How to Motivate Your Students: Tips for Teachers

Motivating students can sometimes feel like a puzzle, but it’s a crucial piece of a successful lesson and classroom management strategy. When students are motivated, they’re more engaged, curious, and eager to learn. Learn what motivation is, how important mindset is, and 6 steps to improve metacognition. 

What is motivation?

Every decision we make; whether good or bad, is based on motivation. Walking into the faculty room and seeing a box of donuts can influence different reactions depending on the individual’s motivation. For the teacher who wasn’t able to grab breakfast and is starving, this will be a welcomed sight. For the teacher who is eating healthy and exercising, this will be something they wish to avoid. 

Motivation is what drives students to learn and achieve. It’s that spark that keeps them curious and willing to put in the effort. As teachers, we play a big role in fostering motivation in our students.

Both motivation and inspiration contribute to an individual’s desire or drive. Strategies related to improving inspiration and motivation will have a positive influence on students. Therefore, this should be a primary focus in your classroom. 

Steps to Boosting Metacognition

If you are looking for a strategy that will teach you how to motivate your students, then you’ll want to integrate metacognition activities into your classroom. Metacognition, or thinking about one’s thinking, is another powerful tool for motivation. When students are aware of how they learn best and can reflect on their own progress, they become more proactive in their learning journey. 

Here are 5 steps to help improve metacognition in your students:

1. Embrace a growth mindset

Encouraging a growth mindset is key. This means helping students understand that their abilities can improve over time with effort and practice. When they believe they can grow and learn, they become more motivated to tackle challenges.

2. Provide opportunities for students to think about what they don't understand

Many students lose motivation because they become frustrated and do not have the skills or stamina to think about why and how they are making mistakes. Provide students with opportunities to think about what challenges them. One strategy of how you can motivate your students is with a stoplight exit ticket. 

Stoplight exit tickets have students think about

  • Green: What they understand
  • Yellow: New ideas, perspectives, a change in thinking
  • Red: A reason why learning stopped

Having students think about what their struggles are can help them to build resilience and problem solving skills to overcome these obstacles instead of letting them hinder their learning. 

3. Promote reflection

Build in regular opportunities for students to reflect on what they’ve learned and how they’ve learned it.

One way to incorporate this strategy into your classroom to help increase motivation is through dispelling misconceptions. Whether teaching math, science, or a classroom novel, start your unit with common mistakes or misconceptions that students might have. Throughout the unit provide opportunities for students to reflect on their practices and explain the reasoning that conflicts with the misconception. 

4. Check ins help increase motivation

Verbal teacher check-ins can occur as a whole class or small group discussions. Often during these times, students will be more engaged participants. If you have time for students to write in journals, they can track their progress through writing. 

Some questions you might want to ask are

  • What lessons were easiest for you this week? 
  • What did you struggle with the most? 
  • What study habits do you find most helpful? 
5. Graphic organizers

Graphic organizers can help students model their thinking in an organized fashion. As the teacher, you should choose the best graphic organizer for the skill you are trying to teach. 

When introducing a graphic organizer, it is beneficial to model how to use it. Modeling will help to reduce student frustration with how to use the graphic organizer so that their motivation can then be focused on what information should be used to fill it in. 

Increasing student motivation in grades 5-8
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