“If you do what you always did, you will get what you always got.” By Anonymous


Student motivation is one of the biggest struggles teachers have. There are a lot of ways to build student motivation. Here are my top five ways:

  1. Create a safe learning environment: This seems simple but it is something teachers need to be very purposeful about in their classroom. It is more than allowing students to ask questions and have positive quotes on the walls but it is also about…
    • Allowing risk taking and failures
    • Giving “Just right” challenges
    • Creating various learning environments
    • Posting student work (without grades on them as that is breaking FERPA law)
    • Model learning (Read when your students are reading, write when they are writing, think aloud when solving a math problem, make a mistake and fix it)
    • Class Team Building Games
    • Change Mindsets
  2.  Get to know your students and let them know you: You will be able to better tailor your instruction to your students’ if you know their backgrounds and personal interest. If they see you as a ‘person’ (you know how kids think we live at school) it helps them better relate. It has been proven that getting to know your students will inspire their loyalty to you and want to do well for themselves as well.
    • Sit with them at lunch and talk to them (you will be surprised how often I hear and see teachers say, I sit with my kids everyday but they don’t actually talk to them but monitor them – there is a BIG difference.)
    • Have Identity Day in your classroom or school
    • Put pictures of your family and things you enjoy doing at your desk or around the room. 
    • Attend events and games when you can
  3. Make learning relevant and active: Students need to see that it matters and the connection it has to the real world. You can do this multiple ways for example:
    • Allow them to set goals and reflect on them 
    • Utilize technology
    • authentic tasks and solve real world problems
    • Think about audience (have a global audience through blogging, building websites etc)
    • Teach through discovery or ccooperative learning activities 
  4. Give authentic feedback: It is a myth offering praise all the time will motivate students. Think about when someone tells you ‘good job’. It feels forced and that they didn’t take the time. What motivates students is specific feedback that also offers opportunities to improve. 
  5. Give student choice: Let students choose topics that interest them or create products to show their understanding. If giving choice makes you nervous, start small by offering a choice of two. For example allowing your students to either create a prezi or a poster to show mastery of a topic.

Other articles and books on student motivation: 

5 Questions to Ask Yourself About Your Unmotivated Students by Jennifer Gonzalez

“Motivating Unmotivated Students” from Doug Reeves

The Motivated Brain by Gayle Gregory & Martha Kaufeldt

Teaching Strategies: Motivating Students




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