- Don't beg, buy, or force. INVITE! Every day work to invite every student to join you in learning math. From the way you greet them when they enter the room, to taking the time to listen to them, to appreciating their insights and effort, to believing in their potential, you can invite students to be the most important part of the learning process. Find a copy of Inviting School Success by William Purkey.
- Believe in your students and foster a sense of ownership. It is important that you believe and that each student knows you believe they can be successful. When they are successful (and make sure every child feels success early) show that they are responsible for their own success. It is critical that students believe that failure results from a lack of effort and NOT a lack of aptitude. If you want your student to persevere in similar tasks in the future, the first step is getting your student to believe that with increased effort he or she CAN do it!
- Praise students in ways that reward effort, not ability. By praising students for effort, they realize that their concentration and dedication are valued. They will tend to sustain the motivation and perseverance necessary in fulfilling challenging tasks.
- Always listen and invite students to improve. It is easy for students to blame their failures on lack of ability, busy schedules, and so on, but the trick is getting them to believe that they are IN control of their outcomes. Instead of punishing them for failure, try a constructive conversation about how they could improve for next time. Work with them to create an action plan. Did they not allow for enough time? Allot time in a planner with them. Were they unclear on the directions? Encourage them to contact you before the due date to make sure they are on the right track next time.
- Model how you want your students to act. It’s contagious! You are actually more motivated to succeed when you see someone else succeeding. Exhibit your personal excitement about your students, your job and what we're learning. When you are challenged, value your mistakes as positive learning experiences.
- Teach students to set goals. Especially as you introduce a new project or announce an upcoming exam, work with students to set realistic and measureable goals. A goal is a contract to oneself. Direct them to break up their ultimate goal into smaller steps, including specific times to get started. Make sure that the goals are challenging, yet attainable. Check in with your students often. It will help you informally assess them and also keep them on track. Feel free to modify this Goal Setting Handout.
- Invite students to make the class their class. Encourage input and feedback often. As soon as they realize that you truly care about their input, they will respond by showing more concern to please you. Give them the freedom to choose the order that they complete assignments or chores, the freedom to choose an area of the classroom to work, or the freedom to select a research topic or project option.
- Encourage cooperation instead of competition. As educators, our main goal should be the process of learning, and not the outcome. To create cooperative learning arrangements, be sure that your activity values effort and not only ability. Monitor the groups to ensure that each member is accountable in the creation and the final product.
- Share this list of tips with parents. Motivation of children in school is most influenced by teachers and parents. Work together to raise motivated students!
For additional resources on motivation, including research articles and classroom activities, ideas, and strategies, visit the Motivation Resource Page.