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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Motivate the unmotivated

Motivate the unmotivated

Related Tags: Student Engagement
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45 Replies 1443 Views

I struggle every year with at least one student who just has that "I don't really care" attitude! I try everything from bribery to being a good listener. I try new angles that will maybe connect with the student or shed some light on what will motivate them to move into action. Does anyone have any good ideas.... new or old that have worked?

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Estella's picture
4th grade teacher from California

I like this idea, but I wonder if it will work for fourth graders? Melissa and Betsy, what grades do you teach? I wonder if there is a way to modify this to fit fourth grade? I have two students in mind that I would love to motivate to care about their education.

Tim Ward's picture

I teach 9th grade and I too find that each class has at least one challenging student. I feel that usually the problem is much deeper than the student just being lazy. A lot of times I talk to parents, and it doesn't take long to see that there is little guidance from home. In these circumstances, I try to form some type of relationship outside of school work with the student. For example, I hade one student this year who did not want anything to do with school. I started going to the cafe. and eating lunch with this student. He and a group of friends play cards while they eat. I showed them a few tricks and played some of the games they were playing. Within about a week of this I started to notice a slight change. I am not saying this works miracles, but it has helped me some. Another student started getting to class early to talk to me about hunting. He too eventually began to show more effort.

Casie Nider's picture

It can become difficult when someone has the "I don't care" attitude. I have found that giving these students the one on one attention and trying to figure out what is the cause of the attitude can help. The student then feels that they are cared about and tend to give a little or a lot more. There is usually an issue that is driving their attitude and once it's found it makes teaching them easier as you are aware of difficulties in their life and can assist these children.

Betsy Sanford's picture

I teach second grade, but I have seen it work in grades up to five. As Melissa said, they do really respond to the praise given by their peers and they are really honest. Melissa, you must be using GLAD in your classroom, too! I love it!

Jenifer Walker's picture

That is a great idea. I am a special education teacher and sometimes I am able to set students up with the janitor, the secretary, etc. They do small tasks and it makes them feel important.

Jenifer Walker's picture

That is a great idea. I teach special ed. and sometimes I am able to set my students up with the secretary, janitor, etc. They are able to complete small tasks and it makes them feel important and needed.

Jenifer Walker's picture

When I worked at an alternative school that dealt with teenagers and their behavior problems, a very wise woman told me that sometimes you have to pick your battles. You can't faocus on everything they do wrong. You have to make those personal connections and figure out what they need.

Juliana Blanchard's picture
Juliana Blanchard
1st grade teacher in CA

It does seem unfair to reward a child who cannot follow the rules. I always feel bad for the children who consistently follow rules and are not rewarded as frequently. For example, one of my students is on a weekly behavior contract. If she has a good week, a fellow colleague of mine allows her to come get a prize on Friday. All of the other children who are good all week do not get prizes. It may seem unfair; however, I have read that being fair is actually providing what is necessary for each individuals' success. What one child needs may not be what another needs.

JW's picture

You might be surprised at what high school students will do for stickers. I teach high school Spanish and give out stickers for exemplary work. The kids get pretty excited when they get them. Once they have accumulated enough, I will let them trade them in exchange for a homework assignment or a quiz. The trick is, all students must feel that they have the opportunity to get some stickers even though they may not collect enough for a pass on homework or a quiz. At least they know that they have a chance to earn a sticker.

Leslie Griffiths's picture
Leslie Griffiths
High School Special Education

Hi Carrie,
Building a strong relationship more often than not works. However, I have always held the belief that unless that child has an even small part of them that wants to learn it is going to be a very tough and emotional uphill battle. While learning English they can research a career that they are interested in and what qualifications are required will help. Also, if it is possible make a home visit. Have another educator in that students life come with you and discuss with him/her along with their parents what it will take to motivate them to do what is required. I really hope that you find success, I know how heartbreaking it can be.

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