Classroom Solutions > Justinlim9 > Student Motivation: How to Get Students to Respond

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Student Motivation: How to Get Students to Respond


During my credentialing program, I learned that being unable to engage students is one of the main reasons why new teachers struggle. In fact, I've noticed that when teachers engage their students, even if they struggle in other aspects of their job (such as getting along with colleagues, administration, etc.) they still seem quite satisfied overall. On the other hand, if they can't engage their kids, nothing else seems to make up for it.

Here are some simple, but effective tips to motivate your students:

1. Give feedback immediately - Tests and classwork should be returned as quickly as possible along with some indication of how students can improve. Studies show that the longer it takes to receive feedback, the less effective it will be. This applies to responding to students who participate in class discussions as well. Comment on responses immediately and make it a point to mention the names of the contributors.

2. Be specific when giving feedback - Whether the feedback is positive or negative, it should be specific. When students hear specific positive feedback, they know that they're not simply being paid lip service. Additionally, it gives other students in the class an opportunity to imitate the behavior that merited the praise. If the feedback is negative, being specific is just as important because it limits the criticism to only one aspect of the comment.

3. Use peers to model - Students should be introduced to good work that is produced by their peers. Share the accomplishments of individuals to the class.

  • Make copies of the best assignments and use them as model handouts.
  • Post model student work on the walls.
  • Provide time for students to evaluate each other.

4. Avoid giving in to pleas for the answer - When students ask for help, make an effort to get them to problem solve on their own.

  • Ask students for ways to approach the problem.
  • Try to get them to build upon what they already know.
  • Praise small, but independent steps.
  • Be cautious of students trying to gauge whether or not they have the right answer from your responses.

5. Praise improvement not perfection - Use praise as a tool to get students to respond the way that you want. If a student is taking steps towards the right direction, but is still not completely successful, make it a point to positively reinforce the progressive steps and not just negatively reinforce the overall product.

I hope that some of these tips can help you to motivate your students!

What are some of the strategies that you use?

Warm regards,

Justin Lim

Rosemead High School
El Monte Union High School District


  • #1 keith Warren

    Sunday, January 31, 2010 at 12:00 PM

    I think these suggestions are brilliant....

    The catching people doing things right is an excellent example.

    I love this stuff.... I motivate students and this is what I do...?

    The NINE RULES here I have made up are inspired by the author Richard Lovoie.

    Play – Have fun, enjoy, enthuse and bring energy to the room.
    “No-one ever achieved anything without enthusiasm” Emerson

    Personal – School is about life.
    • Indulge your students and listen to their stories.
    • Indulge yourself – Share your stories with them… if it benefits them?

    Provoke – Ask questions about life, ask questions about the topic – it gets them to think… It’s powerful when they get to see things through their own mind !

    Praise – Catch People Doing Things Right. Be focused on praise BUT be specific and sincere. The praise should be focused on effort and improvement – this is always effective. We all need to feel good enough.

    Power. Letting your students determine some of the agenda or make certain rules gets them to feel like they’re ‘in charge’ without you losing control.

    Projects. These are very powerful mechanisms for connecting different skills and knowledge and harnessing natural curiosity.

    Positive People. This gets them to learn quickly how to behave in a positive manner.

    Prizes. Rewards can be powerful when they are unannounced and not too familiar. The prize may be as innocuous or humorous as you like.

    Prestige. All children need to feel important, and some more than others, so prestige and recognition are fundamental. Consistent encouragement and opportunities to showcase these talents are important.

    That’s it… These techniques are NOT magic as you can see, they’re just ways of keeping people focused when their natural attention wanes. It’s incredibly powerful and effective and it’s a lot of fun…

  • #2 sharon

    Thursday, January 28, 2010 at 05:11 PM

    My special ed students love the immediate complimentary feedback; and will participate willingly more, even the students that usually do poorly in class. When they see the work of their peers as examples, many begin to know they can do the higher quality work and turn out better quality projects. Mahalo for sharing!

    [Edit: Response]

    Hi Sharon!

    I've experienced the same thing with my special education students. It's funny because all of them tell me that my class is the hardest because they have to do the most work, but that it's still their favorite!



  • #3 Katie

    Saturday, January 23, 2010 at 11:13 PM

    Choice! I have found that the more my students feel like they are making important decisions in the classroom, the more engaged they will be.

    [Edit: Response]

    Hi Katie!

    Thanks for the input! That is very true! I've found the same thing.



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