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How to Motivate Students to Participate

Janelle Cox

How to motivate students to increase their participation is a “Hot topic” with teachers. You have seen many articles on, from how to increase student participation in the classroom to how to ensure it. For teachers, learning how to motivate students to actually want to actively participate in classroom discussions and activities can be a struggle. However, there are plenty of strategies that are found to be effective when learning how to motivate students. Here are five of them.

How to Motivate Students: Socrative Teacher App

Technology is a great motivator for students to want to participate in class. Socrative is an app that engages students as they learn through quizzes, questions, or exit tickets. It’s so convenient that it can be accessed from a tablet, laptop, or smartphone. Students will love to play the app’s game “Space Race,” where they get a chance to compete against one another.

Overall, if you are looking for a fun, easy, and effective way to get your students to participate more in class, then this app is it. The interface is easy to use and students get immediate feedback on their answers. Best of all, it’s free!

Brain Drain Strategy

Much like the cooperative learning strategy “Think-Pair-Share,” the brain drain strategy has students working both alone and then together to share and compare ideas with their peers. After students have read a text or learned an important concept, have them circulate around the classroom for a few seconds. When you call the word “Pair,” students must pair up with a partner to share at least three facts that they learned about the topic. To avoid chaos, have students pair up with peers that are right next to them at the time that you call “Pair.” They must also have a piece of paper and pencil with them to write down the name of the person they paired with, as well as the facts they were told from each student. Repeat the process a few more times so students gain a few different perspectives.

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Once the mingling and sharing is over, have students go back to their seats and “Drain their brain” of all the information they have gained about the particular topic. This can be done in a whole-group class discussion, completing an essay, or by completing a worksheet/quiz.

10 Seconds to Wait

According to research, teachers wait an average of 1.5 seconds between asking a question and calling upon a student to answer the question. That gives students absolutely no time to think about what the teacher is asking them. In an impatient world such as ours, where everything is about making it easier on ourselves so we can get things done more quickly and efficiently, it is essential that we learn how to wait. If we increase the time that we wait to call upon students by only a few additional seconds, a few things will occur. First, more students will be willing to participate. Second, students who usually say “I don’t know” to every question may actually have a real answer because they had some time to think about it. Third, students’ responses will probably get longer and more accurate. So the next time you are wondering why no one is answering questions and participating in class discussions, try waiting a few seconds longer and see what a difference it makes.

Get Up and Go

If you want to get your students excited to learn and motivated to participate, then you need to let them up off of their seats. Get them up and learning by incorporating strategies that allow them to learn while moving around. You know yourself how tiring sitting around all day can be. By implementing movement activities, your students’ motivation level will dramatically increase.  Try this active participation strategy to get your students motivated to learn.

  • Create a list of questions and answers that are related to a topic that you are teaching.
  • Post the questions to the answers all around the classroom and give each student a list of answers.
  • Challenge students to move about the classroom with their answers in hand searching for the corresponding question to each answer. Their job is to match the question to the answer.
  • The activity is over when each student has made all matches.
  • The class can come together as a whole to check for accuracy. The person with all questions and answered matched correctly wins a “Get out of homework for the day” pass.

Choice Questions

There are numerous studies that have shown giving students a choice to be an effective motivator. While most teachers choose open-ended questions as a means to get their students to participate, this method can feel threatening to some students. However, when offering students a choice question, you are eliminating any feeling of a threat by simply asking them to choose between two answers. Instead of asking, “What strategy will you being using today?”, you can say “Will you will be using the making words strategy or the chunking strategy?” These “Choices” or “Either or” questions are a great way to give students some independence as well as some confidence which are both great motivators.

What are your favorite strategies to motivate students to participate in class? Please feel free to list your favorites in the comment section below, we would love to hear your ideas.

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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