motivation ideas

adjectives, verbs… as well as

17 sep

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

visual images.

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.

HI John

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.


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