4 English teachers share their motivation secrets

As this new research reveals: of 1,000 people currently teaching in England, 60% said that their choice of career was based around a desire to make a difference in pupils’ lives. Furthermore, of those asked, teachers spoke specifically about the power of “lightbulb moments” that...

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As this new research reveals: of 1,000 people currently teaching in England, 60% said that their choice of career was based around a desire to make a difference in pupils’ lives. Furthermore, of those asked, teachers spoke specifically about the power of “lightbulb moments” that allow them to see the impact they are having.

But, as anyone who has stood in front of a class will tell you, it isn’t all easy sailing. With students of varying ages and abilities, they can often become distracted or disheartened, so what can teachers do to keep them motivated? We asked a handful of teachers who, collectively, have taught all over the world, for their expert tips…

Alice Pilkington on the element of surprise

“Even if you’re teaching to a syllabus/time constraint, it’s worthwhile surprising a demotivated class with a completely different lesson – either related to the general topic you have been teaching, or on another topic entirely. As teachers, too, you can become uninspired and rely on your tried and tested techniques to get your points across, and that can become boring for both you and your students. If you tend to always start your lessons with the same style, then introduce the ‘surprise’ lesson with a new technique, such as posting pictures on the classroom walls and getting your students to walk around and discuss what links them, for example. Or, without giving any background or context, show a movie clip then ask the class why they think you showed it to them, how it is relevant, and so on. Even if the topic is completely unrelated to what you have been studying it’s still important to ensure you follow a lesson plan, but often just getting the students up and out of their seats, or working with different people than usual, can revive a flagging class.”

Read all about what Alice learnt from her time teaching English in Turkey.

Anandi Vara on teaching “between the lines”

“Not all students will share their weaknesses (at least, not right away). It therefore becomes your responsibility as the teacher to read between the lines of what they are telling you. One student listed all the things he was good at, so I then made a note of all the things he left out and wove those elements into my lesson plans. In the same way, when students are telling you their weaknesses, I found it helpful to make a note of the areas they were good at and used this as a booster when they started to struggle with more difficult elements.”

Read all about what Anandi learnt from her time teaching English in Nepal.

Thomas Stephen on reminding them why they want to learn

“My technique for motivating a class might appear to be a passive one – but faced with students who are disillusioned with their linguistic abilities, it can work wonders. Basically, out of nowhere, play the ‘Why am I here?’ game. Far from being a deep, philosophical chat, it is an opportunity for students to use their fledgling English to explain how learning the language will affect their lives. It serves two purposes: to get the students talking about themselves while they are applying what they have learnt, while also giving them an opportunity to reconnect with their motivation.

Read all about what Thomas learnt from his time teaching English in Mexico.

Sophie Atkinson on putting the control in students’ hands

“My first task, and one which I was pretty unprepared for, was figuring out how to motivate the students. After a chat with some of the other teachers, we decided to offer an element of choice when it came to how and what we taught. This meant that they felt that they had an element of control over their lessons, which in turn led to them feeling engaged. I didn’t just ask them what they wanted to do – I was naïve but not that naïve! – but instead I’d ask if they wanted to do words or numbers that day, or let them collectively pick which book we read.”
Read all about what Sophie learnt from her time teaching English in Sri Lanka.

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