16 Motivators for the Classroom

1 03 2011

(from Super Teaching by Eric Jensen)

1. Give Learners Control and Choice

Let learners control as many elements as possible within the framework you provide. For example, allow

them to choose how they will learn a topic, with whom they will learn it, when and how they’ll be

assessed. You provide the appropriate structure and guidelines, but allow creativity and choice. Learners

are subsequently able to express themselves and feel valued—resulting in less stress and more motivation.

2. Meet Learner’s Needs and Goals

Make sure your curriculum and methods meet the perceived needs and goals of your learners. Because

the brain is biologically designed to survive, it will choose what it needs to learn. Make it a top priority,

therefore, to discover what needs your learners have and find ways to meet them. For example, 6-year-old

students have higher needs for security, predictability, and teacher acceptance than a 14-year-old student.

The teenager is more likely to need peer acceptance, a sense of importance, and hope. An 18-year-old

learner is more interested in autonomy and independence. Use what’s appropriate for the age level of

your students.

3. Engage Strong Emotions

Engage emotions productively with compelling stories, games, personal examples, celebration, role-play,

debate, rituals, and music. We are driven to act upon our emotions because they are compelling forces in

our decision-making.

4. Provide Group Work

Use friendships, partners, and group work to encourage interdependence. Learners do better in an environment

with positive social bonding, and they are more motivated when they get to work with friends in

groups or teams. This interdependence reduces helplessness and stress.

5. Engage Curiosity

We all know that inquiring minds want to know. This is the nature of the human brain. Keep engaging

curiosity; it works! Newspaper tabloids and electronic tabloids have played off our curiosity for years.

Witness all the stories about Elvis, aliens, celebrities, freaks of nature, and UFOs. In your classroom, use

leading questions, mysteries, special hooks, and experiments.

6. Encourage Good Nutrition

Better nutrition means better mental alertness. Provide suggestions for students, or parents, or both.

Suggest specific brain foods (nuts, leafy dark green vegetables, apples, eggs, fish, and bananas).

Encourage learners to take multivitamin and mineral supplements.

7. Use Multiple Intelligences

Multiple learning pathways, or intelligences, can really hook learners. These approaches include spatial,

kinesthetic, interpersonal, verbal-linguistic, intrapersonal, musical-rhythmic, and mathematical-logical.

When learners get to express what they know and how they know it, they are more motivated to continue

to grow.

8. Share Inspirational Stories

Tell true stories about other students who overcame obstacles to succeed. Any famous ones? Any who

have made a major contribution? These stories help form a mythology of success.

9. Provide Acknowledgments

These include assemblies, certificates, group notices, team reports, peer sharing, compliments, and “good

job” notes. These give learners positive associations that continue to fuel further learning.

10. Provide Frequent Feedback

Use several avenues of feedback. If you rely only on yourself to serve this purpose, students aren’t likely

to get enough. Use peer assessment, team charts, group discussions, peer teaching, projects, role-play,

non-verbal feedback, self-assessment, and oral games. Make sure that every single learner gets some kind

of feedback, from you or someone else, at least every 30 minutes. The best way to motivate the brain is

with information—provided immediately and dramatically. That’s what hooks kids into video games and

adults into gambling; they continually get feedback, and the feedback motivates them to continue.

11. Manage Learner States

Role model behavior that reflects a strongly motivated attitude. Learn to read and manage learner’s states.

Even good learners have unmotivated periods that you can influence. Change activities often, use strong

questions and multi-media approaches. Never let a student remain in a bad or unmotivated state for long.

12. Provide Hope of Success

Learners need to know that it is possible for them to succeed. Regardless of the obstacles or how far

behind they are, students must have hope. Every good game show, from Jeopardy to Wheel of Fortune,

keeps the players hooked in with the chance of success, even when they’re far behind the other players.

13. Role Model the Joy of Learning

Enjoy your work and come to your class ready share what you have learned every day. Because over 99

percent of all learning is nonconscious, the more you get excited about learning, the more motivated and

excited your learners are likely to become.

14. Celebrate Learning

Include peer acknowledgment, parties, food, high-fives, class cheers, etc. These create the atmosphere of

success and can trigger the release of endorphins that boost further learning. Do not use celebrations as

a bribe. They are most effective when conducted spontaneously and randomly.

15. Provide for Physical and Emotional Safety

Insure that your classroom is emotionally safe—that students feel they can make mistakes and not be

chastised for it. Insure students’ physical safety from hazards or other students, when necessary. Make it

safe to ask any question. Meet physical needs for lighting, water, food, movement, and seating.

16. Instill Positive Beliefs

Reinforce a learner’s ability to succeed and tell them they can accomplish any task. Discover what their

beliefs are as soon as possible and work to affect them positively. Do this through affirmations, success

stories, indirect references, posters, and your interactions with them.

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