What Makes a Good Motivator?
Learners, whether children or adults, tend to lack attention in the classroom at some point. Certainly, this problem varies from one type of age-range to the other. Indeed, this issue may be due to different reasons: mature students may be tired from work, whereas youngsters may struggle to keep up with the content.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Debora M. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
Moreover, additional factors may come to decrease motivation in the classroom. For instance, some learners find the topic being at hand particularly difficult; others may just be bored or going through tough problems at home, and the list goes on. Hence, motivating can be a tricky matter. Luckily, this course has equipped us with a wide range of strategies to stimulate attention and how to be an efficient teacher.
Naturally, as I kept progressing through the EFL workload, I began picturing myself as an EFL tutor. I must admit, it was hard to imagine myself handling and motivating an entire classroom full of students!
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Thus, it was truly a relief to learn that you can still be a good instructor despite being an introvert. Although I always pictured the ideal teacher as a funny, cheerful person, indeed, you don’t have to be like that to motivate your students. Looking back at my high school teachers, the ones I had found the most motivating weren’t all so bubbly nor outspoken. They just knew how to get everyone’s (or, at least, nearly all of us) interest by “playing the right cards”. Literally and figuratively. That is, we may have been really tired from hours of the previous studying, but they just knew how to keep us going. Hence, once realized I too could be a great teacher with the right skill-set, I developed a list of attitudes and intentions I’d like to stick to when teaching.
For starters, as this was also pointed out in this course, a fine instructor should always be on time. Especially when teaching night classes, one cannot expect students to be motivated if she/he shows up fifteen minutes late (or more).
Choice of Activities
Furthermore, I’d probably do an ice-breaking activity such as asking students how they feel (i.e. if they are tired), depending on the mood of the class, once I walk in. Moreover, using an appropriate voice-tone would be an aspect to keep under control. I can distinctly remember times where, back in my high school days, some teachers had difficulties getting us motivated when they talked very softly and/or even too gently. Of course, you don’t need to scream and shout to get the students engaged, but a fairly consistent vibrant tone makes a difference. Indeed, talking as described would automatically get learners more interested in listening and focusing on the class.
Needless to say, these would just be a few precautions to use in addition to the main body structure of the ESA program developed by Harmer.
That is, to increase motivation I’d refer back to the “elicit” part of the latter, engaging students with the aid of tools, physical objects, and games. Such elicitation would have to be tailored to the students’ needs, age, and overall English level.
For instance, with younger students, I’d probably make use of flashcards, jigsaws, and drawings. These techniques would change when interacting with adults; in the latter case, gap-fill exercises, career-oriented questions relevant would be the dominant strategies adopted to motivate them.
Although recommended by the ESA program, lists would not be used as a warm-up activity in my classes. Reflecting on my previous English (or any other foreign language courses for that matter) lessons, lists and registers were one of the least stimulating activities and never elicited much interested in any of us students.
On the other hand, although I was never much of a fan, group and particularly pair work are the best and most motivating ice breakers. I find that taking down the (perhaps) awkward barrier between two unacquainted students is to just talk to each other, whilst the conversation is prompted by a teacher. In particular, the strategy I’d begin with would be“partner sharing”, where two people would get to know each other by speaking in English. Contrarily, “Fizz-Buzz”, despite encouraging conversation, is a strategy I find a little too intense for beginner or elementary level learners.
”Alphabet relays” and “Sevens” are games I’m not particularly familiar with, but I do find them quite effective to get the entire class engaged.
When performing group activities, I’d do my best to keep track of those shy or silent students. Later on, I would pair them up with more outspoken students, to give them a chance to talk. By doing so, all learners would partake in warming activities and be fully prepared to face the next phase of the ESA - the studying part.
Following through with the aforementioned method, games, and precautions would place me in a good light and get the whole class engaged, keeping the ambiance fun and enjoyable.
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Implementing Different Strategies
In conclusion, motivating students can - and should - be done in many different ways. First and foremost, as a newly ESL Teacher one must preserve a positive attitude, being a good leader, listener, and empathetic figure. Moreover, it is important to understand on what level the students need to be motivated. Are they just very distracted because something exciting just happened, classes are almost over or just tired?
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Last but not least, a fine motivator should really “get in the dirt” and set a vibrant environment, either by tapping into previous topics, asking questions or playing games. This course has given us a myriad of ideas on how to do so - the best part is now to Activate what we’ve been taught and get creative with it!
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