It’s not enough for you to want your students to do well–they have to want it, too. Read on for motivational strategies that work.
How to Motivate Students
How do you motivate students? It’s not about a one-and-done pep talk. Motivating students involves using a series of motivational strategies. Think of it like flooding a dam. You raise the water level bit by bit until–whoosh!–the dam overflows.
Some of these motivational strategies are obvious in their intent while others are more subtle. You don’t need to announce to your students. “Hey! I’m about to motivate you!” Just be consistent about applying some or all of these strategies to your school day. Over time you’ll see a difference in the motivation level of your students.
Music is powerful. It can bypass our conscious brain and affect our mood and outlook. What are some great motivational songs? “Try Everything,” from Zootopia, “Get Back Up Again” and “Can’t Stop the Feeling” from the Trolls Soundtrack, “Hakuna Matata” from Lion King, and “We’re All in This Together” from High School Musical.
Quotes and Phrases
So much of the time, the voice in your student’s head is a negative one: “You can’t do that., “You’re stupid,” or “What’s the point?” Growth mindset quotes and phrases can retrain the brain to think positively. Hang growth mindset posters around your room. Start your day by having the class repeat a growth mindset quotation or phrase (you can find a printable list of growth mindset cards here).
Do not underestimate the role that you play in motivating students. They can tell that you care. By giving them the words to speak positively to themselves, students will develop a growth mindset and start to believe in themselves. Nothing is more motivating than that!
Stories and Books
Humans are primed to respond to stories. Leverage that natural inclination by motivating your students with real-life stories and examples. These could be examples from your own life or the lives of others. Stories in which someone overcame challenges, stayed the course, or thought creatively are great motivators.
Books are another excellent source for stories, and these stories don’t have to be nonfiction. Even fictional stories can promote character qualities that may inspire your students to stay motivated.
Be a positive voice in the ears of your students. Let them know that you believe in them. While you can applaud achievement, it is much more effective to praise effort. “I noticed you working hard on that math problem for several minutes–that’s awesome!” or “You didn’t give up when you were doing that science experiment. You’re a real scientist.” By doing so, you will increase the level of try in your students.
You want your students to have an inner drive to do well. This takes time. In the meantime, you can use extrinsic rewards to keep your students on task and working hard. These rewards could include a ticket or point system. Students can redeem their points at a treasure chest full of small toys or even low-value gift cards (see if you can get donated cards from parents or local businesses). You could also use favors as rewards: desk pets, decals, treats, or scratch-offs.
Simple Strategies to Motivate Your Students
By implementing some of these motivation strategies, you will set the atmosphere in your classroom to be a supportive, positive environment. The inimitable Ms. Frizzle exhorted her students, “Take chances! Make mistakes! Get messy!” That’s the kind of environment where you find motivated students. Your classroom will be a place just like that!