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How to Motivate Students

Janelle Cox

We've all had them, or at least seen them, the student who simply has no motivation to do well at school at all. Students like this simply have no interest in academics and see no value in learning. When the unmotivated student graces your presence you know from that very second they enter your classroom that you are in for a tough year. Well, that doesn’t have to be the case, with a few tips and techniques you can turn the unmotivated student to the motivated student. Here’s how to motivate students:

Relate to Them

Try and relate to the student by coming across understanding and taking a genuine interest in them. By taking the time to really get to know each student, it's sending the message that you care and appreciate them. When students feel appreciated, it motivates them to work harder, and do better.

Have them Visualize Their Financial Future

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Every child loves "things," their iPod, iPhone, TV, etc. Point out that in order to get these material "things" they have to work hard in school. Even the most unmotivated student wants to envision that they will live in a nice house, and have a plethora of materialistic things in their possession. Make sure the student has a clear vision and can correlate that doing well at school will create opportunities for them to live a comfortable life. An easy way to show older students this is by giving them the facts. For example, studies show that educated individuals live longer, and have a better chance of finding a job. For younger students try creating a graphic organizer so they can visually see how the two correlate.

Failure May Lead to Learning Gaps

Many unmotivated students don't really grasp the fact that by failing to do assignments and/or failing classes eventually leads to a gap in learning. A dramatic example of this is, if a student does not learn how to add, how will they ever learn multiplication? Discuss with the student that they need to be diligent in turning in homework assignments, and if they aren’t, then explain to them the effects it will have on their future. Something as simple as relating it to money may do the trick. For example, you can say, "If you don’t learn math, how will you be able to write a check and pay your bills?"

Compare Them to Their Peers

This tip is a little tricky; you will have to tread lightly depending upon the students' social acceptance. Point out that his/her peers may gain access to better schools, or higher-paying jobs. By doing this, the unmotivated student may all of a sudden feel motivated just for the simple fact that children are naturally competitive and he/she may not like the idea of a certain person having more success than them. Children are also drawn to role models. Identify a fellow peer or role model that they look up to, and discuss how that person is a positive influence.

Increase Motivation with Choices

Give your students options, and allow them to be a part of their own learning experience. This can be something as simple as picking their own partners or choosing between homework assignments, or as complex as determining how they will be graded. By allowing the unmotivated student to have options it gives them a voice and in turn leads them to feel a sense of autonomy.

Create Attainable Goals

When the unmotivated student doesn't believe they can attain a goal, they begin to feel frustrated and tend to check out. Push your students, but not too much. Students like to be challenged, but only if they can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Don't be afraid to try and get the most you can out of them, but make sure your expectations are within their reach.

Find Intrinsic Motivation

It's great that you want to help your students get motivated; just by reading this article it proves that you are invested in your students. But, you're not always going to be there to cheer them on and motivate them to do well in school. One of the best things you can do for your students is to help them find their own personal motivation to do well. You can do this by getting to know your students and talking about what drives them to succeed, and use that information as a platform to keeping them motivated.

Do you know how to motivate students? How do you engage the unmotivated students in your classroom? Please share your tips and ideas in the comment section below. We would love to hear your thoughts.

Janelle Cox is an education writer who draws on her 15 years of professional experience in the education system. Janelle holds a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the author of the Guide to Elementary Education for About.com, where she provides educational information and lesson plans for teachers across the United States.