When thinking about how to motivate students teachers can benefit from recalling the things that they find motivating. One must go beyond superficial feel good techniques which, while they can be useful, can become stale and may even take too much time from learning activities.
Teachers Should Consider Basic Student Needs
Motivation begins with an understanding of human physiology and emotions including the need for safety, respect, thirst, movement, stimulation, etc. To be sure, teachers cannot satisfy all student needs; they can’t provide a snack for every class, for example.
Meeting needs can go a long to keep students motivated. Student needs are important, but are often ignored. Teachers might consider the following methods to help students satisfy needs:
Students generally feel safe from major physical harm in class, but small issues can be distracting. There may be students in class who others find threatening due to some past conflict. Teachers should monitor the class or use surveys to identify special issues like fear.
Also, teachers don’t motivate students by issuing threats the first day to the entire class. It is not encouraging for student s to hear horror stories about what has happened to misbehaving students in the past or tales of failure for those who were lazy.
Smiles and a positive, encouraging attitude work best. It is not true that students need to be frightened in to submission on the first day. They need to feel to feel that the teacher cares about them as individuals and as a class. If students are to respect the teacher it is only fair that teachers respect students. Students are capable of great contributions that warrant attention and consideration.
Physiological needs such as thirst and a need to empty the bladder can drive teachers crazy, but it need not be the case. There is no doubt that some students simply want to get out of class when they ask for water or permission to go to the restroom. They may be bored. Teachers are responsible for teaching in a manner that minimizes boredom.
Teaching Styles can Maximize Student Motivation
Teach with enthusiasm and energy – use humor, move around the classroom, do the unexpected. The best teachers are good entertainers. If students feel that they are likely to miss something fun, they are more likely to remain in class. A few suggestions for creating a more interesting class are:
Attach a bicycle horn to the overhead projector and beep it for right answers or to emphasize an important point.
Have some props ready– a wig, a beard, false teeth, a Groucho mustache. Use them when things are slowing down.
Try teaching an entire period with a clown nose.
Get a joke book and intersperse jokes with the lesson. Appear to be reminded of a joke when a particular topic is being presented.
Get a nerf ball and a small basketball hoop. On special days when asking questions allow those with who know the right answer to try to score a hoop.
There are endless ideas. Creative teachers find them or invent them. Teaching can be fun for teachers and students.
Students, the Bathroom, and the Water Fountain
Most students understand the need to remain in class and manage to do so even when nature calls. However policies that that unconditionally deny students access to bathrooms or water fountains are not realistic. Depending on the class it may be worth trying to get students involved in a discussion about fair policies. By involving students in the rule-making process teachers are showing respect and that motivates. Often students who continually need to go to the bathroom can be managed with the assistance of the parents.
Water needs are sometimes managed by allowing a water bottle. Proper hydration of students improves alertness as the day progresses and students can be held accountable for being responsible for spills by requesting that they wipe up any water. Again, they are motivated by being respected and trusted.
Teachers Sometimes Have to Individualize Student Motivation
There are often student who are difficult to motivate because they lack certain prerequisites for being truly motivated. They may lack confidence in their abilities or see themselves incapable of making change happen; they may not see the relevance of the subject to their live or possess the skills necessary to succeed. These issues need to be managed by an individual motivational plan which prepares the student to respond to motivation.
The student will need help in setting goals and improving study skills; he will require feedback and a more personal touch. He may like the class, but unless he can do those things required, motivation is not the issue. Teachers should be able to understand that motivational methods must often be individualized and personal, not gimmicky and applicable to the entire class.
Motivation of students is important and often involves nothing more that showing teaching enthusiasm to keep students interested. Students need to feel safe and comfortable in class and teachers should responding be being caring and in control. Physiological needs must be considered in helping students feel that a class is a place where they will be comfortable and have some measure of fun. Individual students may like the class, but be unable to improve their efforts if the lack certain requirements. Teacher need to be able to design individual motivational plans for difficult students.
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