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The Principles of Classroom Motivation

The Principles of Classroom Motivation | ITTT | TEFL Blog

As human beings, motivation is one of the most important components to succeed ultimately, anything. If an individual is not motivated, the likelihood to succeed merely diminishes. This pertains to a person's personal life, academic life, and professional life. Motivation is the root of success, and this is why motivating the students in an ESL classroom holds such importance. To motivate students, the teacher must determine the student's intrinsic goals and desires, help students define their goals, create a positive and friendly climate, and encourage each student.

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

Challenges of learning a second language

Learning a new language is very intimidating, especially a language as complex and difficult as the English language. To effectively teach students the English language, motivation is the key. Passion and personal interests are at the core of motivation - so a teacher must determine the student's intrinsic goals and desires to then tailor each lesson to the students in the classroom. Each student essentially will have different reasons that they are learning the English language, and to be able to successfully engage these students, the teacher must be able to build rapport with the students to determine what is driving each student to learn this language. Furthermore, goals pay a huge role in motivation. Learning what each student's goals are, and helping them achieve these goals will help not only build a rapport with the students (getting to know them) but will also help with their sense of accomplishment and self-confidence. When helping students build their goals, following the SMART method is an effective way to do so. SMART stands for “Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely”. Throughout different lessons and the school year, helping each student achieve, and track their progress on their goals will help them self-evaluate and stay motivated.

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Rapport building

To motivate and engage the students, a teacher must as previously mentioned, build a great rapport with the students and get to know each student. At the beginning of the school year, a great way to get to know each student is to do personal “get to know you” exercises. This can include both the teacher and the student presenting to the class an “about me” exercise. For instance, this can include; your name, age, favorite color, favorite band, favorite sport, about your family, etc...This ultimately allows students and teachers to all get to know each other. This creates a friendly and safe environment for the students. Additionally, personalizing the classroom is another great technique that helps students feel motivated and comfortable. This can include hanging students' work in the classroom, this way each student feels a sense of accomplishment when their work is on the wall. This essentially will help motivate the students as they will each feel recognized and valued as an individual.

teacher and students

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Positive feedback and reinforcement are also very important for motivation. This can include praising each student and praising the class as a whole. Positive reinforcement is also another great way to keep the students motivated. The type of reinforcement would typically vary from classroom to classroom and the age of the students. For instance, if it is a kindergarten classroom, stickers going up on the recognition board would be a great way to positively reinforce the students, and keep the students motivated. Essentially, students need to receive positive feedback and positive reinforcement to stay engaged and keep them motivated.

If you build great rapport with students, create a friendly, encouraging environment, provide positive feedback, learn what drives each student and tailor each lesson and curriculum for each class, and sometimes specific students - ultimately you will help motivate these students. “Learning is fun and exciting, at least when the curriculum is well matched to the student's interests and abilities and the teacher emphasizes hands-on activities. When you reach the right things the right way, motivation takes care of itself” (Brophy, 2010, p 1).

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The importance of volunteer work

I volunteered in a grade two classroom for over two years, where there were many students with learning disabilities. Including, autism, fetal alcohol syndrome, ADHD and many other learning disabilities. Throughout my time volunteering, motivation truly was the most important thing in the classroom. I will never forget the look on this one student, Zoe’s face when she finally was able to answer all of her math questions with little help from myself. I had built such a strong rapport with Zoe, a student where many teachers overlooked as a nuisance and troubled (she had fetal alcohol syndrome, a speech impediment, and many behavioral issues). However, I was able to connect with Zoe on a level that no other teacher could. I was able to get to know Zoe and figure out how to effectively motivate her to try and keep trying. When she finally got through the exercise (something she rarely ever did) she was so proud and wanted to make sure she could take it home to show her parents that she finally did it. Some of the answers were wrong, but it took someone to get to know her and figure how to positively motivate her, for her to stay focused long enough to finish her work. This truly was an amazing feeling, to see the smile and pride on her face. This is why everything I covered above, plays such a huge role in being able to motivate students - and how motivation truly leads to success.

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