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How to Motivate Your Students and Yourself

11.01.13 | Classroom Tips | 0 Comments

Did you know that you can energize your classroom and yourself at the same time? High-energy classrooms stimulate thinking and set off a positive domino effect. The key to motivating students is to provoke, arouse, and encourage their thinking. Teaching strategies that empower students to learn go a long way to counteracting apathy and motivating students to succeed. An attitude of “I can” is contagious, energizing, and reaffirming, for teachers as well as students.

What happens in a classroom that motivates learner and teacher?

You create excitement by creating lessons that are relevant to students. Create relevance by knowing students’ interests, community values, and current issues. Use pop culture, technology, role models with whom students identify, narratives, and even urban legends to engage and motivate students. Teaching with controversial topics is powerfully engaging, so long as we recognize our own biases and are comfortable hearing differing opinions.

You can create success by planning lessons that challenging but within students’ reach. Know where the learners are, and create incremental steps that move students forward. Work that is too hard will leave everyone frustrated and feeling incapable. Work that is too easy is boring and sends the wrong message. Set a series of short-term goals and celebrate as they are achieved. Move everyone forward by thinking of students as partners in learning.

Let students know exactly what they are doing right. Give them constructive feedback that nourishes their confidence and encourages them to continue learning. Give them specifics, such as “You used capital letters and periods in all the right places.” Avoid the generic “Good work.”

Teach students how to evaluate their own work with checklists and rubrics. Help them build a skills diary where they record skills they master. One of the best self-evaluations occurs when students review writing journals that they started in September. Usually by April, they can see how much better they are writing.

Encourage students to take risks by asking probing questions that lead them to uncover and discover. Make your own thinking visible and ask students to do the same. Ask questions that empower students to examine their own work, extend their understanding, and discover new knowledge. This is important because the teacher is modeling the kind of thinking independent learners use and facilitating a strategy for success.

Create a learning community that respects each student’s contributions. Encourage participation and cooperation with group work, such as a 30-second think- pair-share or longer small-group activities. Students who explain new knowledge and skills and answer peer questions have an opportunity to reinforce their understanding. This process provides an effective way to clarify and solidify understanding.

Provide choice. Whenever possible, provide options for students to choose independent projects, essay test questions, classmates to work with in groups, and ways to solve problems. Teachers might also allow students to come up alternatives, providing they meet established criteria. Students who have choices own their decisions and are more motivated to complete work.

About Helen A. Friedland and Carol N. Fleres

Helen A. Friedland is an associate professor in the department of special education at New Jersey City University in Jersey City, N.J., where Carol N. Fleres is an associate professor in the department of special education.

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