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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 1432 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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Carrie's picture
Carrie
5th Grade Teacher

You are right, the issues that the child faces outside of school are often the root of the problem. It is frustrating to only be able to so much, but yet have the responsibility to "do it all", or so it seems.

Carrie's picture
Carrie
5th Grade Teacher

Some good advice...I guess I have to "let go" a little when it comes to a power struggle. I guess then I feel like I am lowering my expectations a little. But I see your point... finding something that they will work for, even a little, is better than nothing!

Erin S's picture

I have tried a few of the strategies that were suggested. I had one student that I rewarded for good behavior by letting her be my 'helper'. I like to do things myself, so I had to prepare a list of things I could let her do ahead of time. She thrived off of the opprotunities to help me.
I have used computer time to motivate another child. If she completed all of her work for a day she got to spend the last 10-15 minutes of the day on an educational site. I slowly incoporated complete and correct work. If she did not do the assignment right she had to fix it before she could use the computer.
In both of these situations I had to sit down with the child and have a genuine conversation to find out what would work for them. Like Donna said, be their friend.

Jessica Waldman's picture
Jessica Waldman
Special Education Teacher

Hi Carrie,

For unmotivated students, I try first to build a strong relationship with them. This helps builds trust and at least makes them excited to see you. Take an interest in their lives...when students feel that their teacher cares about them and wants them to be successful...sometimes they work harder?

Have you tried a motivational check-list? Maybe your unmotivated student could work toward a preffered activity? I hope these suggestions help...sometimes I am finding that motivational issues start at home? Try collaborating with parents?

Jessica S's picture

I agree that forming a good relationship with the student is your best bet in reaching a difficult student. However, I do not think that giving a student a break from his work is a good way to approach this issue. This shows other students that they can be rewarded for refusing to do work. Be kind, firm and set high expectations. When you do see some improvement, make sure you go out of your way to recognize it. Sometimes a student just needs to feel noticed.

Jessica S's picture

I teach at the elementary level, but find that older students tend to have more problems with motivation. What techniques have you found for motivating older students?

Betsy Sanford's picture

Hi Carrie,

I use a program called scouts to help motivate students to pay attention and do their best work. Before a unit starts, I find pictures or small diagrams that go with that unit and make 1/4 page copies on various colors of paper. Then when I am teaching, I select two "scouts" that are my eyes and ears for the lesson and they sit in the back of the teaching area. When I feel the students getting restless, I just ask my scouts to give out some awards (name changes with the unit-right now for rainforest we have Super Conservationist Awards) and they have to give an award to a student while telling them what they were doing well. It seems silly, but the students love the awards and they covet them! At the end of the unit, I do something fun and all students taht received even one award participate. They love it! I have seen an incredible improvement in participation and behavior since I started using this program.

Betsy Sanford's picture

Hi Carrie,

I use a program called Scouts to motivate students to pay attention and participate. Before each unit, I find pictures or diagrams that match the content and make tons of colored copies on 1/4 sheets of paper. Then during my teaching time, I choose two "scouts" that will be my eyes and ears for the lesson and they sit at the back of the teaching area in special chairs. When I find that my students are getting restless, I ask my students to give out some awards. They must articulate what a student did well to receive the award. The name of the awards change with each unit. For our current unit of the rainforest, we call them Super Conservationist Awards. The students love to get them and they really love to give them. It may seem silly but the students respond to hearing about what they are doing well from whom they care about most, each other. I have seen a huge improvement in my participation and behavior since using this program.

Melissa Anderson's picture

Carrie,
I also have tried what Betsy Sanford has tried and it really works. My most unsuccessful students have been so thrilled when they have been recognized by their peers as doing their best. Also, it is interesting because the "scouts" are really truthful (I thought at first that they would just choose their friends, but that is not the case). I have them give the award and tell the student and the class why they got that award (were they showing respect, making great decisions, or solving problems during the lesson?) It really does help finding out what they are interested in. Especially being a teacher in the upper grades, these students might have had years of teachers that did not care enough to figure out their true uniqueness.
Best of luck!

Heather Stephens's picture

Melissa and Betsy,

I love this idea. I am only a substitute teacher right now but I think that I can work this around to work for me. Does anyone have any ideas how to motivate students at the high school level? There are a few that come to mind that just don't seem to care about school and their life after at all.

Heather

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