One of the most difficult aspects of becoming a teacher is learning how to motivate your students. It is also one of the most important. Students who are not motivated will not learn effectively. They won’t retain information, they won’t participate and some of them may even become disruptive. A student may be unmotivated for a variety of reasons: They may feel that they have no interest in the subject, find the teacher’s methods un-engaging or be distracted by external forces. It may even come to light that a student who appeared unmotivated actually has difficulty learning and is need of special attention.
While motivating students can be a difficult task, the rewards are more than worth it. Motivated students are more excited to learn and participate. Simply put: Teaching a class full of motivated students is enjoyable for teacher and student alike. Some students are self-motivated, with a natural love of learning. But even with the students who do not have this natural drive, a great teacher can make learning fun and inspire them to reach their full potential.
Here are five effective ways to get your students excited about learning:
1. Encourage Students
Students look to teachers for approval and positive reinforcement, and are more likely to be enthusiastic about learning if they feel their work is recognized and valued. You should encourage open communication and free thinking with your students to make them feel important. Be enthusiastic. Praise your students often. Recognize them for their contributions. If your classroom is a friendly place where students feel heard and respected, they will be more eager to learn. A “good job” or “nice work” can go a long way.
2. Get Them Involved
One way to encourage students --- and teach them responsibility --- is to get them involved in the classroom. Make participating fun by giving each student a job to do. Give students the responsibility of tidying up or decorating the classroom. Assign a student to erase the blackboard or pass out materials. If you are going over a reading in class, ask students to take turns reading sections out loud. Make students work in groups and assign each a task or role. Giving students a sense of ownership allows them to feel accomplished and encourages active participation in class.
3. Offer Incentives
Setting expectations and making reasonable demands encourages students to participate, but sometimes students need an extra push in the right direction. Offering students small incentives makes learning fun and motivates students to push themselves. Incentives can range from small to large --- giving a special privilege to an exemplary student, to a class pizza party if the average test score rises. Rewards give students a sense of accomplishment and encourage them to work with a goal in mind.
4. Get Creative
Avoid monotony by changing around the structure of your class. Teach through games and discussions instead of lectures, encourage students to debate and enrich the subject matter with visual aids, like colorful charts, diagrams and videos. You can even show a movie that effectively illustrates a topic or theme. Your physical classroom should never be boring: use posters, models, student projects and seasonal themes to decorate your classroom, and create a warm, stimulating environment.
5. Draw Connections to Real Life
“When will I ever need this?” This question, too often heard in the classroom, indicates that a student is not engaged. If a student does not believe that what they’re learning is important, they won’t want to learn, so it’s important to demonstrate how the subject relates to them. If you’re teaching algebra, take some time to research how it is utilized practically --- for example, in engineering --- and share your findings with your students. Really amaze them by telling them that they may use it in their career. Showing them that a subject is used everyday by “real” people gives it new importance. They may never be excited about algebra but if they see how it applies to them, they may be motivated to learn attentively.
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