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Principles of Motivation in the ESL Classroom

Principles of Motivation in the ESL Classroom | ITTT | TEFL Blog

Motivation provides learners with an aim and direction to follow. According to Gardner motivation is the combination of attempt and desire to obtain the aim of learning the language and favorable attitudes toward learning the language. If students are motivated they will be excited about learning and willing to work hard. Motivation, both intrinsic and extrinsic, is a key factor in the success of students in all stages of their education, and teachers can play an important role in providing and encouraging that motivation in their students.

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

The following are the different ways to motivate the students in an EFL classroom

The seating arrangement of the students: A change in the seating arrangement can make an incredible difference to group coherence and student satisfaction. This should be according to the lesson/ topic that the teacher teaches. Pleasingly decorate the classroom with charts and some quotes to attract the students.

Motivation in teaching by using real objects, flashcards, creating and narrating Stories and songs

Real objects and flashcards are considered as important tools in ESL learning. They play the role of a facilitator in teaching new vocabularies and grammar. When a teacher uses authentic materials, they are so more interesting and motivating. They draw the attention of the students and instill them more interest in learning the lessons. Moreover, real objects are more authentic materials that help the teacher to cover the engage phase and study phase very effectively. Storytelling and creating stories are other ways to motivate the students to develop their speaking and writing skills. Students should write stories from their personal experience. While creating stories the students should give importance to fluency and accuracy.

To teach the English language effectively teachers can use songs. They can compose songs in different ways to teach grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation and community building because students like songs and they motivate the students to learn the language in an interesting way. Activities such as prediction, mind maps, word splashes can be conducted through songs. Students discuss questions such as the feelings in the song, what next, etc. and interestingly write their responses.


Also Read: Do TEFL teachers need a second language?


Elicitation techniques are very important while teaching an EFL lesson to motivate the students because they involve the students a lot in the teaching-learning process.

To motivate the students to integrate technology into the classroom there are several benefits in using audiovisual material in an ESL classroom. These materials encourage students to read texts with interest which makes it easier for them to understand the abstract ideas in the text. Nowadays most of the schools are equipped with various audiovisual materials. Videos have great potential in an ESL classroom. Teachers can use a TV, DVD or laptop to show the videos to keep the students focused on the lessons. Video can be as good as an instructor communicating facts or demonstrating procedures to assist in mastery learning where a student can watch the lessons as many times they need to. For listening based lessons a teacher should use a cassette player and for searching for a web a computer is necessary. Most of the students have web surfing skills. .Whereas, we can use an overhead projector in presenting writing drafts for classroom correction or to read. Using audiovisual material: cassette player, video, computer…etc. will help to increase student motivation and enhance their learning experience. They help to develop the potential for deeper learning of the subject and enhance teamwork and communication skills.

Also Read: Historical Reasons For The EFL One-to-One Teaching Demand

Correcting Mistakes

It is always asked whether we should correct all students' errors, whenever they occur. The reasonable answer is that if we stop at every single error and treat it with no room for errors to take place, this will lead to a gap of communication and students will be too much afraid of making mistakes. Hence, due to being too much obsessed with making errors, students will be too reluctant to participate. Thus, Teachers should be aware of when to correct errors and how to do that without any hurt and humiliation.

Games and Activities

Playing ESL games will motivate any learner whether are five years or 50 years old. But the teacher should choose an appropriate game for her lessons and students should have the right competitive feel to play the games. The teacher should explain the rules of the game and how to play it. The teacher should evaluate how much that game helped to gain knowledge for that particular topic.

Eg: Passive voice quizzes game:

students raising hands

Also Read: How Might Language Teachers Productively Blur the Line Between Tasks, Games, and Testing?

Draw a rectangle with five columns on the board. Choose any five topics and write a title in the column. The teacher will give questions in an active voice according to the topic written. The students will change these questions into passive voice

Role-play for the speaking activity will give an awesome result. Real-life situations can be enacted by students. It will help the students to encourage understanding of that situation because they engage in that activity completely. The joy of role-playing is that students can 'become' anyone they like for a short time! In a role-play, students will get a chance to express themselves and they can create an outside world in the classroom. In classroom role-play a teacher can be in many roles; a facilitator, a spectator or a participant.

Praise the students always at the end of their contribution. A ‘well done' or an ‘excellent' will bring a positive attitude towards learning. Also, it will boost confidence among the students to face the challenges.

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Learners are motivated to learn when they think of themselves as competent persons, deal with interesting study materials according to their level and have a goal to achieve. When they are motivated they see their studies are significant to get recognition and acceptance in their lives. They take opportunities to make decisions and feel responsible for participating and experience more success than failure.

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