I really enjoy just sitting back and watching my students after I’ve given them a task. I’ve been noticing a trend amongst my three classes. Some students get down to work right away. They engage with the task and put forth a lot of effort, while others take a more relaxed and social style by chatting with their peers and eventually getting down to work which then leaves the students who very rarely get to work at all.

Honestly, sometimes I am at a loss as to what I need to do to motivate these students. I really try hard to be a learner-centred teacher and focus on what my students are interested in and then create lessons and tasks that I think could be fun or engaging for them (while still meeting curriculum expectations). There are some days, however, that I feel like no matter what I do or how creative I am, I’m still not engaging them and helping them learn.

It’s something I’m currently struggling with in one of my classes. I really want my students to work on their writing skills but I know that if I talk about that topic in a traditional fashion, they are going to completely tune me out so I designed a task for them to create Common Craft style videos explaining the various components of being a good writer “In Plain English.” Some students have taken the idea and run with it, while others have yet to begin even though this was the third half class we had to work on this task. I framed this with a Learning Goal, talked about why this will be beneficial for the future, how it’s supposed to be fun, showed a variety of the videos (even the Zombie one!) and yet there are still students who I don’t think are even going to attempt the task.

So, good people, I’m looking for some help. I’m kind of at a loss as to what to do here. Did I miss the mark? Is it just that there are always going to be students who disengage no matter what I do? (If so, that makes me really depressed…) Any thoughts, ideas, or suggestions are appreciated.

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5 thoughts on “Motivation

  1. It’s hard to leave a comment here since I identify so strongly with your first 3 paragraphs. I feel your frustration — especially since I’ve been trying so hard to increase student motivation by integrating technology in my classroom. New and exciting projects have been on the ‘menu’, and some of these adventures include Skyping with students in other countries. Still, some students couldn’t be bothered to take part. Ohh, it’s so frustrating and confusing. If you learn some tips from others who have solved this problem, please share!

  2. Hey Jamie,
    I just took a look at the task you gave them and I’m thinking of stealing it. It’s a very cool idea. That said, I’m not your target market.
    Motivation and engagement are two things that have been wrestling through my mind alot the last few days. How much of it is my job and how much of it is their job?
    I don’t have the answers certainly, but I think the idea of authenticity, is one of the factors that I’ve seen students respond to the most. Do students see the task as something that is an authentic reflection of their context? Is there a way of framing it, tweaking it to be more authentic?
    By no means do I have the answer to how to engage the most disenfranchised amongst us, but I feel like authenticity is connected.
    Good luck!
    Cheers,
    Scott

    I wrote a blog post about this just yesterday, funny how this time of year begs those questions.

  3. It’s important to remember that the teacher can only take so much responsibility for a disengaged student. School provides students with a learning partnership; one between the teacher, the student, the parent(s), and even the community. When there isn’t an interest in a lesson, consider who has made the effort to meet the needs of the other partners involved.
    You’re doing a great job, and that’s the best you can do. Other people have a responsibility in the whole learning process — remember the old saying “You can lead a horse to water…”.
    Another thought that someone once told me: A classroom isn’t a restaurant. You don’t show up, wait to be served and send the meal back if it’s not to your liking.

  4. I’ve been thinking about this since you posted it. I’m currently back in my homeschool and spending time in classes with some students who are much like the ones you describe. I don’t have any wise words to share, but I think that by doing what you’re doing you are likely making a difference in more kids than you realize. I’m starting to wonder if enthusiastic teachers are not as rare as enthusiastic students sometimes. Keep at it, you never know what the outcome of your efforts will be. I’d be willing to bet that even though some of your students may not show motivation they actually appreciate the efforts that you put into it. They actually notice this stuff more than we think. 🙂

    1. I saw a lot more productivity today and some students who are so quiet in class are really shining in this task so fingers crossed, we are making progress.

      Thanks again for your kind words. You never really know what kind of a difference you’re making, but I guess all you can do s hope the students appreciate your efforts 🙂

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