How Can Teachers Motivate Students and Why is it Important?
Regardless of the level, age or culture of students, a desire to learn is essential. Even the most intelligent, pleasant and well-prepared teacher will have a hard time teaching an unmotivated class. Teachers must engage students to create motivation when it is needed. In this essay, I will examine the need for, methods of achieving, and the deep importance of student motivation.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate AMY T. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
Where Can You Implement Motivation Strategies?
Motivating students and encouraging a desire to learn comes into play in most aspects of teaching. This includes material selection, classroom management, building rapport, combating boredom, and most importantly, creating a safe environment where students feel confident enough to experiment with language and even make mistakes.
We can motivate students and pique their interest in many ways.
One way is to learn about the specific interests of the students. For example, a soccer enthusiast will be more engaged by a lesson that somehow, even peripherally, involves soccer. This need not be a lesson of soccer vocabulary, but rather, we use the basic theme of soccer to engage the student’s interest. In a lesson whose aim is to teach Reported Speech, a teacher might ask the student to report on an interview given by a team’s manager or star player. In a lesson whose aim is to practice the Simple Present Tense, a teacher might ask the student to be the announcer/commentator for a soccer game: Smith takes the ball. He passes it to Jones. Jones scores!! A student who is excited and interested in the theme will be more likely to engage with and absorb the practical lesson of grammar.One way is to learn about the specific interests of the students. For example, a soccer enthusiast will be more engaged by a lesson that somehow, even peripherally, involves soccer. This need not be a lesson of soccer vocabulary, but rather, we use the basic theme of soccer to engage the student’s interest. In a lesson whose aim is to teach Reported Speech, a teacher might ask the student to report on an interview given by a team’s manager or star player. In a lesson whose aim is to practice the Simple Present Tense, a teacher might ask the student to be the announcer/commentator for a soccer game: Smith takes the ball. He passes it to Jones. Jones scores!! A student who is excited and interested in the theme will be more likely to engage with and absorb the practical lesson of grammar.
Also Read: Do I need a TEFL certificate to teach?
Another great tool for motivation is the use of “Authentic Materials”.
These are texts (or songs, advertisements, etc) that are not created specifically for language students and will, therefore, be examples of materials that students will encounter outside the classroom. Talking about an American fashion billboard or picking out the lyrics of a pop song in English shows students the usefulness of language learning. This is especially important for young learners who have most likely not chosen to learn English and may be asking: Why bother? Adult learners are often motivated by their careers, so they bring the drive to succeed in the classroom. But children have the benefit of curiosity, and sponge-like minds. In both cases, using authentic materials (selected/tailored for level and appropriateness) or including “real world” examples will motivate students by expanding the scope of the lessons into their daily lives, and reminding them that learning English isn’t just for academic or business pursuits, but also pure entertainment.
Perhaps the best tool for motivating students, however, is the behavior and demeanor of the teacher themselves!
We can motivate students by demonstrating the behavior we expect from them in our actions. Always be on time. Be prepared. Practice patience. A teacher can bring a level of excitement to a lesson by simply being excited. Using large physical gestures, for example, can re-energize a classroom. A smile can put students at ease. Often a teacher's level of motivation will be reflected by the students.
The teacher's behavior also dictates the level of emotional support students will receive. Teachers must address difficult/problematic students with compassion. A student might be unmotivated because of problems at home, or because they are being bullied in the classroom. An observant teacher will monitor a class, notice these patterns and act accordingly. Conversations about individual problem behaviors should be held in private. Praise should be given often as it makes students less self-conscious of potential mistakes. Teachers can also consider setting up a rewards system of stickers or stars to underscore that praise. More than anything, feeling safe and emotionally comfortable will motivate students to participate with confidence.
Students who are meeting their goals can see their progress in each of the four basic skill sets: reading, writing, listening and speaking.
The sense of accomplishment that comes from building receptive and productive skills is also highly motivating. This is why teachers must ensure that students’ desire to learn is met with Engage, Study and Activate phases of a lesson. Enjoyment is essential but the real purpose is that students learn the required material (in a dynamic way).
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As stated, motivation is a key component in any classroom and will dictate whether or not goals are met. Luckily for teachers, motivation is about having fun with an aim and a purpose. This is the overarching goal of any language teacher: that your students leave your course with the required knowledge, the desire to use what they have learned, and the motivation to keep learning more. This all starts with a teacher who is happy to be there and ready to teach.
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