Guest Post: 6 Tips for Motivating Your Students

This article is contributed by Heather Johnson, who regularly writes on the topic of grants for graduate school. She invites your questions and writing job opportunities at her personal email address: heatherjohnson2323 at gmail dot com.

Motivating your students can be the most challenging aspect of your job. The factors why a student isn’t particularly responsive on a given day are vast. You’re not going to have the magic potion to make all your students alert and attentive all the time. This is a fact you’re going to have to live with. However, there are a ton of ways you can try to turn the tide in your classroom. Not all of these will work for you as there is an ebb and flow to your classroom. Here are six tips to consider the next time you feel your class isn’t putting forth an acceptable level of effort:

1. Make sure your classroom is comfortable. Sometimes the problem can be as simple as having an uncomfortable environment. Make sure the room temperature is at a level that is comfortable for you and your students. Check the lighting and air circulation. These are details that can often be overlooked but can be the key to maintaining a steady level of attentiveness.
2. Pay attention to strengths and weaknesses. Reward students for excellence and work on bringing up their weaknesses. When the student sees that rewards are out there for solid work, they’ll usually take the onus on themselves to strive to strengthen areas that are weak.
3. Relevance goes a long way. Come up with ways to make your material that you need to cover relevant to your students’ ages. There are ways you can make the driest material interesting to your students. This is a key you have to strive for when you’re trudging through the mundane.
4. Keep moving. When you’re lecturing, move around the room and stay energetic. Even if the material you’re covering isn’t the most exciting stuff your students will pick up on your energy and be more receptive to the material.
5. Show, don’t tell. Straight lecturing will bore your students to no end. They need you to give examples when you’re presenting material. Keep the phrase, show don’t tell, in mind when you’re in front of your class.
6. Let your sense of humor shine through. Students will connect with you if you can use your sense of humor as a teaching tool. Exhibiting a sense of humor will forge a greater connection between you and your pupils. Don’t be too silly as this can lead to a loss of control of your classroom, but using some wit will make your material not so dry.

The Engaged Classroom Training

I just completed the Engaged Classroom training: a four-day course that covered a book and a bunch of social/web tools. It was pretty intense, and I think that a lot of people are overwhelmed. Below is a picture of the stuff that we got (I used Delicious Library 2 to get that all organized).

I am so excited to do this. I have the tools now to do stuff. That has been the biggest hurdle for me.

I am required to train two other teachers to use these tools: Matt and Melinda. Matt is a self-proclaimed technophobe, but he is coming along. I think my biggest challenge with him is the actual implementation of the tools. I think that if I work with him over the summer, he will be good to go. He just needs to start using these tools.

Melinda is pretty savvy, and I think she will need direction to find what is good for her class. She is still new, and teaches a heavy curriculum, but I think that she will come along nicely, as well.

The best thing is that I really like both of them. Matt and Melinda are awesome, and I am very lucky that I get to teach with them. They are both very accommodating, eager to learn, and flexible. I am really looking forward to this Engaged Classroom program.

The biggest concern that I have is the time that it will take to teach the students to use these tools. Some of them will "get it" and some won't. Some will be so engrossed I will have to pry the technology away from them, and some won't care at all.

I think the key is to make sure that I am not forcing them to use the tools, but making an environment that will be conducive to them learning with a lot of failures will be crucial. I think I am up to the task.

This is not going to be an easy thing to do, but it will be worth it, I think.

Have a Good Life.

The Message didn't Stick

I am participating in a program by our school district called the Engaged Classroom. I (and two other teachers) are going to have a mobile lab with a bunch of other technology to use for the year, and hopefully create some good projects and learning opportunities for our students. This is exactly the type of thing that I have wanted to do for a long time, so I am glad that I now have the opportunity.

Kelly and Darren are doing a great job teaching a very technologically diverse group of people about the different tools we should/will be using. They are experiencing what any other person teaching about technology will experience: sometimes, people just don't get it. Even if they say, "Yes, teacher, I understand what you are asking and I will do it from now on just like that."

After learning how to use Diigo (which I finally kind of understand now, thanks), Wikis, Google Docs, and plenty of other collaborative web apps, one student wanted to share a link with another student. So, this is what she did:)

You gotta love that. The image is backwards, and it is because I took it from Photo Booth and didn't have the energy to mirror the image so it came out right. Call me lazy.

Honestly, the worst thing in the world to me (not really, but a close second to getting stung by a jellyfish) is writing out by hand URLs. Talk about torture!

So the real question is, what is this person going to do with what she has "learned" this week? I am most certainly not mocking or poking holes in the wonderfully developed program. They have done a lot to make sure that they are following up; we must make a portfolio, attend monthly meetings, and teach others about the same things we are learning. This is a large beast to tackle for them, and I am excited to be a part of it.

Have a Good Life.