom and sat me down. My dad said to me “Do you know why I locked the door to the bar after you left.” I said “no.” He said to me “After you left the bar the four guys who heard what you said started talking about you and what an ungrateful and selfish kid you were, and I couldn’t take it. I had to put them out, I just got sick hearing them talk like this about my son.” My dad put those guys out in my defense and because of the ache he felt in his heart. My dad used my own stupidity as a time to teach me that I can’t say anything I want and he wanted me to understand that whether or not I think anybody else hears my comments doesn’t matter, somebody hears and starts to develop a perception of you as a person. I never forgot this lesson. You see all along I thought those guys would ride my dad on what a cheapskate they thought he was because he wouldn’t give me a quarter. I was so wrong. As I look at this story all I can think of is the way kids speak to their parents today at a younger age than I was when I called my dad cheap. Kids don’t just wake up one day and decide that they were going to be rude to their parents. This has happened so slowly it was almost unrecognizable at first but now we ask “What are we going to do with these kids.” I named this essay “Cheap” because of how ironic it is that I called my father cheap in front of his customers when he truly was not cheap, and I ended up feeling cheap, and deservingly so, when my father was done with me. Even though it is cheap to sit a kid down and talk to him today the way my dad did, does anyone take the time to do it anymore?
Before the 1960’s, most people watched television in black and white. Looking back at what society was like 50 years ago, it seems like people looked at life in terms of black and white also. Things were either right or they were wrong. There wasn’t too much in between. Some of the things we viewed as wrong were disrespectful children, smoking pot, and sex before marriage. Some of the things society viewed as right were children not talking back to their parents or teachers and conservative dress. If you want to look back and see exactly what society viewed as right versus wrong, just watch some retro television and you’ll get the picture.
After WWII a new kind of generation was born in the United States. Because of the after effects of the War the United States experienced an economical boom, which resulted in high income jobs, (relevant to the time in history) with unemployment rates being almost non-existent. Education was also enhanced by the government with universities and colleges prompting people to get a college degree. Education was cheap, and was readily available. In fact, many took college courses to open up higher paying job opportunities and because of this lifestyle many people became financially secure. This financial freedom allowed people have more children and there was a significant increase in birth rates. People who were born during this period are called baby boomers and were born between the years of 1946-1964.
To me it seems like things really changed during this generation. Dr Spock came along, and his book became a child rearing bible for many people. Parents changed their approach to raising their children. It started to become in vogue for parents to be less authoritarian and more liberal in terms of discipline. The result; the baby boomers themselves took this to an extreme when they began to have children of their own. They took this more liberal mentality and kicked it up a huge notch. Baby boomer parents believed that their children had the right to decide everything. This included when they got fed, what they wanted to eat, what they wanted to wear, and what they wanted to say and do and it became the idea that at three years old children were asked to do things rather than being told.
For baby boomer children things were no longer black and white. Nothing was totally wrong anymore, and everything was a combination of colors. Parents couldn’t establish rules in black and white because it might hurt their child’s self esteem and kids began to feel good about who they were becoming for no apparent reason. The idea came into popularity that parents have to “respect” their children. The concept of respect is wonderful, but it was taken to a ridiculous extreme. Respect for children came to mean allowing them to say and do anything they wanted. Baby boomer children no longer learned self control in words and actions. This actually resulted in them not showing respect for anyone else but themselves. Basically, baby boomer children became extremely selfish, self-indulgent, arrogant, and demanding. Everything was about feeling good no matter what the cost. The end result, baby boomers have the highest debt and the poorest health with largest waistlines. The way they deal with relationships is if you don’t agree with me I am not talking to you and that means if we are married or not with the divorce rate being higher than what is reported. The research points to the fact that baby boomers get divorced later in their marriage. Their parents stayed together at all cost while the boomers hung on until their kids were grown.
We are now dealing with the children of baby boomers. They are being referred to as the millennial generation. Only time will tell what their problems will be. One thing that seems for sure, that the days of right and wrong and black and white are gone forever.
1. Listen without Interrupting
2. Speak without Accusing
3. Give without Sparing
4. Confront without Condemning
5. Answer without Arguing
6. Share without Pretending
7. Enjoy without Complaining
8. Trust without Wavering
9. Forgive without Punishing
10. Promising without Forgetting
Well there they are 10 great ways to build any relationship. That is to build; I mean this stuff doesn’t happen over night. We may like things to happen fast but when it comes down to people expectations are always a problem, and what we expect we never get in whole and the parts that we get are never really enough. We have to learn to be patient with those that are family members, loved ones, and co-workers. We can’t keep pulling up the flowers to see how the roots are doing, and we can’t count on others to do these things for us. So, we have to take the time to work on these things and model them ourselves. They require self awareness, empathy, respect, kindness, and at times the ability to be truthful with our own shortcomings. So, let’s take a look at these and work through the process one at a time. For me writing this article is almost like therapy because what I have discovered is that more often then not I have failed at many of them.
Listen Without Interrupting
There are five types of listening: Ignoring, pretend listening, selective listening, attentive listening, and empathic listening. Most people listen to respond and don’t truly try to understand what another is saying. Their minds can be on another planet that is buried under their own problems and headaches. They are always looking to get a word in and are always there with some type of advice or backyard psychology. They pretend and select and only connect to what is familiar to them. Good listeners have empathy, and can put themselves in the shoes of the speaker. They truly work to understand and can make every word that comes out of the mouth of the speaker the most important words they will ever hear. The ability to listen and understand in empathic way is so important to our children, our spouses, and our loved ones and for some reason they seem to always get the short end of the stick. We fight, we argue, and we ignore those that are closest to us and we want to appear to be good listeners to those that are casual acquaintances, or co-workers. Try and just listen to the people that are closest to you and build a relationship with them first, then listening to others without interrupting will become part of who you are and it will become second nature.
Speak Without Accusing
“What have you done NOW!” or “NOT AGAIN.” These are two phrases that we want to eliminate from our conversations. Now and Again; it almost sounds like a candy bar. But, in reality what they communicate is not very sweet at all. The word NOW communicates that you are fed up with persistent behavior that just aggravates and insights you to anger and the word AGAIN communicates that I told you I didn’t like what you said or did in the past and you just are not listening to me. Our words need to be seasoned with salt and spoken in a manner that shows the same patience that we would like to have shown to us. Often the lack of patience that we have with ourselves is mirrored to others and we accuse them of a poor attitude, when in reality it us with the problem. People never do things to us without our permission. When we accuse someone of making us angry or upset, we have allowed it. This just gives us an excuse for our own poor attitude.
Give Without Sparing
Can we ever give enough? I don’t just mean money; I mean time, love, and effort. At times these things can mean more to a relationship than money. They also can be harder to give. You can give your son or your daughter a $10 bill, but how about 10 minutes. You can say I love you but how about doing the dinner dishes. You can say I am proud of your performance but how about being there to watch a game or an award ceremony. At home, on the job, or in life in general talk is cheap and money is easier to give than our time, love, or effort. Going the extra mile on our job and not looking for something in return can be a tall order but it communicates to our employer and to others that we care, we are consistent, and we don’t cut corners.
Confront Without Condemning
Everyone seems to fear confrontations, when in reality a confrontation when done correctly can reveal the truth and strengthen any relationship. The problem is we tend to set our boundaries in anger. So, when a confrontation occurs it usually turns into a verbal free for all with words being spoken that do nothing but damage a relationship. Confrontations shouldn’t divide people they should bring them closer together. Families that have confrontations and fights at times could go years without speaking to each other. This creates such a gap that cousins, aunts, uncles, parents, and children become like the Hatfield’s and the McCoy’s feuding their entire lives. The blame game gets played and everyone fears the next wedding or maybe a funeral for fear of running into Uncle Charlie who they haven’t spoken to since that argument that they had ions ago. So let’s speak the truth for sure but always leave enough space in a conversation for a disagreement. And when we disagree do it right away without holding it in and ultimately holding a grudge. Remember the worst conversation that we can have is the one that we think we had. Revisit old conversation from time to time to clarify expectations and don’t spread rumors and gossip amongst family members or co-workers. Always confront but never condemn.
Answer Without Arguing
My dad owned a bar of which I spent a fair amount of time in talking to his customers. At 18 I started bartending there. I was taught never argue with a customer for all of the obvious reasons. On any given day one customer would make a statement another would disagree and an argument would break out. No one just answered a question. Oh, they did but they always seemed to follow their answer with their point of view and let the other guy know just how dumb he was. Needlessly to say some relationships were rather strained. In your home or on the job if a question gets asked just answer it. There really is no reason to start an argument. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, even your children. Often when a question is asked our response might be “why are you asking” or “why do you feel that way” which does nothing more than open a can of worms and starts an argument. Just answer the question, and enjoy the conversation.
Share Without Pretending
Strings, oh those dreaded strings that always seem to be attached to the things we do for other people. We all try to share from the heart, but always feel slighted when the person we shared with doesn’t reciprocate in some way, shape, or form. After all I have done for you becomes the cry when we get fed up with getting nothing in return. The good feelings that we get from sharing should end there with no expectations attached. This is hard, very hard; especially with our children. We share unceasingly only to find out in the latter stages of our life our kids can’t stand seeing our name light up in the caller ID of their phone. We pretended that there were no strings, but in reality there were and when we feel unappreciated those strings are pulling on the wreckage of a broken heart. We can share our life on a job and then discover that the place that we worked can live with us or without us as we stand on the unemployment line. We can’t fake it or pretend but sharing with an open heart can make us very vulnerable and we have to be ready to be real in the things that we share.
Enjoy Without Complaining
Have you ever been asked to go somewhere that you didn’t really want to go? Or maybe you were asked to do something that you really didn’t want to do. Did you go, or did you do it anyway? Well, if you did what was your attitude like while you were going or doing? Often a wife will ask a husband to go or do things that he really doesn’t want to do, but he does it. But, it is done with such a rotten attitude that his wife wishes that he didn’t go or do. When we do things especially things for another person we should do our best to enjoy what we are doing and not complain about where we are our where we are going. Of course if you don’t want to do or go you should make it as clear as day with a loving attitude and the reasons why we may not want to participate. While we are doing and going we shouldn’t complain but enjoy the time spent with our loved ones, friends, or colleagues.
Trust Without Wavering
We can’t trust someone that is not trustworthy. That person has previously provided us with all of the evidence to support our belief and he/she should not be trusted. If we have been lied to in the past it is extremely tough to trust others, especially those that we are in a relationship with. A good rule of thumb though is to trust until you have the evidence not to trust. Oh, don’t get me wrong, don’t look for it, but try and not be suspicious. That suspicion can only lead to jealousy which can have a damaging influence on any relationship. In the final analysis the only person that we have control over is ourselves. So, always be a trustworthy person and you will set the example for those around you.
Forgive Without Punishing
We should all practice forgiveness, but how difficult is it to forget. Let’s face it unless we get amnesia we are not going to forget when we have been wronged or slighted in a relationship. So to say that we should forgive and forget is something that is very unrealistic to ask. What is true forgiveness though? True forgiveness is defined as: “Completely releasing an offender from the ongoing consequences of their actions.” When we say I accept your apology we do so full well knowing that the thoughts of the person’s actions will never leave our mind. We are the only one that is in charge of our own thoughts. Even after we forgive we should always be aware that the temptation to keep revisiting the hurt only keeps punishing and re-punishing our offender. If we have been offended by a family member, such as a spouse or our children their presence will be a constant reminder of their actions. If we have been offended by our boss or a co-worker our time at work will be all that more difficult. Gaining control of our own thoughts is the only way to practice forgiveness without punishing.
Promise Without Forgetting
Promises need to made very sparingly should never be made without understanding all of the variables that are related to the promise. Our children and even our loved ones may hang on our words and count on the promises that we make. If we say we are going to do something, and follow through with our actions we will build greater respect and trust in the relationships that we have with our significant others. If we say it we should do it, we should finish what we start, and we should be consistent. Talk is very cheap and we should remember what we say, because if we don’t others will.