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How to Motivate Students: Positive Choices

Janelle Cox

As mentioned in a previous article, “The Power of Student Choice,” we discussed how to motivate students by crafting effective choices. Student choice is a powerful way to learn how to motivate students because it gives them a sense of control, purpose, and competence. There are many types of choices that can have a positive effect on classroom motivation. It is up to you, the teacher, to figure out how to motivate students through what you offer. When designing your lessons and classroom activities, follow these suggested tips to help you craft the best types of choices for your students.

How to Motivate Students: Questions to Ask Yourself

Giving your students well-crafted choices has the potential to have a powerful impact on their motivation toward school. Before deciding upon your lessons and activities, try asking yourself a few “Who, what, when, where, why and how” questions. For example, Who will the students work with? What materials and content will they use? When will students need to complete the task by? Where will the students complete their work? Why do students need to learn this content? How will they complete their task? These questions will be a great resource for you to determine what types of choices you can offer your students.

Here we will dive a little deeper into each question so you can see how asking these questions to yourself can offer your students some choices.

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Who Will Students work with? Giving students the option to choose who they will work with to complete a task can be a great motivator. Aside from the fear of students choosing their friends and becoming disruptive in class, you have the authority to figure out how and who the students are allowed to choose their partners or groups.

What materials and content will the students use for the task? Like mentioned in the previous article, giving students a sense of purpose can be a great motivator. If your goal is for the students to review content learned, then you may offer them a few select choices. This can be given to them on a tic tac toe game board where students are offered nine review tasks and only have to complete three in a row. This is a great way to appeal to all learners.

When will students need to complete the task by? Giving students the option to choose when their task needs to be completed by gives them a sense of control. An excellent example of this is when students are working on a writing piece. Some students may be working on editing their writing, while others may be working on revising or drafting their final piece. While all students will be working on the same project, and be at different points, they all have to complete it sometime. Being flexible about when the task is due may cultivate a higher level of engagement.

Where will the students complete their work? The simple choice of where a student is allowed to complete her assignment gives her a sense of control and will be a great motivator to them. Some students work better at the desks, while others work better in a group surrounded people or on the floor in a corner of the classroom. Wherever the place may be, giving the student a choice will be a lot more meaningful to her.

Why do students need to learn this content? Ask yourself what the objective is for the task. Giving students a sense of purpose for why they need to learn this specific content can be a wonderful motivator. Allow students to ask questions and learn for themselves why it’s important to learn the information they are going to learn.

How will students complete their task? Giving students the option in which they will complete their task will leave them with a feeling of competence. There are a range of ways that a teacher can do this. The teacher may offer suggestions and guidance, narrow down a number of possibilities for the students to choose from, or provide specific parameters from which decisions must be made. The decision in which how students will complete their task can also be negotiated between the teacher and the student. As long as the students has a voice and choice, they will be engaged.

In short, giving students a choice in their education can create a positive effect on student motivation. Crafting well-designed choices that give students the opportunity to have a voice and choice can lead to a successful lesson.

What kinds of choices do you think make a positive impact on student motivation? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below, we would love to hear your thoughts.

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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