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Motivating All Groups of Students

Motivating All Groups of Students | ITTT | TEFL Blog

In my experience of teaching in an institution in South Korea, I have found one of the most vital elements to my students succeeding, is to establish a positive and comfortable environment in my classroom. To do so, it is essential that my students be highly motivated. In the following paragraphs, my aim is to show why motivating students is so important and to give examples of some of the most effective ways to do so.

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

Teacher’s Nightmare

As a teacher, one of the worst things I can imagine is a classroom full of bored, yawning students idly gazing out the window during the lesson. If students (especially young learners) are not motivated to learn then they very easily become bored. This inevitably leads to students chatting in their own language, possible disciplinary issues and a myriad of other problems which can completely derail a lesson. Boredom is rarely if ever, the fault of the students – all responsibility lies with the teacher. Therefore, the onus is on us as teachers to motivate our students as best as possible in order to get the best results from our students. Speaking as a current student of a foreign language, having a tutor who shows interest in my life, is patient and considerate, and treats me with respect, has greatly inspired me to improve my Japanese.

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My Experience

Having taught young learners at a variety of different levels from first-grade elementary school, all the way up to high school, I have had a lot of firsthand experience in motivating students. During the lesson, it’s vital to keep the students engaged and interested in being energetic and positive. I use songs, games and bright and engaging images as much as possible and try to never be self-conscious, as very young students often respond well to a teacher who can have fun at his own expense. In my experience young students are incredibly sensitive to the teacher’s own emotions and if he or she presents themselves as being dull and uninterested then it will have a hugely demotivating effect on the students. The use of language, specifically positive reinforcement, is for me probably the most effective tool for motivating my students. Nearly every young learner responds well to being told “Good job”, “Excellent”, “I’m proud of you” etc., and I use as much positive language in class as possible. I try to personalize compliments for each student to show them I mean what I say. When a student is having a hard time understanding the material it is important to keep their spirits up by using re-assuring language such as “You’re so close” “I know you can get this”: You’re doing so well”:…etc. In my experience, using negative language or raising one's voice never has a positive outcome, and can be very damaging to a student’s psyche.

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Reward System

One method I have found to be particularly effective is to use a class reward system. Points are given to the class for quality of work, good behavior, attendance..etc, and a prize (such as an end of term party) is given should the class reach a specific goal. As well as motivating students by setting them a clear and achievable goal, it also encourages them to interact better as a group. In younger students, games and challenges can be great tools but must be carefully monitored as sometimes students react badly to losing and it can have a demotivating effect on them. I try to ensure that each game is fun, but that the students don’t get overly competitive.

Motivating Older Learners

Although older learners are, generally speaking, more self-motivated it is still important to try and encourage and inspire them. When teaching adults it is not usually appropriate to use reward systems or excessive positive reinforcement as this could come across as being patronizing. Therefore, we must explore some different motivational methods. A great way to encourage students is to show you care about them. I always make an effort to find out a little about my students, which has the double bonus of getting them to practice their English, as well as making them feel appreciated. This can be achieved by simply taking a few minutes before class to ask them how their day has been and can have very positive results. I also try to keep up with my student’s current interests and incorporate them into my lesson plan. In older students, it’s useful to set realistic goals, as a sense of achievement can be highly motivating.

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Motivating Falling Behind Students

With all levels of learners, I try to play to the strengths of my students and if I see someone is struggling, I will build up their confidence by praising and nurturing the things they are good at, rather than overly criticizing them for their weaknesses. This also applies to foster an environment in class where students support and care for each other, which can be very helpful and inspiring to the student having difficulty. It also has the added effect of increasing overall group morale. When correcting and evaluating students, using sensitive language is once again a crucial part of maintaining levels of motivation. It is far more constructive to offer positive ideas and focus on what they did well, rather than to criticize or belittle their efforts, which could crush their confidence.

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In conclusion, how motivated a student is can have an exponential effect on the atmosphere of the classroom. We should always prepare our lessons well, show care, patience and compassion, and use positive language when interacting with our students. In doing so, we can achieve our goal of keeping our students motivated, engaged and happy in class.

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