More than six ways of motivating our students


Image: rosipaw (flickr)

This week, the iTDi bloggers are talking about motivating students. As always, they come at the topic from different angles, and (as always) they gave me plenty of ideas to think about.

Steven Herder sees motivation as part of the circle of life for education. While motivated students can help motivate teachers, it’s probably more reliable for us to find ways to motivate ourselves. Motivated teachers encourage students to be motivated as well. For Steven, some of the best motivation comes from being involved with JALT. If you’ve ever volunteered your time for your professional organization, you’ll nod your head in agreement as you read Steven’s post. If you haven’t yet volunteered, you’ll be tempted to.

When a student is unmotivated, the last thing they want to hear is a teacher talking to them about motivation. Chuck Sandy believes that when our students act out, it’s rarely because they’re truly unmotivated, and it isn’t about us. As teachers, we’re quick to take the blame for students who act out, because we feel responsible for reaching and motivating every student within our sphere. While you may not have had a student just like the one Chuck uses to explain his approach, I’m sure you’ve had one who acted out in some way. His advice rings true — we wait for a gap in the fences students have built around themselves, and then reach in with love.

It’s hard to admit feeling unmotivated, especially when you’re known as Miss Motivation. I really admire Vladimira Michalkova for sharing her own feelings of being in the classroom with nothing to offer her students — no enthusiasm, no great ideas, no encouraging words. Her story illustrates the other side of Steven’s motivation circle of life. Vladimira’s students started to give back to her the motivation she had shared with them over the course of the school year. It’s a beautiful story and a powerful reminder that a teacher’s personal life is at least as important as her teaching life.

Chiew Pang follows up on his earlier post about staying healthy and motivated with equally practical tips for motivating our students. He suggests creating a learning environment based on mutual respect — know your students and their interests and you’ll be able to create lessons they can relate to, and you’ll be able to set goals that are realistic. I really like Chiew’s ideas about sharing student projects with parents and other classes, and getting your PLN (Personal Learning Network) involved in recognizing and praising your students’ accomplishments. He also reminds us that when students share responsibility for classroom management, and have a say in their learning process, it’s motivating and engaging for everyone involved. If you want even more practical ways to make your classroom more motivating, you won’t want to miss Chiew’s post.

Having been cheered up by Vicky Loras’ “Whoop! Whoop!” more than once after a hard day, I can totally understand her student finding that Vicky’s smile and positive energy changed his own attitude. She reminds us that it matters to students that they know we’re happy to be in class with them. In addition to being generous with praise and encouragement, it’s motivating for our students to see us learning, too. If students can see us struggling with learning a new language (or anything else) and not giving up in the face of difficulties, it gives us shared bond as learners, and that’s motivating for everyone in the classroom.

Cecilia Lemos’ post this week is an excellent look at the motivational challenges facing adult students. They enter classes with high goals and unrealistic expectations, and not enough time to balance work, family, and study. It’s easy to understand why their initial enthusiasm and motivation wanes with a perceived lack of quick progress. Cecilia helps them notice the progress they have made, and tries to redirect their big goals into achievable ones — like being understood rather than sounding like a native speaker. She also suggests ways for her students to make their language studies more effective by finding reading and listening materials related to her students’ career interests, and encouraging them to use their commute to listen to English podcasts. If you teach working adults, you will definitely discover ideas to help motivate your students, too.

Now it’s your turn! Find a post that interests you and go visit the iTDi blog to read the whole article. Please do leave a comment for the writer sharing your reactions, or your own experiences with motivating students. Comments are very motivating 🙂





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11 Responses

  1. Chiew says:

    What a brilliant summary! Yes, comments are very motivating indeed but why are people so shy of leaving comments?

    • Barbara says:

      I don’t know, but I do know that I’m just as guilty! I read way more posts than I comment on. I’ll have to do better 🙂

      • Adam Simpson says:

        Let’s all make a pact to leave more comments from now on!

        I’m thinking of setting aside one week each month when I don’t do anything on my blog but focus my time solely on reading others’ posts *and* commenting… sound like a good idea?

        • Barbara says:

          Brilliant idea, Adam! I’m one of the worst culprits for leaving comments, and I need to do something to change that.

          I know there have been some initiatives meant to increase comments, but nothing seems to have stuck. Also, discussion happens on several platforms now! People talk to me about my posts on facebook and twitter, which is great, but it also means that the comments disappear into a timeline rather than being archived.

          There are people who are prolific commenters–maybe we can get them to share their secrets 🙂

  2. Nice article on motivation! It made me think about how I stay motivated to learn a language (and I am a language teacher myself). I referenced your post in my latest post! Thanks for the inspiration.

  3. Torn Halves says:

    There are links here to some excellent advice relating to the craft of teaching (and I especially like Chiew’s approach of giving students as much responsiblity as possible). On another post perhaps it would be nice to stand back a bit from the immediate practicalities of teaching and trying to motivate, and consider how some societies make the job much harder. I haven’t been to the Gaza Strip, but I have seen documentary footage of classrooms packed full of keen Palestinian students. A sharp contrast to my experience in some schools in the UK and Greece. As individual teachers we can’t change the culture and the social context we find ourselves in, but it is worth taking a close look at it from time to time and acknowledging the way it impacts on the way students perceive themselves, their teachers and the significance of their education.

  4. golconda chayadevi says:

    Dear Teacher’s,
    It’s interesting to note the most integral part of language teaching is always motivated in a similar manner whereever we teach. English as the second language plays a very significant role in Indian language pedagogy. My experience as a language teacher is different from you all. It’s conventional teaching verses situational teaching. Almost all the teachers fallow the same method which is syllabus and exam oriented teaching and learning. This may not speak much or rather anything creative in the classroom learning. Indeed i am motivated to get some changes in this scenario by introducing the most relevant method of teaching the four language skills while teaching the prose, poetry and also the grammar exercise. It is an Herculean task to adopt this, getting the students oriented in listening, reading, writing and speaking skills in every class they learn to be practiced by each and every student ,till we obtain the end result.This artical has given me a break through in motivating the students in our country.