Idea #87: Motivation!

I love this Nike commercial. It made me laugh, motivated me to just do it!, and reminded me so much of one of my students!  Do any of your kids sound like this?

This is the time of the year where students tend to be less motivated. They have state testing, prom, games, finals, and summer vacation on their mind. I have no control over any of these things. I have no say about how many students I have in class or when schoolwide events will disrupt our schedule. Every teacher has different issues that make it hard to do their job.  I try to always focus on how can I best reach the students I have in the time that I have them. “The students have no motivation” is no reason to throw in the towel!

Since I can’t control everything, I have to figure out what I can do to improve the issues I have in class. When it comes to student motivation, I find there are a few things that I can do that make a big difference in my classes. I cannot guarentee total transformations in your classroom, but I know that these little strategies have improved the motivation level in even my toughest teaching situations. I am going to dedicate my next few posts to tips and tricks to increase student motivation.

Motivation Tip #1: Give your students more options in class!  

No one likes being forced to do anything. If we really want students to focus on learning and not just the grade, they should have some say in HOW they are learning. Kara and I presented a short session at our state language conference last fall and it forced us to take notice of all the opportunities we have to give students a choice. This does not mean students can do whatever they want. In fact, most would not know how to handle it. It simply means planning out 1 extra option for students so they don’t feel forced to do something that does not interest them or connect with them. Here are just a few ideas…

If they are reading…

Have more than one option of articles to read. The “People en Espanol” is great for picking up new vocabulary but some of my guy students are not interested in it. However, I put an ESPN Deportes in their hands and they flip through it with much more motivation. Some kids like children’s books and connect better with a familiar story than really life drama.

Allow them to do different activities after reading.The could write a summary of the article or book. They could write a letter to one of the characters asking questions or giving advice/suggestions for their situation. They could create a comic strip with 3 pictures and simple captions explaining what happened.  They can retell the story/article to a friend. (What I love is that it is so easy to grade/give feedback using proficiency standards. Perfection is not expected, I simply see if they are using words vs. phrases vs. simple sentences vs. strings of simple sentences.

 If they are speaking…

They could say it to me, record a video, call Google voice,  record a Voki, or use the sock puppets app. If it is in class and we are doing it to practice, who cares if they have slightly different experiences!

If they are testing…

For written assessments, I give them two scenerios to choose from. Here are 2 sample scenerios ideas for the shopping unit.

1.) Halfway through your study abroad experience in Spain, you realize that all those amazing churros and tacos and icecream are starting to add up! Your clothes don’t fit anymore. Luckily, your host family just asked what you want for your upcoming birthday. Write them a note describing some of the clothes you like to wear, what sizes you need, and your favorite colors or brands.

2.) You want to raise some money to go on a trip this summer. You mom suggests selling some of your old clothes. You decide to put 2 outfits on craigslists and to write one ad in Spanish so you have a better opportunity to sell it! Describe the 2 outfits, including sizes, prices, and colors. Be sure to include contact information.

For their final assessment, I give them the choice between presentational speaking and presentation writing.

You can see – there are lots of options for everything we do in class. In fact, homework is no different. That is why Kara and Rachel’s REAL WORLD homework has been so successful. Students pick what they want to do!

You don’t have to change everything to see results. Try offering 1 extra option each day. Start with something simple. Over time, you will notice less complaining and more action!

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