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How to Motivate Students to Learn English?

How to Motivate Students to Learn English? | ITTT | TEFL Blog

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

There are two types of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic

Extrinsic motivation is a push that comes from outside of a person. When people want to gain a reward (good grades) or avoid punishment, they are usually extrinsically motivated. Intrinsic motivation is a push that comes from inside a person. When people enjoy doing a certain activity they are intrinsically motivated.

At times, when a person has an intrinsic motivation, rewarding them can reduce their intrinsic motivation, which could make them less interested in the activity, thus decreasing their performance.

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On the other hand, when a person is not interested in English, it means they have no intrinsic motivation to learn. In this case, giving rewards can get them to participate in the activity, which may then trigger some intrinsic motivation inside them. From this example, we can see that extrinsic motivation can turn to intrinsic motivation.

This is not the case most of the time, because most ESL students want to learn English, therefore they already have intrinsic motivation. They want to engage in the language because they are trying to reach a certain goal where the English language is a necessary tool for them, whether it is academically or business-wise.

With this type of mindset, extrinsic motivation could potentially slow their learning process. The students will perform best when the teacher focuses on motivating them intrinsically rather than extrinsically. Therefore, rather than tempting them to learn with external rewards, the teacher should encourage their already existing desire to learn.

Tactics to motivate students:

1. The teacher should make the class more communicative

The main reason students want to learn English is so that they can communicate with people from other countries, at school or/and for job purposes. The main goal for some students is being able to communicate in the business world.

The students will be more motivated if the teacher encourages them to communicate in class. Seeing the improvement, they are making throughout, will make them want to study and engage within the class even more.

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How can the teacher make the class more communicative;

  • To make the class more communicative the students should engage more in group activities. In this scenario, the students should use language/vocabulary they have already learned and try to accomplish something from it.
  • The “teacher talk time” (TTT) should be kept to a minimum. More students will be able to talk if the teaching is not speaking at all times. This way they will be using their language skills for communication.
  • The teacher should change the seating arrangements (columns/traditional rows) and allow the students to create larger tables to encourage them to communicate with one another.
  • Discovery grammar method is another way of allowing students to communicate among themselves by providing a grammar worksheet to two or three students with given answers in the blanks before you teach the grammatical concept. See if they can figure out the rule on by themselves while communicating with each other.

2. The teacher should make English practical

People, in general, do not like to do things that are not beneficial to them. They want to know that there is a reason behind what they do, regardless of whether the action is simple or hard.

One approach to keep things more practical within the classroom environment is to use realia whenever possible. Realia is one more approach to use objects and materials from everyday life.

Introducing realia into your class will allow the students to be prepared for what they will encounter in the outside world.

Project-based learning starts with true-to-life problems, which is a great way to keep things focused on reality where the students will have the chance to solve them. The students come across a series of steps that will guide them to the problem in the project-based activity.

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Some of the steps include: collecting necessary material, identifying different steps students will have to take to unravel the problem, recording the information crucial for coming to a solution, concluding and finally presenting their solution.

Of course, the process of this activity is more important than the outcome, this is where students are practicing the language. By focusing on the communication process throughout the activity, the teacher is motivating the students because he/she is not concentrating on the extrinsic motivation when it comes to grading the assignment at the end of the lesson.

Another way to stay focused on the practical is to role-play. Recreating real-life situation the students are likely to experience outside of the classroom will allow them to prepare for the future in a secure setting.

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3. The teacher should try to make the class a fun setting

If a teacher can make the class fun for the students, it is a way to up the intrinsic motivation levels. Students are more prompt to be engaged in the learning process if they are having a good time.

Strategies for making the class a “fun class”:

  • Social media; by including them in the class, the teacher will not only make the language use practical, but the teacher will also bring something relatable for the students and add it within their learning process. They could start by writing something on Facebook or Instagram, or perhaps start a blog of some kind.
  • Bring pop culture to class. People of any age love magazines, movies, and music. These can be easily used for learning new vocabulary/reading activities or listening activities.
  • Games – They are a good way of incorporating fun and learning at the same time, with games like scrabble or charades the teacher can use grammatical structures and teach vocabulary.

4. The teach should form a relationship

If a teacher is teaching an international class, he/she may be the only English speaker they will see or speak with daily. Therefore, showing support to students is something the teacher needs to do before trying to motivate them.

A way of letting the students know the teacher cares is by encouraging expressions of culture in the class. Attention should be paid when the students are describing their traditions, beliefs or values.

Another way to form relationships with the students is to show consideration. The teacher should try to bond with the students to allow them to see they can turn to him/her for advice/help.

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5. The teacher should give feedback

Feedback should be carefully considered. The way the teacher delivers his/her feedback to the students is important for forming the right relationships with students.

If the teacher corrects every mistake every time a student makes one, students will end up estranging themselves.

Giving positive feedback is as important as giving criticism. If there is any mistake in need of addressing, the teacher should also have some positive feedback to deliver afterward.

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At the same time, the teacher does not need to be the only source of feedback, the students should be encouraged when it comes to peer feedback as well as self-evaluation.

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