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February 10, 2015 Using Student Interests to Motivate Learning By Allie Magnuson
Grades PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5

    Motivating children can be a challenge, so to encourage my students to want to learn, I honed in on their interests. I had each child come up to my table to talk about what they like, and I got all kinds of answers. From bike riding and soccer, to starfish and puppies, to cartoons and video games, the interests were wide and varied. I tried my theory out to see if they could become better learners when motivated by something that excites them.

    To streamline, I made all the activities the same, and just differentiated them based on each child's interest. I focused on five subjects: math, reading, writing, science, and social studies.


    Math

    For math, I made counting mats for each student by printing out clip art related to their interests, gluing the clip art onto cardstock, and laminating the finished result. To count, students place a number on each image, as well as a special manipulative or simply a plastic counter. This mat is for a boy who likes dinosaurs.


    Writing

    For writing, all I had to do was insert one of the clip art images at the top of a blank document on the computer, add lines, and print out the special paper. I made this paper for a girl who likes dolls.


    Reading

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Reading was a little different. Instead of making game boards myself (which you can certainly do), I used my existing game boards and just swapped out the pieces. I'm showing two examples here because I have a student who likes cars, and I happened to have a race car game board, but it would have worked equally well to use any other game by replacing the pieces with toy cars, or even pictures of cars. If the game has playing cards, you could also replace those.


    Social Studies

    For social studies, I put various props in my dramatic play center, and the students acted out their interests in play. Specific props for each interest aren't necessary here; kids know how to use their imaginations.

     

    Science

    Science was easiest of all. I found a nonfiction book for each student's interest. They looked at the pictures and learned some facts.

    Another way to motivate students based on interest is to use your regular activities and give out a special sticker as a reward for completing the activity every day. 



    I am pleased to say that my experiment was a success! Most students showed a marked improvement in their learning. I recommend taking an interest survey of your students to find out what might motivate them, then try incorporating those interests in your lessons. You just might be surprised at the results!
     

    Motivating children can be a challenge, so to encourage my students to want to learn, I honed in on their interests. I had each child come up to my table to talk about what they like, and I got all kinds of answers. From bike riding and soccer, to starfish and puppies, to cartoons and video games, the interests were wide and varied. I tried my theory out to see if they could become better learners when motivated by something that excites them.

    To streamline, I made all the activities the same, and just differentiated them based on each child's interest. I focused on five subjects: math, reading, writing, science, and social studies.


    Math

    For math, I made counting mats for each student by printing out clip art related to their interests, gluing the clip art onto cardstock, and laminating the finished result. To count, students place a number on each image, as well as a special manipulative or simply a plastic counter. This mat is for a boy who likes dinosaurs.


    Writing

    For writing, all I had to do was insert one of the clip art images at the top of a blank document on the computer, add lines, and print out the special paper. I made this paper for a girl who likes dolls.


    Reading

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Reading was a little different. Instead of making game boards myself (which you can certainly do), I used my existing game boards and just swapped out the pieces. I'm showing two examples here because I have a student who likes cars, and I happened to have a race car game board, but it would have worked equally well to use any other game by replacing the pieces with toy cars, or even pictures of cars. If the game has playing cards, you could also replace those.


    Social Studies

    For social studies, I put various props in my dramatic play center, and the students acted out their interests in play. Specific props for each interest aren't necessary here; kids know how to use their imaginations.

     

    Science

    Science was easiest of all. I found a nonfiction book for each student's interest. They looked at the pictures and learned some facts.

    Another way to motivate students based on interest is to use your regular activities and give out a special sticker as a reward for completing the activity every day. 



    I am pleased to say that my experiment was a success! Most students showed a marked improvement in their learning. I recommend taking an interest survey of your students to find out what might motivate them, then try incorporating those interests in your lessons. You just might be surprised at the results!
     

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