How to Motivate Students in the EFL Classroom
Brown (2001, p. 72) claims that “One of the more complicated problems of second language learning and teaching has been to define and apply the construct of motivation in the classroom”. Motivation is a significant determinant of success in learning a second or foreign language. “It can be defined as a driving force that pushes someone to do something” (Astuti, 2013, p. 14). Without motivation, it seems to be impossible to achieve success in foreign language learning. “Motivation could be considered as the emotion that a person could have towards learning a foreign language, and it is determined by his/her predisposition and personality characteristics.” (Karahan, 2007, p. 2).
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Joseph K. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
Reasons Why Motivation is Important
Therefore motivation is very important in teaching foreign languages, especially the English language. The teacher plays an important role in motivating students especially in the foreign language classroom (Astuti, 2013, p. 14). We may have heard the utterance “ my students are unmotivated!”. Motivation is what makes the distinction between learning that is everlasting and learning that is momentary (Oldfather, 1993). Students who are highly motivated learn effectively and at a deeper level than those who are not motivated. So, how do we motivate students in the EFL classroom?. In this paper, I will briefly examine a variety of techniques that teachers can employ to motivate students.
The following are some of the strategies that teachers can apply in the EFL classroom to motivate students for them to develop a positive learning attitude:
Be enthusiastic about your subject. Teachers should create a good relationship with students by showing passion and cheerfulness to teaching, make a positive personal relationship with students by greeting students, remembering their names, and smiling at them during the teaching process. Also, create a pleasant and supportive classroom atmosphere by bringing humor that relates to the material to make students feel comfortable and happy, and serious but relaxes.
Make students’ active participants in learning.
Teachers should create enjoyable learning by stimulating students to actively involve and select activities that require mental or bodily involvement from each participant. Students learn by doing, making, writing, designing, creating, and solving. As Confucious said, “Tell me and I’ll forget; show me and I may remember, but directly involve me, and I’ll make it my own”. Teachers should protect the learner's self-esteem and improve their confidence by giving a persuasive expression of the belief that students can have a good capability. Self-esteem grows from the beliefs of others. When teachers believe in students, students believe in themselves. When those you respect think you can, you think you can.
Give students positive feedback.
Teachers should react to any positive contributions from students by taking time to give the thumbs up. Taking time to appreciate every student’s contribution to the teaching and learning process is useful to make students feel motivated. Teachers can use simple celebration ways such as to give thumbs up and applause to appreciate every student’s contribution. “A good rule of thumb is regardless of how small it, every success must be celebrated” (Scheidecker and Freeman, 1999, p. 106). Negative feedback can lead to a negative class atmosphere as a result of that teachers should cushion negative comments with a compliment about the aspects of the task in which the student succeeded.
Make teaching material relevant to the learner.
Teachers should make the teaching material relevant to the learners by relating the subject matter to the everyday experiences and backgrounds of students. Students should be given explanations and examples based on their “real life”. Teachers should present the material in a language style that will be understood by students by considering the selection and lesson of the words and using some media like pictures and images to make students more interested in following the learning process in the classroom. Teachers should relate the material to real daily life. It is important to help students get the main point and benefits of the material learned. The teacher must know that one of the most demotivated factors for learners is when they have to learn something that they cannot see the point of because it has no seeming relevance whatsoever to their lives (McCombs and Whisler, 1997). Therefore, relating the material to real daily life is one way to motivate students in the learning process.
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Many teachers believe that sticking to the language materials and trying to discipline their refractory students, they will manage to create a classroom conducive to learning. Nevertheless, these teachers seem to lose sight of the fact, unless they accept their students’ personalities and work on those minute details that constitute their social and psychological make-up, they will fail to motivate them. Learning a foreign language is different from learning other subjects. Therefore, language teaching should take account of a variety of factors that are likely to promote, or even militate against, success. Language is part of one’s identity and is used to convey this identity to others. As a result, foreign language learning has a significant impact on the social being of the learner, since it involves the adoption of new social and cultural behaviors and ways of thinking.appeasement.
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