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January 18, 2010 Student Motivation: How to Get Students to Respond By Justin Lim
Grades 3–5

    During my credentialing program, I learned that being unable to engage students is one of the main reasons why new teachers struggle. In fact, I've noticed that when teachers engage their students, even if they struggle in other aspects of their job (such as getting along with colleagues, administration, etc.) they still seem quite satisfied overall. On the other hand, if they can't engage their kids, nothing else seems to make up for it.

    Here are some simple, but effective tips to motivate your students:

    1. Give feedback immediately - Tests and classwork should be returned as quickly as possible along with some indication of how students can improve. Studies show that the longer it takes to receive feedback, the less effective it will be. This applies to responding to students who participate in class discussions as well. Comment on responses immediately and make it a point to mention the names of the contributors.

    2. Be specific when giving feedback - Whether the feedback is positive or negative, it should be specific. When students hear specific positive feedback, they know that they're not simply being paid lip service. Additionally, it gives other students in the class an opportunity to imitate the behavior that merited the praise. If the feedback is negative, being specific is just as important because it limits the criticism to only one aspect of the comment.

    3. Use peers to model - Students should be introduced to good work that is produced by their peers. Share the accomplishments of individuals to the class.

    • Make copies of the best assignments and use them as model handouts.
    • Post model student work on the walls.
    • Provide time for students to evaluate each other.

    4. Avoid giving in to pleas for the answer - When students ask for help, make an effort to get them to problem solve on their own.

    • Ask students for ways to approach the problem.
    • Try to get them to build upon what they already know.
    • Praise small, but independent steps.
    • Be cautious of students trying to gauge whether or not they have the right answer from your responses.

    5. Praise improvement not perfection - Use praise as a tool to get students to respond the way that you want. If a student is taking steps towards the right direction, but is still not completely successful, make it a point to positively reinforce the progressive steps and not just negatively reinforce the overall product.

    I hope that some of these tips can help you to motivate your students!

    What are some of the strategies that you use?

    Warm regards,

    Justin Lim

    Rosemead High School
    El Monte Union High School District


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