Six Ways To Motivate Students To Learn

Mindshift

Students need motivation to become successful learners. Every human being has an innate passion to learn. However, often that passion is deterred under certain circumstances. Here are six strategies to help motivate students to learn.

  1. Personalize the challenge/activity/assignment. Students will be motivated to learn if the activity or assignment is designed at their academic level. Ensure the activity allows a degree of success, and hits the student’s zone of proximal development (not too easy to be boring and not too difficult to be frustrating). 
  2. Start with a question, not a answer. Rote memorization is often tedious and insipid. As a result, students will disengage mentally and cognitively. Questions stimulate students to dig deeper and explore the question. Discovering the answer deepens brain connections and  invigorates learning. 
  3. Encourage student to beat their personal best. As a former athlete, I agree with this statement. It provides students with intrinsic motivation, and it shows them their progress. If students see themselves succeeding and progressing, it will motivate them. The best motivation is achievement.
  4. Connect abstract learning to concrete situations. Abstract concepts are difficult to comprehend. This may cause the student to disengage from learning. We need to apply abstract concepts to real-world events. Real-world events and problems authenticate learning. 
  5. Make it social.  Humans are social animals. Students should share their learning with peers. We need to provide opportunities for students to be teachers and pupils. This activity will deepen their understanding of the material. 
  6. Go deep. Human existence is unique. Learning about the world is intrinsically interesting once you dig deep. Teachers should assign students to become experts on a topic and then explore how the topic connects to the bigger picture (or in the teaching world – big ideas).

This article provides excellent methods to motivate students (click on the image to read the article). Reflecting on my own teaching experience, the project which integrated most of the methods was a project called Genius Hour. The students were extremely motivated, and they took ownership of their learning.

Extra Curricular Activity – Floor Hockey

My favourite extra curricular activity this school year was the floor hockey tournament. It was my favourite because the kids really enjoyed it. I mean really, really, really enjoyed it! The kids showed enthusiasm, and the staff shared their enthusiasm (Canadians love hockey!). On game days, the excitement was palpable in the school – students were discussing the game, teachers and students were wishing players good-luck, and players were strategizing. It was great to see the school come together; it fostered a community-like atmosphere and increased school morale. Extra curricular activities are vital because it creates positive school environments.

What Doesn’t Work: Literacy Practices We Should Abandon

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Photo credit: ©Wavebreakmedia/iStock.com

It is the teacher’s responsibility to provide students with authentic learning experiences which help cultivate their cognitive abilities. Here are a few literacy practices that teachers should abandon or redesign:

  1. Looking up vocabulary words in a dictionary. Teachers should use selected vocabulary activities or can integrate vocabulary activities. For example using dramatization, antonyms, synonyms, illustrations, root analysis, semantic webs or concept cube. 
  2. Giving prizes for reading. This technique may indirectly deter students from reading in the future. More effective techniques or strategies are shared reading, students have a ‘special place’ to read, guided reading, interacting with literature with peers and many more strategies to foster life-long reading. 
  3. Weekly spelling tests. Research suggests that weekly class spelling tests are less effective than students focusing on analyzing and using words.
  4. Unsupported independent reading. Research is showing this is not an effective strategy to improve reading achievement. Independent reading should involve instruction from the teacher on text selection and reading strategies. Also, there must be opportunity to give students feedback on their reading, discussing texts, and other reading response activities.
  5. Take away recess or an activity as punishment. Ample research has indicated the link between physical activity and academic learning. Exercise is great for the brain! 

Click on the image to read the article. Thank you 🙂

How To Be An Effective Teacher: The First Days of School

My first blog post will be the book that helped me in my first year. Upon hearing I will be teaching my first classroom and be carrying the precarious title of ‘first-year teacher’, I researched which book will help me prepare the school year. The feedback I received from teachers were to read, How to be an Effective Teacher: The First Days of School by Harry Wong. Below, I write a few passages I believe helped me prepare for my first year.

  • “Effective teachers do not ask all the questions at the end of the discussion, class period, video, chapter, or lecture. The effective teacher who wants high-level comprehension intersperses questions throughout all class activities” (p.21). For instance, if you are watching a video, stop the video frequently and ask questions and hold discussions. Research indicates this is more effective compared to asking questions at the end of the video.
  • Research on Improving Student Achievement (p.31):
    • Aligned Time on Task: Students who are actively focused on educational goals do best in mastering the subject matter.
    • Cooperative learning: Students in small, self-instructing groups support and increase one anther’s learning.
    • Extensive Reading: Extensive reading, both inside and outside of school, result in substantial growth in vocabulary, comprehension abilities, and information base of students.
    • Wait Time: Pausing after asking a question in the classroom results in increase in achievement.
  • Warmly welcome students to school everyday.
  • High expectations have to do with attitude and behaviour. Effective teachers are caring, warm and compassionate people.
  • “The most effective classes are those where the students are self-disciplined, self-motivated, and self-responsible learners.” (p.97).
  • “You will greatly increase the chance that school will start successfully for both you and students when these four points are true: (1) Your room is ready, (2) You greet students at the door, (3) You have assigned seating, (4) You have the first assignment ready (the assignment should be short, successfully for all students and interesting)”. (p.109)
  • “Ask any student who enters the room inappropriately to return to the door and enter appropriately. Do not send anyone out of the room but rather to the door; ‘out of the room’ has a negative connotation”. Never talk negatively to student but rather talk calmly, and do the following: (1) Ask student to return to the door, (2) Tell the student why, (3) Give directions for correctly entering the room, (4) check for understanding, and (5) Acknowledge the understanding.” (p.109)
  • On the first day of school, tell the students who you are and your expectations.
  • It is imperative teachers decide before the school year what they want to record. For example, attendance, homework assignments, classwork, test grades, skills mastered, project grades, extra-credit work, class participation, and cumulative progress.
  • “The three most important student behaviours that must taught on the first days of school are (1) classroom guidelines, (2) procedures, and (3) routines”. (p.141)
  • “Effective teachers explain the posted guidelines and are willing to make change as the classroom situation requires”. (p.150)
  • “Effective teachers communicate and work cooperatively with students’ homes”. (p.160)
  • “Research indicated that engaged time should be about 75 percent of the allocated time. Academic time (teacher model or teaches skill set or concept should be around 35 percent of the allocated time. At the end, two questions that should be answered are (1) Did the students learn what you wanted them to learn?, (2) Can students show what they have learned?” (p.200)
  • “Effective teachers teach students, not the subject or grade level”. (p.208)
  • “Effective assignments have the following aspects: (1) What you want the students to learn, (2) Write each step and objectives as a single sentence, and (3) Write in simple language”. (p.210)
  • “Focusing on objectives and goals makes the most difference in student achievement. If students know what they are to learn, you increase the chances they WILL learn”. (p.211)
  • “The following is a guide to writing a learning objective: (1) pick a verb (Bloom’s Taxonomy), and (2) complete the sentence (ex. create a different system to catalog books in a library)”. (p.222)
  • “How to structure lessons for cooperative learning: (1) Specify the name of the group, (2) specify the size go the group, (3) state the purpose, materials, and steps of the activity, (4) teach the procedures, (5) specify and teach the cooperative skills needed, (6) hold individuals accountable for the work of the group, and (7) teach ways for students to evaluate how successfully they have worked together”. (p.258)

This is a fantastic book for fist-year teachers or veteran teachers who want to refine their skills. A sensational read to help you began the year.