Friday, 4 April 2008


I need to prepare a short talk on motivation for my school, so, if you don't mind, I'll think aloud here.
Motivation is a difficult topic. On a good day, motivation should be seen, not heard. You are a really good teacher, right? Right. You always prepare your classes thoroughly, right? Right. So, your students are always motivated, all of them, right?
We all know this is not always the case. Teachers are often ashamed to talk about this problem, because, more often than not, they blame themselves.
How do you know your students are not motivated?
You walk into the classroom full of enthusiasm. You have been preparing your class the previous night and you have a killer activity that's going to fascinate them. Or it is an old activity, the one that's never failed you. Everything seems to be working fine on the surface, but by the end of the class, you, the teacher, are bored to death. In your own class. That's how you know. If this happens once, or even twice, you shouldn't worry much. Maybe they are tired or it is spring time and they are all in love. If it keeps happening, though, you probably have a class that has a problem with motivation.
There are different reasons for this, of course, and sometimes it is hard to find out what the problem is. I believe that, to motivate a particularly unmotivated class, you first have to find out why they are not motivated. A possible list of reasons:
1. Maybe they don't really want to be there at all. Maybe someone - their parents or their employers - want them to learn the language. Maybe all they want is a diploma.
2. They expect too much. They want to be fluent by the end of their elementary course, they want everything at once. And they thought it would be easy.
3. The course is too difficult for them. They refuse to go one course below the one they are attending (sometimes even two courses below), because they believe that, with hard work, they'll catch up.
4. The course is too easy for them, but again, they won't listen to you.
5. They want you to teach them. Whether they learn or not is your responsibility, not theirs.
6. The classmates don't like each other too much. I am fascinated by group dynamics and it is interesting to watch how everything in the class changes if there is a new student or if one or two students leave the class.
7. They don't come to their classes regularly. They usually have a good reason for this, but it is a big problem.
8. They don't have enough time to study at home.
The list goes on.
Now that we have defined our enemy, we should start working on the solution.
So, how do you motivate a particularly unmotivated class?
End of part one.
In the meantime, feel free to add your ideas and comments here.

You can see Part Two here.

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Mary H said...

Hi Natasa, How did your presentation on motivation go? Your list of reasons why students aren't motivated was informative. However, I think there is another reason why students are sometimes not motivated, and it is may change from day to day. For instance, student motivation doesn't seem constant to me- some days its up and some days its down for a variety of reasons, like being tired or distracted by something. In that case, especially for a sleepy, unmotivated class, I try to modify the activities just slightly so they are more interactive. Sometimes I have students read aloud or stand up to do the activity just to change things up, and to keep classes fresh and interesting!

Natasa said...

Hi Mary,
The presentation was yesterday. It went quite well and, on the whole, I am pleased with how I did it. It is a huge field and there are so many things you can say about motivation, so it is really hard to fit everything into a 30-minute presentation. My plan is to translate it into English and put it onto my blog. Then people might want to comment on it.
I would also like to go on researching this field. It is really interesting and it can help me become a better teacher.
You are right - the moment they start getting sleepy, you need to do something, anything to wake them up. I once improvised a role play to wake up a class. It was great precisely because it wasn't planned.

飯糰夾蛋Karen said...
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