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NYC Helpline: How To: Develop as a Professional

Motivating Students to Learn
Theresa London Cooper

When we discuss teaching and learning, motivation is one a topic that receives scant attention. As teachers we know it’s important, but how often do we consider what’s involved to motivate students in their own learning? Students today have a great deal more to entertain them than we did. They have cell phones, iPods, and computer games, to name a few.. So, how do we motivate our students?

I’ve learned a number of things that promote motivation. You may have already implemented some suggestions on my list, but it never hurts to be reminded and you may glean a few new ideas.

Conduct a discussion with your class, establishing what is important for them to understand (concepts/essential learning), to know (content/facts) and to do (skills) before they proceed to the next grade. Based on the information, help students develop their own goals and objectives for learning.

Whenever possible, provide students with choices to demonstrate their learning. As you plan, think about how you can incorporate writing, role-playing, oral presentations, music, and art to give students options.

Next, discuss and identify a procedure that will help them monitor their growth. For example, students can develop a checklist, table, rubric (they may need your help with the latter). These can also serve as wonderful ways for parents and children to have meaningful discussions about the progress and/or challenges presented.

Conference with your students and draw out their ability to reflect on their performance. Assist them in pinpointing their strengths and challenges. Model the behavior for your students and then give them time to apply the behaviors to their own example.

Share the information with the student on all tests (formal and informal), report cards, and your observations with them. How often do we discuss a report card with parents, but not with the student? Give them an opportunity to discuss what they notice. Have students discuss the report card with their parents as a homework assignment and then take some time the next day to have a group discussion. In time, students will be able to have these discussions with a partner, with you acting as the facilitator.
To motivate students to learn, it is essential that we provide them with entry points in their learning and growth as often as possible. If we want students to take ownership of their learning we must motivate them by giving them an active role in the learning process and giving them choices.

How do you motivate your students?

Do you have a question or comment about this article? E-mail Theresa.


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