Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Motivating Students to Learn

What is the secret to motivating students? Do teachers need to be cheerleaders jumping up and down and chanting about the awesome life cycle of a plant or the fabulous parts of a sentence? Or is motivation something more than just creating excitement ? Here are what the experts and some experienced classroom teachers have to say about motivation. And, as always, I will throw in my ideas about what motivation looks like and how to master it in your classroom:

Motivation is about creating a climate where students understand the PURPOSE of learning and have OPPORTUNITIES FOR SUCCESS:

"Students are more likely to want to learn when they appreciate the value of classroom activities and when they believe they can succeed if they apply reasonable effort," Jere Brophy

The link below will take you to the rest of this groundbreaking article by Brophy:

Quick Tips:
  • Communicate "why" the objective is an important part of students' lives. What does it all mean?
  • Organize your lesson to include ways every student can be successful and gain confidence
  • Communicate what you expect, and communicate how students can succeed
  • Be positive. Remind yourself even on the worst days that learning should be fun. Engaged and happy students are usually pretty darn easy to manage. Bored and bummed students are not so easy to spend the day with.
  • Your goal is to develop lifelong learners. How can you design your lesson to increase student responsibility for their own learning and discoveries?
Motivation is about creating a learning climate where students make CONNECTIONS:

Quick Tips:
  • Why is this important? What does it have to do with my life? Create connections that motivate students to see the bigger picture
  • The brain learns by anchoring (making connections) new ideas to already established knowledge.
  •  My world is ________ so this new information has to be important in my world because ________
  • Model how to make connections, but don't make all those connections (your anecdotes*) about your experiences as an adult, teacher, child growing up with Nintendo, etc. Students need to understand the new material within the context of their own experiences and knowledge.
  • Connections are about bridging new ideas to old ones to increase understanding--- as opposed to *"finding things in common so your students think you are kind of cool (and not as old and lame as you feel sometimes). *that is called non-contingent attention-- see future posts about classroom management about that one...
  • Opportunities to make connections and prompt inquiry should be a planned part of any lesson.
    • "Take the new information (teacher-directed). List three ways it relates to what you already know. List two questions you still have that are necessary to fully understand what we are learning (student-directed)."
  • Have a balance between teacher-directed (all about you) and student-directed (all about the learner) ways of learning. You can't do the learning for your students, so you can't be the only one doing all the hard work in the classroom!
Motivation is the key to a successful classroom. What ways do you keep students motivated and engaged?

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