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How to Motivate Students: Tips for Middle Schoolers

Janelle Cox

It takes a lot of patience and a very special kind of person to be able to successfully teach a middle school student. Preteens and teens can be a lot of work. They have raging hormones and emotions, and think that they know the answer to everything. If that isn’t enough, it’s the middle of the school year, and students tend to check out and get bored very easily.

Knowing all of this, how do teachers know how to motivate students and keep them engaged at school? We need to look at what types of things motivate a child; their friends, socializing, technology, fun activities, and interesting subjects.

Then, we can take these things, apply them and continue to discover how to motivate students.

How to Motivate Students: Show Interest in Them

Students seek approval and need encouragement. To do this, make a valid attempt to get to know all students. Allow a student to come eat lunch with you on his birthday, be encouraging, ask about his day or interests, or just plain listen to him when he talks.

Give Students a Choice

Middle school students are motivated by knowing that they have a choice. They seek independence and want to be heard. Allow students the opportunity to be heard by giving them a choice in what or how they learn. Choice boards are a great way to give students the feeling that they are calling the shots. You predetermine a few ways students will learn or a few things you want students to learn and they choose for themselves.

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Give Students Praise and Acknowledgment

Students need to know when they are doing well, even if it’s just a little pat on the back. This praise and acknowledgment can be just the motivation they need to stay engaged. Try choosing “star students” where you share their successes with the school and students are acknowledged for their hard work. They will be motivated to see their name on the wall!

Showcasing Student Work

You are never too old to see your name in the spotlight or your work out on display. When students know that their work will be subjected for all of their peers to see, their motivation will greatly increase. Try for a few times a month to display student work and see how their motivation rises!

Allow Students a Little Freedom

Give students a little bit of freedom. Allow them free rein to take bathroom breaks without asking, or have a drink of water on their desks. Students will feel independent and like they have a choice. This freedom will help keep them motivated.

Reward Respect

Oftentimes, middle school students have a hard time showing respect to their peers or teachers. To help motivate students to be respectful, reward them for being respectful. Make a game out of it by handing out reward tickets when you see someone being respectful or doing something respectful. Once they reach a predetermined amount of tickets they can cash them in for a get out of homework pass or a $5 gift card.

Utilize Technology

Technology is commonplace in our everyday lives. From the moment our students wake up until the time they go to bed, they will be utilizing some form of technology. Many studies show that students prefer technology to any other form of learning information because it make it more fun to learn. iPads, tablets, computers, digital cameras, smartboards, or any other form of technology that you can use in your classroom will be highly motivating to your students.

Motivating students comes down to making students feel like they have a voice and a choice, and that they are valued. When students are motivated to learn they will more apt to engage in activities. The easiest way to motivate students is to show that you are invested in them and that you care. Once they know that you respect them and value their opinion you will find their motivation will increase.

How do you motivate your middle school students? Do you have any ideas that you would like to share? Share with us 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 About.com, as well as a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators.