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How to Motivate Students: Tips for Teachers

Janelle Cox

Do you know how to motivate students? Or are you having trouble? We’ve all been there at some point or another in our teaching careers. You may have heard that when you see a motivational slump in your classroom that you should try and change things up a little. While this is a great strategy to try, it doesn’t always do the trick. Sometimes you need to try a few different methods in order to keep your classroom motivated. Here are some tips to help you discover how to motivate students.

How to Motivate Students: Allow for Student Choice

A great way to motivate students is to give them a choice. When giving students an assignment, offer students a menu of options to choose from. When students get the option to choose what they will learn and how they will learn, then they will become intrinsically motivated.

Keep Students Interacting

When students are interacting with their peers, they are engaged, and when they are engaged they are motivated and therefore not bored. The more activities that have your students interacting with one another (think cooperative learning groups), the more you will see the classroom motivation level rise.

Teach in a Different Environment

Sometimes all you need to spark student interest is to move your students out of the environment that they are used to and into somewhere new and exciting. Going on a field trip or even just taking your lesson outdoors can be a great way to gain student interest.

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Teach to All Students’ Abilities

Every student learns differently, and when you are able to reach each student to the best of his own abilities, then you will have successfully engaged them. To ensure that each learner will be engaged and motivated to learn, be sure to differentiate lessons and activities.

Have Students Establish Attainable Goals

One of the best ways to motivate students is to have them establish a few attainable goals for themselves.  Have students think of a few academic goals that they would like to set for themselves such as get an A on their math test, or know all of their multiplication tables, etc. Then have them set a time for which they want that goal to be reached. Goals are the perfect way to help to intrinsically motivate students.

Create a Friendly Classroom Competition

There is no denying that children love a little competition. So having students be able to compete against their peers is a great way to create some excitement in your classroom. Try breaking students into two groups and compete in a relay race or play a Jeopardy!-style game. Any kind of academic spin that you can put on a fun competitive game will help to boost student engagement and motivation.

Share Achievements

Promote the efforts of your students by sharing their accomplishments and achievements. You can share them with the classroom and you can broaden the range by sharing them with the entire school as well as the outer community.

Give Up Some Control

Children love to be in control and very rarely are they allowed to have any. Try giving up some of that control and try giving it to your students. For example, allow your students to decide where they will take their test or read their book. You can even allow them to control how they will take their test (multiple choice, short answer, etc.) or what they will read.

Make Your Lessons Relatable

There is no denying that when you make your lessons more relatable, your students will care more about what they are learning. Try and intertwine whatever you are teaching your students to what is going in their lives or to something that they have already learned or no about. 

Give Students Something to Look Forward to

A great motivator is to give your students something to look forward to. Have it be a class field trip, a Fun Friday celebration, or a get-out-of-homework pass. For an unmotivated classroom, earning something even as little as a little free time can be a huge motivator.

What are some ways that you motivate your students? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below, we would love to hear what you do in your classroom.


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 Masters of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com, TeachHUB Magazine, and Hey Teach. She was also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com for five years. You can follow her on Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators, or contact her at Janellecox78@yahoo.com.