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How Can I be More Motivational?

Emily Smith

As a teacher, one of the biggest challenges you may face is figuring out how to get your students interested in learning. While some of your students may be eager and ready to learn, a good percentage of your learners will be less inclined. Your job as a teacher is not to simply convey the material; it’s also to engage your students and to encourage them to learn. So how can you motivate them? It’s not as hard as you think.


Become a cheerleader. I know, I know. You thought you signed up to teach, not to cheer on the sidelines, but you were wrong. You signed up to do both. So get out your pompoms and keep telling your students they can do it! The more energy you have, the more energy they will have. Keep using positive words, facial expressions and tone. Your students won’t be able to help but feel pepped up and ready to go. Finding your inner cheerleader may take some time, especially if you are more of an introvert, but trust me, once you find it you will realize it’s pretty invaluable to your teaching career.

Turn Every Negative into a Positive. Teaching can be a really frustrating thing, but it’s important not to let your frustration get the best of you. When a student doesn’t do his/her homework, is late to class, or simply won’t participate, it’s easy to get angry. Rather than act out of frustration, turn it into a chance to motivate your student. Don’t say, “You never turn your homework in!” or “Why do you refuse to participate?” Say “You know, I bet if you did your homework, you would surprise us all with how much you know.” Or “I think you have a lot to offer the class. If you participated we would all benefit!” Simply transforming your words can have a huge impact on your students.

When a student doesn’t do his/her homework, is late to class, or simply won’t participate, it’s easy to get angry. Rather than act out of frustration, turn it into a chance to motivate your student.

Use Reward Systems. Reward Systems aren’t just for your younger kids. Just think about how Foursquare or other apps work. Gamification models work with consumers, employees and students of all ages. You can motivate your students with a gamification model tailor-made for your classroom. It can be something as simple as collecting gold stars every time they turn in their homework or it can be more thorough like creating a whole monetary unit for your classroom.


Give Real World Examples. It’s particularly hard to motivate students to learn when they cannot see any use for the subject you are teaching. Luckily, it’s pretty easy to show a student the importance of having good language skills. If you teach Spanish, show them amazing photographs of Spain, Argentina, Mexico and other Spanish speaking countries. Explain to your students how much better it is to travel when you speak the local language. If you are teaching English, point out all the cool superhero movies they’ll get to watch without subtitles or bad dubbing! Giving your students tangible examples of just how they can use their language skills will be very motivating.


Make your classroom motivational. You can become more motivational without saying a word by simply making your classroom motivational. Hang posters with inspiring quotes and fill the classroom with bright colors. You can even use the quotes as part of a lesson so that you can explain the meaning to your students.

Track Progress. When you start teaching a new student or a new class, ask the students to list their personal goals. Check back in with the list every week or ten days to see the progress. Have your students do a self evaluation to see if they are on track. Have a constructive problem solving session to see how each student can work more towards his/her own goals. While this may not seem like a motivational tactic, it actually is. Here you are encouraging the student to identify and follow through with his/her personal goals. What can be more motivating than that?

These are just a few tips to be a more motivational teacher. Motivating your students will translate into higher student productivity and better focus in the classroom. Never underestimate the power of a motivating teacher!
Can you think of some other ways to get your students motivated? Let us know in the comments section below!

About the author

Emily has taught English to ESL learners in four Asian countries. Although she taught students from 3-60, she has a definite affection for preschoolers and college students. She has also worked as an ESL curriculum writer and is TESOL certified. When she is not teaching, she loves watching and making films.