adjectives, verbs… as well as
Harris (1991) offers some strategies for motivating even the most
unmotivated student. These strategies have been around for some time,
but they are still worth a try. Perhaps these suggestion can help your
students too. Here are some highlights from Harris:
1. Explain. Some recent research shows that many students do poorly on
assignments or in participation because they do not understand what to
do or why they should do it.
2. Reward. Students who do not yet have powerful intrinsic motivation
to learn can be helped by extrinsic motivators in the form of rewards.
3. Care. Students respond with interest and motivation to teachers who
appear to be human and caring.
4. Have students participate. One of the major keys to motivation is
the active involvement of students in their own learning. Standing in
front of them and lecturing to them (at them?) is thus a relatively
poor method of teaching. It is better to get students involved in
activities, group problem solving exercises, helping to decide what to
do and the best way to do it, helping the teacher, working with each
other, or in some other way getting physically involved in the lesson.
A lesson about nature, for example, would be more effective walking
outdoors than looking at pictures.
5. Teach Inductively. It has been said that presenting conclusions
first and then providing examples robs students of the joy of
6. Satisfy students’ needs. Attending to need satisfaction is a
primary method of keeping students interested and happy.
7. Make learning visual. Even before young people were reared in a
video environment, it was recognized that memory is often connected to
8. Use positive emotions to enhance learning and motivation. Strong
and lasting memory is connected with the emotional state and
experience of the learner.
9. Remember that energy sells.
My teenage daughter was telling me that her English teacher has
students bring in a song on Fridays along with a writing prompt for
the class and the students play and song and explain how the writing
prompt relates to the song. I thought that was a good idea!
Having students summarize the events of a story through drawing is an
excellent idea. This method is also excellent for second language
learners who may be more comfortable listening or with receptive
language, in comparison to speaking themselves. For many students
learning a second language who are quiet at the beginning of the
acquisition, many of them opt to express themselves through gestures.
By using pictures, it is an excellent way to assess the student’s
understanding of the material, and also providing them with an
opportunity to express themselves artisticly as well.
I also like to use portfolios. I have the students put work that they
feel are a good representation of good work in their portfolio. We
then have conferences to discuss why they put these works in their
folder. I later use these portfolios during conferences with parents.
Roseberry-McKibbin and Brice (2005) remind us that, ELL children may
manifest interference or transfer from their first language (L1) to
English (L2)” (¶6).. Simply put, a ELL may make an English error due
to the direct influence of an L1 structure. Roseberry-McKibbin and
Brice offer this example, “…in Spanish, “esta casa es mas grande”
means “this house is bigger.” However, a literal translation would be
“this house is more bigger.” A Spanish-speaking child who said “this
house is more bigger” would be manifesting transfer from Spanish to
English. This is a normal phenomenon – a sign of a language
difference, not a language disorder” (¶6). This grammatical aspect of
English language learning can be difficult.
In Arizona we use what is referred to as The Discrete Skills Inventory
(DSI). The DSI this is a companion tool to the Arizona K-12 English
Language Proficiency (ELP) standards. The DSI is a sequential series
of English skills that provide a guide to teaching the grammatical
foundations necessary for student to achieve the requirements set
forth in the ELP standards. This guide provides a logical linear
ordering of English Language concepts and skills to assist the
classroom teacher and students in their journey towards English
mastery (ADE, 2007). While developed for the ELL, the skills presented
in the DSI are also being used in the English primary classrooms in my
Here is an example of DSI at work: “If a student is expected to
describe an item in the classroom, they need first to be taught
certain parts of speech such as nouns,
how to conjugate verbs, and then learn how to assemble different types
of words in proper grammatical order” (ADE, p2). Each step is
carefully taught utilizing, technology, realia, and additional
resources as needed.
Arizona Department of Education (ADE). (2007). Discrete skills inventory.