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How to Motivate Students to Love Art

Janelle Cox


How do we motivate students who feel they have no artistic talent? Most of the time unmotivated students harbor negative attitudes towards arts education and find it hard to develop the skill. They attribute the ability to inherited talent. If you are wondering how to motivate students to appreciate art, use the following strategies to tap into their creative outlets and improve their artistic ability.

Identify Students’ Desire to Learn

Many students are unmotivated to learn art because they don’t think they are good at it. Find out by asking students, “Do you wish you could draw or paint better?” Most of the time you’ll find that students have the desire to learn, they just don’t know how to get better at it. Once you determine if the student has a desire to learn art, or get better at it, then you can structure how you are going to help them.

How to Motivate Students: Make it Relatable

Oftentimes art becomes more interesting when students feel some sort of connection to it. They are most motivated when the subject is relevant to their interests. Primary students like to make art that involves them or their family because they are at the age where that is the most important thing to them. Older students will want to create art that is relevant to their peer group, art that might include sports and music. Giving students a choice in what they create will provide stronger motivation, as well as keep them engaged.

Empower Students to Become Better

Too often students think that being artistic or having the ability to draw is a talent that was inborn and not learned. Express to students that the ability to create comes from passion, desire, and a lot of practice. Educate them that being skilled artistically is similar to being skilled athletically, or musically. These people build their skills by practicing and developing good work habits. Clarify that term “skill” and “talent” to mean a passion for art, or a desire for art. Discuss how you practice what you are excited about, and therefore are motivated to become better at.

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Encourage Self-Motivation through Assessment

Students are motivated when they see their hard work pay off. To encourage and maintain self-motivation, students must see how their work has improved over time. Motivation depends upon how they have grown as an artist. Have students keep an art portfolio to assess their growth and compare their work.

Practice Unpredictable Reinforcement

Unpredictable positive reinforcement can have more impact on a student, more so than reliable predictable rewards. Teachers who are quietly enthusiastic about a student’s artwork will find that students will gain self-worth. Great art teachers look for teachable moments that will reinforce students’ motivation. For example, a teacher may say, “I really like how the light is reflecting in your painting,” Or “Look at how much your artwork has improved since your last piece.” Choosing the right opportunity to make a positive comment can be a great motivator to a student. 

Once students are given the tools to improve their artistic ability, the ultimate goal is for them to emerge with passion and become a self-motivator. By discouraging negativism (“I can’t draw”) and encouraging practice and patience, teachers can turn unmotivated students into self-motivating artists. 

How do you motivate students to love arts education? Do you have any tricks or tips that you would like to share? Feel free to leave a comment in the section below. We would love to hear your thoughts.

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Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for, as well as a contributing writer to and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators

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