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Top 12 Ways To Motivate Students

If there is one thing we know about kids, it's that they have short attention spans and prefer now to later. Teachers, more than any district or schoolwide programs, have the most power to motivate students because they're on the front lines. They can influence students in a way that kids can actually understand: here, now, today, in this room.

***Obviously, not enough can be said about parent involvement, but that's a Top 12 list for another day***

In Your Classroom or School

1. Praise Students in Ways Big and Small

Recognize work in class, display good work in the classroom and send positive notes home to parents, hold weekly awards in your classroom, organize academic pep rallies to honor the honor roll, and even sponsor a Teacher Shoutout section in the student newspaper to acknowledge student's hard work.

2. Expect Excellence

Set high, yet realistic expectations. Make sure to voice those expectations. Set short terms goals and celebrate when they are achieved.

3. Spread Excitement Like a Virus

Show your enthusiasm in the subject & use appropriate, concrete and understandable examples to help students grasp it. For example, I love alliteration. Before I explain the concept to students, we "improv" subjects they're interested in. After learning about alliteration, they brainstorm alliterative titles for their chosen subjects.

4. Mix It Up

It's a classic concept and the basis for differentiated instruction, but it needs to be said: using a variety of teaching methods caters to all types of learners. By doing this in an orderly way, you can also maintain order in your classroom. In a generic example for daily instruction, journal for 10 minutes to open class; introduce the concept for 15 minutes; discuss/group work for 15 minutes; Q&A or guided work time to finish the class. This way, students know what to expect everyday and have less opportunity to act up.

5. Assign Classroom Jobs

With students, create a list of jobs for the week. Using the criteria of your choosing, let students earn the opportunity to pick their classroom jobs for the next week. These jobs can cater to their interests and skills. Some possibilities include:

- Post to the Class blog

- Update Calendar

- Moderate review games

- Pick start of class music

- Watch class pet

- Public relations officer (address people who visit class)

- Standard class jobs like Attendance, Cleaning the boards, putting up chairs, etc.

6. Hand Over Some Control

If students take ownership of what you do in class, then they have less room to complain (though we all know, it'll never stop completely). Take an audit of your class, asking what they enjoy doing, what helps them learn, what they're excited about after class. Multiple choice might be the best way to start if you predict a lot of "nothing" or "watch movies" answers.

After reviewing the answers, integrate their ideas into your lessons or guide a brainstorm session on how these ideas could translate into class.

On a systematic level, let students choose from elective classes in a collegiate format. Again, they can tap into their passion and relate to their subject matter if they have a choice.

7. Open-format Fridays

You can also translate this student empowerment into an incentive program. Students who attended class all week, completed all assignments and obeyed all classroom rules can vote on Friday's activities (lecture, discussion, watching a video, class jeopardy, acting out a scene from a play or history).

8. Relating Lessons to Students' Lives