ITTT tefl internationale

All you need to know about teaching English abroad!


Helping Students to Get Motivated

Helping Students to Get Motivated | ITTT | TEFL Blog

In this essay, I am going to talk about how students can be motivated, more specifically, how to encourage shy or reluctant students to participate in class discussions.

This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Bertram R. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.

Anticipated Problems

With the possible exception of mental "problems" such as being a mute, most of the time I find that a student who is unwilling to talk is either not confident in their abilities, or waiting for somebody else to answer the question.

Also Read: The Benefits and Pitfalls when Teaching One-on-One

Possible Solution

What I have found to be a good way of encouraging students to talk who are shy is to teach them the sentence structure or grammar I want them to say before the speaking portion of the class. For example, the 2nd conditional. I will go through the process, how it is hypothetical and the different tenses for the different parts. I will then get them to write a sentence or two, demonstrating that they are comfortable with the grammar. I will remind them that I am there to help with any problems.

Whilst they are writing I will walk around the class and read the sentences as they are being formed, but otherwise will keep my input at a minimum. This is the time for the students. However, this will allow me to make sure that the sentences are correct and therefore they should be a lot more confident in their abilities and have fewer problems with speaking.

Also Read: Do TEFL teachers need a second language?

Comfortable Environment

My main priority with motivating students is to make sure that they feel comfortable with speaking in class. So when everybody has their sentences, I will ask them to say them out loud one by one, if people look to not be concentrated, I will ask them to give an opinion on the sentence they have just heard. The worst thing when speaking is feeling like nobody is listening to you. When the student I feel has difficulties with speaking says their sentence, I will ask them to follow up questions (ideally those which are related to what they would be asked in the exam) such as "and what do you think about holidays to hot countries, do you prefer them to winter holidays"? This should then allow them to answer more personally and more openly. If not, I will say my all-time favorite word "because.....?". It always works.

Also Read: Amazing Perks of Being a Volunteer Teacher


If as I mentioned the student seems like they would rather sit and wait for somebody else to answer, I would adopt a different strategy. I would probably order them into groups. This would allow them to work with somebody else and at least communicate with their partner with the objective of achieving a common goal. Later, when we start the speaking part of the class, I will get them to alternate who talks for each pair. Everybody has the opportunity to speak, everybody talks, everybody has to try.

Are you ready to begin your teaching career? Take a TEFL course to get more confident!

In total, I think the best thing to do is to try to include everybody in the class discussions and to try and make good use of follow up questions so as to elicit as much of a dialogue as possible, even from the reluctant students.

Apply now & get certified to teach english abroad!

Speak with an ITTT advisor today to put together your personal plan for teaching English abroad.

Send us an email or call us toll-free at 1-800-490-0531 to speak with an ITTT advisor today.

Related Articles:

Listen to this blog post: