Getting students motivated to learn can be hard no matter what grade level you teach. Sometimes it’s because students find the material boring or useless, or sometimes because they are simply there because they are required to be and not because they have any interest in the subject matter at hand. There are some things you can do, however, to help boost your students’ interest in whatever it is that you’re teaching. Here are 100 or so suggestions of ways that you can make your classes more engaging and encourage your students to work harder at learning.
Here are some basic ideas to consider when motivating your students.
- Encourage internal motivation. While some students may need a great deal of motivation from you, your ultimate goal is to get them to motivate themselves. Encourage students to provide their own motivation for getting things done rather than relying on you to motivate them.
- Prepare students to learn. Before you begin teaching, make sure that students have been prepared and are in the appropriate mood to sit down and learn. Those who feel uncomfortable for any reason will feel much less motivated to pay attention.
- Create realistic goals. While it might be nice to imagine a classroom full of straight A students, the reality is that some students just may not be able to meet that high of expectations, at least not at first. Create goals that are attainable for your students so that they won’t feel overwhelmed and feel like they can succeed.
- Ensure students are aware of their responsibility. As the teacher, a big part of the responsibility for students’ learning falls on you. But students need to be aware that they will only take away from class what they put into it, and that a certain amount of responsibility falls onto their shoulders as well.
- Change the style and content. Students not responding to your lessons? Try changing them up. Sometimes all it takes is a little variety to make things more interesting to students.
- Make student reaction and involvement essential parts of the learning process. Don’t just lecture at your students, make their opinions and feelings on the subject important as well. This will keep them engaged and involved and motivate them to put more effort into learning.
- Use group cooperative goals to maximize student involvement and sharing. Students may be more motivated to work if you allow them to work together. Working with their friends and classmates can be more fun and can help them get more excited about projects and topics they otherwise wouldn’t enjoy.
- Plan assignments and exercises that are neither too easy nor too difficult. One way to kill motivation in students is to give them assignments that are well below or above their abilities. Work should be challenging but no so much so that students feel defeated.
- Explain the purpose behind assignments. You may find that students are reluctant to do work that they feel is pointless or that won’t ever have relevance to their lives. Explain to them the reason why they need to do the assignments and learn the topics at hand to give them more incentive to work hard.
- Explore the connections between lessons. Capitalize on the interest students have had in past lessons by relating new topics to older ones. This also helps students see how topics fit together and gives them an overall picture of the subject.
- Make sure students know what to expect. When students know exactly what is expected of them, it makes it easier for them to meet those goals and they may be more motivated to do so.
- Don’t over teach. Just because you know a lot about a certain subject doesn’t mean that you should share all the information with your students. Telling them too much can overwhelm and confuse them. Let students come to you if they are interested in learning more.
- Present material logically. Many students will have a hard time following along if you present information in a way that they don’t feel is logical. Do your best to create lessons that follow a logical progression so students don’t get frustrated and zone out.
- Summarize. It can be useful to some students to have a summary of what they learned at the end of the lesson. This can help show them how much they’ve accomplished and is a good way to refresh their memories of the topics that were touched upon.
- Lead by example. If you seem bored by what you’re teaching, chances are pretty good that your students aren’t going to get too captivated either. Get into your lessons and show them that learning can be fun and beneficial.
- Be aware of students’ needs. your classroom will be full of students who have a variety of different needs and who may be on different levels. Take this into account and give some students extra attention, support, or information based on their individual personalities.
- Enhance the attractions and minimize the dangers of learning. Many students are afraid to pursue topics they see as too difficult or challenging. Help them to overcome this fear by minimizing the chance of failure and supporting all their little successes.
- Downplay setbacks. Students in your classes are bound to experience failures and setbacks now and again. Ensure that these problems do not destroy their self esteem and willingness to learn by emphasizing their accomplishments rather than their failures.
- Encourage additional study. If you find that a student has a particular interest in a subject, make sure to play up their motivation and encourage them to find out more and seek additional information.
- Keep things positive. No matter what, students should feel like your classroom is a safe, positive place to be where they will be respected and assisted during the learning process.
The first step to motivating students is to spark their interest in the subject. Here are some ways you can make any topic seem more interesting.
- Focus on the importance of the subject. You may get students to take a lesson more seriously if you underscore the importance of the subject, whether in the general scope of things or to their personal career or educational goals.
- Use impressive or startling statistics. Facts and figures are one way to make a subject appear more interesting. Numbers can help make concepts more real to students and help them understand the significance.
- Ask rhetorical questions. Give students something to think about at the beginning of the lesson by asking rhetorical questions. You may not expect them to answer, but they may be motivated to think about the subject once a question has been posed.
- Use quotes. Taking quotes from real historical figures can be a way to help students understand the actual impact or feeling an event or idea had on people. It can be especially effective if the quote comes from a person students will have heard of.
- Ask questions to engage the class. Asking students questions about the subject is one way to get them active and engaged in the learning process. It also forces them to think about a topic rather than just accepting it at face value.
- Tell a story. Many students respond better to narratives rather than facts that have been linked together. The human interest or story behind the events makes things more interesting and encourages students to pay attention to topics they might otherwise want to disregard.
- Make it funny. If you can, or if the lesson material permits it, try to incorporate humor into your lessons. This makes them seem more like fun than work and can engage even the most reluctant of students.
- Incorporate student experiences. Let students share in the lessons by telling their own related experiences. This can be a great way to help make ideas and concepts in a lesson more real to students and therefore more relevant and interesting.
- Get students involved. While some topics may require or be aided by lecture, many can benefit from student involvement. When students participate in the lesson they may become more interested in what you’re teaching and more motivated to learn.
- Ensure it’s relevant. Students will often have much less interest in learning subjects that don’t seem to apply to their everyday lives in any way that they can see. Try to incorporate elements into your lessons that help students to see how the topics fit into their lives.
- Respond to student interest. If you find that students are particularly interested in a certain aspect of your lesson, you can devote a little more time to it than you normally would to help ensure that they’re learning while still staying interested.
- Use visual aids. Visual aids can be a great way to show students how a concept works, where things fit into the world or what history looked like, all while making them more interested in the topic at hand.
Creating a great learning environment is key to motivating students. Here are some ways you can make your classroom more learning-friendly.
- Make the classroom inviting. Students will feel more willing to explore topics, even those they don’t understand, if they feel comfortable in their surroundings so create a classroom that is as inviting as possible for students.
- Create an environment where students want to learn. If students feel intimidated or uncomfortable in the learning environment in your room, they are much less likely to participate, take chances or go out of their way to learn anything. Make every attempt to create a classroom where students feel they can learn.
- Organize. Good organization in your classroom is key to keeping things running smoothly and reducing the amount of clutter than can distract students from what they should be paying attention to.
- Show interest in students as individuals. Taking the time to get to know each of your students individually can be a great way to earn their trust and to help them feel important. Sometimes that’s all students need to feel motivated to learn.
- Supporting students in their efforts to learn. No matter what, supporting your students as they go through the lessons is essential to their, and your, success in the classroom. Ensure that all students feel supported and motivated.
- Promote open communication and discussion. Make sure your students feel comfortable asking questions if they don’t understand, raising issues, or even questioning things they don’t think are right. This kind of open discussion can promote their desire to learn and lets them share their own ideas and desires.
- Make your classroom learning oriented. Try to create a classroom that is conducive to learning. Sometimes this will mean arranging desks in a certain way, closing the blinds so students can focus or posting relevant information and posters on the wall.
- Avoid negativity. The most motivating classrooms are those that are positive and supportive. try to avoid letting negativity come into your classroom, even if you do start to feel frustrated.
- Allow students to help decorate. Students may feel more at home in your classroom if they have taken an active part in decorating the room. Younger kids may want to post art projects while older students might enjoy showing off posters for big projects.
- Create familiarity. Knowing your students’ names and helping them feel at ease with you and their classmates can be a great way to help them relax and feel more motivated to learn, provided you are still the authority in the classroom.
- Give students jobs around the classroom. When students feel they are an active part of the classroom and that they have responsibilities it gives them the sense that they matter. Students with more confidence and self-esteem may feel more motivated to learn and be more successful.
- Create special traditions for your classroom. Maybe you can start out each day with a quote or a puzzle or ask students to go over what they learned the night before. No matter what you choose it can help make students feel more at home in your classroom and more comfortable opening up to learning new things.
How you react to your students can have a big impact on their motivation to learn. Here are a few things to consider trying.
- Give praise. If a student has done a good job make sure to recognize it through praise, whether written or verbal. This can motivate students to try hard in the future.
- Help relieve student anxiety. Some students may feel nervous trying things they feel they will fail at, some even before they give it a try at also try to help students feel comfortable through praise and encouragement.
- Confront the beliefs, expectations and assumptions underlying negative attitudes. you may find that some students in your class have very negative attitudes about learning, the lessons or just school in general. Talk with your students about these to see if you can’t change some of their perceptions about learning and help them to become more motivated.
- Provide closure with a positive ending. Whenever a lesson or project is through, make sure to provide students with not only a feeling of closure but an ending on a positive note as well. Students will be much less likely to embark on a new subject if they feel they ended poorly with the last.
- Build students’ confidence and self-esteem. Use feedback and conversations with your students to build up their self esteem, confidence and sense of self-worth. This will encourage them that they can do what they put their minds to and also make them less afraid to try new things.
- Encourage curiosity. Make sure that students know that they can ask questions and seek out more information on any subject.
- Point out areas that need improvement. If you do have students that are struggling, make sure they know just what it is they need to improve upon so they don’t feel confused and hurt by poor grades or performance in class.
- Recognize achievement. When students do perform well in class, make sure they are recognized for it, whether privately or publicly so they know achievement does matter.
- Encourage student response. Giving your students feedback is great but it can also be useful to get feedback from them as well. While not all student feedback will be able to be incorporated into class, some may make it possible to better tailor lessons to your students and get them more involved.
- Arrange learning experiences so that all students can gain at least a degree of esteem. Don’t let students in your class feel like they’ve completely failed. Do your best to create an environment where effort is important as well, to encourage students to try again.
- Emphasize the positive. Make sure that your feedback isn’t all negative by emphasizing the positive aspects of what the student did as well. This will motivate them to try the good things again even if they do them in a different way the next time around.
- Guide students. While you may not want to tell students exactly what to do, providing them with guidance can be a good way to point them in the right direction but to let them take the wheel and reap the benefits of their accomplishments.
- Focus on the behavior not the student. If a student is acting out, not performing well in lessons, or generally doesn’t seem interested keep your criticisms to these behaviors rather than attacking the student.
Use these special learning opportunities to motivate students.
- Show students ways that material is useful. Whether it’s complicated math or lessons on American history, sometimes things just don’t seem to ever be useful to students. Show them ways that knowledge of this material can actually help them in their daily lives through demonstrations and examples in the classroom.
- Help students set goals. Setting goals for each student can be an integral part of getting them motivated to work, so ensure that each student has a goal to work towards that reflects his or her own abilities and talents.
- Take field trips. Taking field trips to places where students can see their lessons in action can be a great way to make learning more fun and exciting for students and encourage them to learn more about all kinds of topics.
- Do labs and experiments. Showing students examples of how things work through experiments where they can work hands on can help make them feel like they’re an active part of their learning experience and motivate them to ask questions and investigate.
- Make learning more interactive. Whether you have students work with each other, do experiments, put on play or anything else, interactive experiences are much more likely to get students interested in a subject than assignments that leave them sitting at their desks.
- Encourage students to participate. Every class is bound to have a few students who are shy and who do not feel as ready to participate. Encourage these students to engage actively in whatever the class is doing so they do not feel left out.
- Promote teamwork. Most students feel energized and motivated when they get to work with classmates on lessons and projects. Allow students to work together to foster a sense of teamwork and to get them excited about learning.
- Make concepts real. Many concepts, especially those in upper level classes can be fairly abstract and hard for students to understand. When possible, show them physical representations that help make the concepts easier to understand.
- Play games. Help make learning fun by turning parts of your lessons into a game. Students will want to participate in a fun activity and they’ll be learning in the process.
- Use computers. Computers are great interactive tools and most students will be excited to use them in class. Take advantage of the educational opportunities they afford and the motivation they may provide students.
- Allow students to study in groups. Some students may simply work better and learn more when they work with other students. Allow students to work together to go over material to see if it improves their performance.
Here are some ideas on how to use rewards to motivate your students.
- Offer special privileges. Offering students privileges that they wouldn’t normally have is a great way to help motivate them to perform better in their schoolwork.
- Tailor rewards to the individual. Certain students may be motivated by different kinds of rewards. Keep this in mind when designing rewards to get your students involved.
- Make learning the reward. The ultimate goal of rewards is that learning itself ends up being the reward. This may not be possible at first, but ensure that students feel like their knowledge is always part of the bonus.
- Give small rewards. Small rewards like candy or special pins can help brighten the day of students and encourage them to keep working hard.
- Make sure all students feel included. Try to avoid making certain students in your classroom feel left out. In some cases it may be necessary to provide other smaller rewards for students who are shy or struggle with lessons.
- Allow students to display good work. When students do well on a project or a paper allow them to put it up around the classroom. This will give them a sense of recognition and motivation to do well in the future.
- Reward milestones. Sometimes students need a little motivation along the way to keep them going towards the ultimate goal. Provide small rewards or praise for milestones along the way.
- Use praise as reward. Sometimes the acknowledgement of a job well done can be all the reward a student needs to motivate them.
- Recognize achievements in all students. Each of your students will have their own strengths and weaknesses. Take the time to recognize each student for what he or she does best.
- Don’t make it all about grades. Ensure that students don’t feel that grades are the ultimate markers of their success or failure by providing them with praise or rewards for hard work and effort as well to encourage them to keep trying.
- Work with parents. Telling parents what a good job their students are doing can often make students feel very proud of themselves and can serve as a great reward and motivator.
Teaching online learners can come with its own set of challenges. Here are some ideas on facing them.
- Remind students that online learning is real learning. Some students may feel like the usual classroom rules don’t apply to online learning because they are not being directly instructed by a teacher. Remind students that they still need to put in the same amount of time and effort into online classes as those in a real classroom.
- Get to know your class. Forming relationships with students will help you know what students may need additional help and guidance to help students to feel more connected and involved in class.
- Publish requirements and set expectations ahead of time. Make sure your online students know just what is expected of them by posting it in a syllabus or sending them emails as reminders.
- Establish relevance. Make sure that students in your classes are able to see how the material they are learning is relevant and will actually apply to their careers in the long run.
- Provide continuous encouragement. Use the technology at hand to provide your students with feedback and encouragement that keeps them motivated to learn and work hard in your class.
- Use assessments. If you’re worried that your online courses aren’t as effective as they could be, ask your students to fill out accessments to see what they have to say.
- Get supervisor and peer support. Working in the online classroom isn’t always easy, but you can look to those around you to provide you with motivation and advice on the best way to move forward.
- Offer rewards and recognition. Because online courses are often so anonymous and distancing, it’s important to give students recognition and attention when they’ve done great work.
- Ensure success. Don’t let your students eke by without trying in courses. Encourage them to ask you questions, seek out new knowledge and take the most out of any course they pursue.
- Connect with students. Chatting or emailing with students can be a great way to make them feel included and more like they are in a classroom environment, some of the things students miss most when they take online courses.
- Encourage students to get to know one another. Not only should students work to know you as their teacher, but you should provide chances for them to talk to and work with other students from their courses to provide support and guidance as they go through.
Sometimes teachers become the students and can use a little motivation themselves. Here are some ideas on boosting your own learning potential.
- Imagine yourself in the future. Picturing yourself in the future when a task has already been completed can be a good motivator to getting it done in the present.
- Remember your positive skills. It can be tempting to get down on yourself when you’re struggling with a subject but keep your head up by remembering all the things you actually are good at instead.
- Give yourself rewards. Little rewards along the way can help keep you motivated to go on, even when you’re tired, frustrated or confused.
- Remember that you cannot know everything. No one can know everything so don’t feel stupid if you don’t either. Whether you made a mistake in a paper or said something that got you laughed at in class just take it in stride and don’t let it sidetrack your learning.
- Find a friend. Making a friend in class or just finding someone to study with can make any class a lot more fun and productive so do your best to make a few buddies in your next class.
- Stop making excuses. It’s easy to come up with excuses like "I’m too tired" or "I’ll do it later" when it comes to studying or putting in effort in class. Once you realize that excuses like this only hold your own success back you’ll be able to move forward, excuse free.
- Plan out your learning. If you’re a professional going back to school, chances are good that there’s a particular reason you’re there. Plan out what you hope to learn and how much time you need to spend learning it and stick to your schedule.
- Use the right tools. If you’re trying to type a paper on a computer that came from the last decade, you’re likely going to spend more time getting frustrated than getting work done. Make sure you’re using the right tools for the job when you are working so you don’t spend hours dealing with the tool instead of the assignment.
- Tackle things you don’t understand in parts. If you have a big problem or project in front of you that you just can’t seem to get a handle on, try taking it one piece at a time. It may make it more manageable and save you a lot of stress.
- Focus on the why. Whether you want to improve your skills on the job or are looking for career advancement focus on the reason you are in class in the first place. It can help you get back on track and get motivated to learn.
- Know yourself. Know you like to procrastinate at certain times of the day? Recognize where you have the least motivation and work around it to get the most done.
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