How to Increase Motivation in the Young Classroom
Increasing motivation in the young classroom exponentially increases language learning success by increasing participation, desire to discover more language, student-initiated thinking in the new language, and confidence. Motivation can be amplified in many constructive ways. Some of these ways are building rapport, implementing a reward system, incorporating the students’ interests into the lessons, designing games, using puppets, using praise and encouragement, and giving motivating feedback.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Melanie L. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
1. Build Relationships
Rapport is crucial in individual lessons as they can be intimidating for young students. A puppet can help the student relax and feel comfortable. The teacher can introduce himself or herself, have the puppet introduce itself, and then use an open hand gesture to prompt the student to introduce himself or herself. The teacher could then use visuals to show what the teacher’s and puppet’s interests are. For example, say, “I like chocolate,” while holding up a piece of chocolate. Then using the puppet, make it say, “I like bananas,” and have it hold a banana. Then use an open hand gesture for the student’s turn and say, “What do you like?” This relaxed conversation gets the student speaking, helps the teacher see what the student can communicate, shows interests, and gives the teacher ideas to add to the reward system.
2. Praise and Reward
The reward system is an essential motivator for young learners. Rewards help students self-evaluate, show praise from the teacher, and strengthen rapport. Rewards can be simple. For example, in the introduction, a student says they like monkeys. The teacher shows the student a magnet board and monkey magnets. The teacher explains, “When you do a good job (demonstrating with thumbs up), you earn a monkey.” Then show the student the monkey and put it on the magnet board. Anything the student is interested in can be used. Other rewards could be marbles in a jar that, when full, earn an extra game, or tickets that can be redeemed for more puppet interaction time.
3. Find Engaging Themes, Activities, and Materials
If students are interested in the topics, characters, and activities, they will be motivated. Some students are motivated by a character, such as Superman, Strawberry Shortcake, Spiderman, or Smurfette. Other students are motivated by sports or music. Some students may be interested in the puppet used in class. Finding interests is like finding a gold mine. These interests can be used in games, worksheets, puppet interaction, conversation, rewards, and many other components of a lesson.
Games are another great motivator for young learners. Often students will get so excited about the game they forget they are learning. It is simple to incorporate speaking, listening, reading, and writing into games for young learners. Games can be used to teach and practice many language points.
Puppets can be used for a wide variety of teaching tasks. They can increase student talk time by creating laughter and helping a student relax. A puppet can act as another student that the teacher uses to demonstrate what is expected of the student. For instance, a teacher may ask a young learner a question and the young learner may sit passively, not answering. The teacher can ask the same question to the puppet, have it answer, and tell the puppet good job. Then the student can see that answering out loud is good and will meet with praise from the teacher. Then ask the student again and the student will likely answer. Puppet demonstrations can help with understanding while motivating.
4. Give a Feedback
Praise, encouragement, and feedback are great motivators. Praise builds confidence, value, respect, and rapport. More effort from the learner results in more praise from the teacher. With beginners, it is important to use praise vocabulary that the learner understands, such as saying a good job and demonstrating with two thumbs up. Encouragement is like cheering a student on and showing the student the teacher believes in him or her.
Feedback is another important tool for motivation. It is possible to word feedback in a way that shows students what they have accomplished/learned and what they need to learn without negativity. Students need to be self-aware and confident at the same time. Making it a journey that a student has succeeded in up to that point is motivating. Then a teacher can show what the student has yet to master next. This can be the exciting next journey along the language path. It can be helpful to say that a student “gets to” rather than “has to” progress to the next learning point. A teacher can praise the student for specific accomplishments, show the level of progression, and show what is next to be explored.
5. Record The Progress
A learning path that resembles a game board could be used with each square space on the path having a lesson point in it. The teacher could color in the squares that are mastered. The squares could even be colored in increments, such as one-tenth of the box as assignments are passed. The student (and the student’s parents) can gather needed information from the learning path to determine progress/strengths in each square lesson point, as well as areas that need more work. If a square with a certain lesson point has no color in it, then the student would know that work in that area is coming. The path could lead to a picture of a castle and when all boxes are completed, the student reaches the castle and earns a reward. Feedback can be done in many ways. The important thing is that it should motivate the student to desire more learning success and should not deflate or discourage them.
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There are many more ways to increase motivation in the young classroom and a teacher can have a great deal of fun designing and implementing them. Using the methods listed above and more, teachers can increase motivation in the young classroom and thereby increase students’ participation, desire to learn, confidence in using a new language, and student-initiated thinking in the new language. Increasing motivation in the classroom is vital to classroom success.
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