Tag Archives: Teaching

Teach, Inspire, Motivate

As one goes through life, one learns that if you don’t paddle your own canoe, you don’t move.     – Katharine Hepburn

As you read in my February blog, Kendall C. Bronk, an associate professor of developmental psychology at Claremont Graduate University in California, noted that “most young people and even most adults don’t have a purpose in their life” and “finding one’s purpose (and be motivated to carry out those purposes) requires four key components: dedicated commitment, personal meaningfulness, goal directedness, and a vision larger than one’s self.” 

The editors of The Journal of Character Education put it this way:

“We are aware that motivation is central to the foundation of character, and particularly moral character.  Purpose lies at the heart of such motivation (and) is central to the heart by being a core of the motivational impetus to be good.”

This blog offers you ideas suggested by experts on how to motivate your students to learn subject matter, to learn about character-building behaviors, and to learn the importance of relationships and responsibilities.

Here are 21 ideas by TeachThought staff who note that “the best lessons, books, and materials in the world won’t get students excited about learning and willing to work hard if they’re not motivated.”

  1. Give students a sense of control.
  2. Define the objectives.
  3. Create a threat-free environment.
  4. Change your scenery.
  5. Offer varied experiences.
  6. Use positive competition.
  7. Offer rewards.
  8. Give students responsibility.
  9. Allow all students to work together.
  10. Give praise when earned.
  11. Encourage self-reflection.
  12. Be excited.
  13. Know your students.
  14. Harness students’ interests.
  15. Help students find intrinsic motivation.
  16. Manage student anxiety.
  17. Make goals high but attainable.
  18. Give feedback and offer chances to improve.
  19. Track progress.
  20. Make things fun.
  21. Provide opportunities for success.


Here are 10 more motivating strategies that you might use:

  1. Believe in them.
  2. Be extremely encouraging.
  3. Make sure your students are the ones who are working.
  4. Use memory work and recitation.
  5. Make learning fun.
  6. Be wise with your homework.
  7. Have one-on-one conversations.
  8. Get the parents involved.
  9. Help your students be more organize.
  10. Consider whole brain teaching.


And another 10 (edited) “Unconventional Ways to Motivate Students.”

  1. Get involved:  Spending time outside of the classroom gives teachers additional opportunities to act as role models and mentors. 
  1. The VIP is an ally: All kiddos have one, their Very Important Person.  Don’t underestimate the worth of the VIP.
  1. Positive reinforcement:  Don’t give up!  Praise him when you can, take note of his effort, and help him understand how his actions are going to help him not only in the classroom but in life.
  1. Be seen, not heard:  If what teachers want is enthusiastic, hardworking students, we need to emulate that.
  1. Build a rapport:  There are ways to show kindness and interest, and in doing so, teachers are building a solid foundation that usually extends far beyond the classroom.
  1. Get in on the action:  When our students see us as people and not just teachers, they connect with us on a more personal level.
  1. Ownership:  Give students options in the classroom.  If students have a hand in making decisions about their education, they are more likely to commit to them.
  1. Goal setting:  The success in goal setting is not simply establishing them but holding students accountable for them.  Take time to revisit those goals, discuss their progress, and redirect students’ efforts when necessary.
  1. Incentivize:  A homework pass or a school-wide acknowledgment of their successes are great ways to give students a pat on the back and continue supporting and motivating them.
  1. Use their strengths:  Use their strengths, and not just in class.  Motivating them enough to enjoy some aspects of school and work for that diploma is a great starting point.

(We Are Teachers, Stephanie Jankowski, June 29, 2015 https://www.weareteachers.com/)

There are four specific ways to nurture a sense of intrinsic motivation in students:

  1. Why Autonomy Matters – Giving students a role in deciding what their educational experience looks like can help motivate them; having a say in their classroom environment, being able to choose their homework assignment, allowing them to develop ideas for their own assignments.
  1. Praising Competence Instead of Natural Ability – Students are more likely to do something if they feel like they have the ability to be successful doing it; praising effort instead of natural ability, showing students their growth over a semester, having students become teachers to their classmates.
  1. Helping Students Relate to Others – Building relationships with peers and teachers helps students feel cared about by people they respect.  Create learning situations in which students come to like and respect their classmates; provide opportunities to work with such classmates; create positive relationships between teachers and students. 
  1. Making Students’ Work Relevant – For students to feel motivated, they must see the work they are doing in the classroom as interesting, valuable, and useful to their present lives.  Have lesson plans and discussions about topics prevalent in students’ lives; have students set academic and non-academic goals; challenge students to write about why and what they are learning is relevant. 

(“What Teachers Can Do to Boost Student Motivation,” Education Week, Digital Edition, December 9, 2019)

I was motivated to find at least 40 strategies that you might use in your classroom.  I hope that you will be motivated to try some of these ideas with your students.

Success is no accident.  It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice, and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.   – Pele

Ed DeRoche, Director, Character Education Resource Center, SOLES. USD
March Blog 2020