How Can We as Teachers Motivate Our Students?
In classes all over the world, students of various linguistic, cultural and ethnic backgrounds are struggling with a lack of motivation. Not only in English as a foreign or second language classroom but also in other subjects from Mathematics and Science to Arts and Culture. For this course, we will focus on the students learning English as a foreign or second language hereafter simply referred to as ‘student(s)’.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Zacharias Johannes P. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
Reasons for Learning
Students have many different reasons or motivations to study English. For example, Japanese foreign exchange students that go abroad to a primarily English speaking country like the United States, Great Britain or Australia, learn English to effectively and complete their studies. It also helps to make friends and fit into their new surroundings. Students in their native countries have different motivations.
Business English learners study to better communicate with their foreign counterparts and colleagues or clients. Young learners are encouraged by their parents to learn English and often send them to special language schools to further their skills, beyond what they may learn in school. These learners are often motivated to study English classes because it is fun, others may feel forced into it by their parents and come to dislike it altogether. This is where the EFL teacher plays a major role.
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An effective EFL teacher knows how to motivate their students beyond the students’ motivations. Even if new learners are highly motivated and eager to learn at first, it is very hard to maintain that level of motivation if classes are uninteresting and boring. If students are bored they are less likely to take in interest in the content and consequently fail to progress. This has a knock-on effect as students can’t see any progress in their abilities, they become even less motivated and jaded until ultimately they give up learning English altogether.
The role of the EFL teacher is to keep the energy in the classroom positive and create a comfortable atmosphere where students can study English in a relaxed and judgment-free environment. So how can we as EFL teachers motivate our students in the classroom?
One of the most, if not the most important thing is the positive attitude of the teacher. A friendly teacher with an authentic smile will immediately put students at ease and eager to hear what he/she has to say. A teacher with a permanent frown and a look of despair on their face will only bring darkness into the classroom and consequently make the students uncomfortable and reluctant to do anything productive. A good EFL teacher is a well prepared EFL teacher.
Good preparation is key, having worksheets, flashcards and other teaching aids like projectors and audio players ready as soon as the class begins will free up more time to spend with the content. Well, prepared teachers set a good example for their students to do their homework and come to class similarly prepared. Teacher and student talk time is another important factor. Ideally, teacher talk time should be kept to a minimum to maximize time for students to practice their speaking skills. Teaching English as a Foreign language isn’t a lecture where teachers can simply put on a slideshow, talk for an hour and then pack up and go.
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Language is interactive and meant for communication, if there is no time for students to communicate with the teacher and their classmates to try out their skills, their motivation will go down. Lastly, encouraging words and praise for the littlest achievement can make the student feel that he/she has accomplished something. Even if the answer you get from the student is completely wrong, a simple “good try” can go a long way to maintain student motivation. Blunt “no”, or “wrong” responses from the teacher have the power to demoralize not only the student in question but the whole class.
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In conclusion, different students have their reasons for studying English and different motivations for doing so, but when it comes to the classroom, the role of the EFL teacher in maintaining student motivation cannot be overstated. So, how can we as teachers motivate our students? To show our motivation and passion for teaching.
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