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January 30, 2012 Four Ways to Motivate the Unmotivated By Jeremy Rinkel
Grades 6–8, 9–12

    Keeping students motivated and focused in the classroom is a difficult task. Due to a variety of circumstances, some students seem distant and uninterested in learning. I cannot make my students love what I love or do what I want them to do. However, once I came to this realization, I was more content and more successful in motivating them. Taking a moment to see my lessons from the students’ perspective, instead of my own, allows me to find better ways to motivate them. Read on for four ways I've found to motivate the unmotivated. 


    Focus on Things That Interest the Students

    I’m not the best at doing this, but I attempt to get students’ input motivatedand use examples students can relate to. I have over 100 students, so doing something that interests all 100 at the same time is very difficult, if not impossible. When discussing short stories or novels, for example, I attempt to relate the material to the students' lives. When teaching grammar, I attempt to find and create exercises related to their interests. This is difficult and takes additional time, but if it motivates an unmotivated student, it is worth it. 


    Provide a Clear Target

    One thing I’m working on is providing a clear target for students to reach. Students are sometimes confused about the expectations and goals of an assignment. When this paper arthappens, students get frustrated, become discouraged, and sometimes fail to complete the assignment. If students understand the task, have small checkpoints, and see the purpose for doing a project or assignment, they are often more motivated to complete it. 


    Use Various Teaching Styles

    My students have a variety of learning styles, so it helps if I vary my teaching style, too. Some students are auditory learners and learn the most from the “lecture” style of teaching. Other students learn visually and benefit from visual presentations or videos. I would guess that most of my students are kinesthetic learners. My students love hands-on projects where they can work with other students. As I discussed in my earlier post, "Five Tips for Creating the Problem-Free Group Project," group projects are beneficial, but some issues arise. As stated above, creating a clear target for a group project is crucial to the success of the students and the project. 


    Use Tools They Use on a Consistent Basis

    Most of my students love using technology in the classroom. iPods, tablets, cell phones, and laptop computers are becoming more affordable and are great tools for the classroom. Many schools are implementing BYOD (Bring ipodYour Own Device) policies that allow students to bring their personal devices to school to use. There are pros and cons to this program, but I feel it is the future.

    Social networking sites can also be implemented in the classroom.  For example, the Web site Edmodo allows teachers to create a safe classroom social network where students can share thoughts outside the walls of the classroom. It allows students to use something they are familiar with, and makes school, homework, and their education more exciting. Using tools that students use on a consistent basis helps motivate the unmotivated. 


    How do you motivate the unmotivated in your classroom? Post your tips and observations below.


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Susan Cheyney