How to Motivate Students

Teachers interested in how to motivate students, especially those interested in motivation and middle school children, need only look at the gifted and talented children in their care. Children have varied interests and talents, and it is important to recognize that all students are gifted! It is up to us to help them discover their area of giftedness.

Providing motivation in math teaching particularly proves to be difficult because for many, it has been so long since they experienced success of any kind in math class. I find that many of my students gave up long ago, and much of my job is spent helping them experience success again.

For this reason, I try to provide a wide range of activities that will give all of my students a taste of success.

Every student should experience some type of success every day at school.

That's a pretty tall order, isn't it? But once you start looking at your students with a talent scout's eye, I have found, it is easier to provide the motivation which is always the by-product of success.

Different Ways of Being Smart

Gamers just cracked a code which has puzzled researchers and scientists for years - and they did it practically overnight! Their contribution to science and to the medical field is an important one, and the story should awaken us to the realization that there are many ways of being smart.

The Fixers

As teachers, we need to be constantly searching for the gift which every child possesses. Every year I have "fixers" who can fix whatever is broken in my classroom. It takes special talent - one which I do not possess myself! - to take apart a stapler or pencil sharpener and put it back together. It is this kind of task which challenges and motivates them. My challenge is creating activities to tap into that talent.

One good resource for these children are the Snap Circuits kits by Elenco Electronics. These are beautiful examples of the integration of science, math, and reading because students must read the instructions in order to build the projects using electric circuitry. They are amazing kits and worth a closer look.

Snap Circuit kits are a good way to integrate science, math, and reading.

The Artists

You have met some of the gifted artists who have passed through the doors of my classroom. There are others in my classes right now, and they are in yours, too. It's how they learn and who they are. So it is important that we include art in our instruction, particularly in the area of math.

The Athletes

The link between reading and physical coordination is one which is routinely overlooked in public schools. The fact is that learning is enhanced by physical activity. Children who are gifted in this area need to move in order to learn.

This is why using energizers will help support their learning.

The Computer Guys

Steve Jobs. Bill Gates. Need I say more?

The Musicians

Another reason for using energizers, these kids think in terms of melodies, riffs, and steady beats. There is a lot of mathematics in music so approaching fractions in this manner will connect with and help motivate them.

The "beat" in music is generally a "quarter note," and it can be subdivided into two "eighth notes" or four "sixteenth notes." It's a natural way to study fractions!

Bringing in a cool set of Paper Jamz drums with paper amp lights up these kids like nothing else. They are super motivated to get the problems right for their chance at playing a drum roll just before each answer is announced.

Paper Jamz drums can be used to motivate kids in math.

Paper Jamz amp for use with paper drums.

Neuro Cognitive Schools Get It Right

In neuro cognitive schools students have the opportunity to discover, explore, and develop their unique gifts and interests in multi-aged clubs or workshops. In these pure examples of authentic education, students are allowed to choose afternoon sessions according to their talents and interests, each one providing a math and reading focus in order for students to practice the skills they have learned in the morning core classes.

This afternoon time is also used to catch kids up. Those who are behind in reading and math work very hard in special remediation sessions so that they can join their classmates in regular workshops.

It is absolutely education at its very best.

Go to Art and Learning from How to Motivate Students
Go to Use of Music from How to Motivate Students

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Team Building

Nothing is quite as motivating as being part of a team. Shared experiences and activities can help build a sense of family within your classroom and help motivate your students. Though field trips are certainly good, they are short-lived. Activities which can be sustained throughout the year are the best for this kind of motivation.

Multi-age Activities

Scheduling activities across grade levels is a strong activity, particularly when partnering with younger children. Shared reading and writing projects seem to always motivate students of all ages, and middle school children love to assume the role as mentor to younger children.

Cool Gadgets and Toys

Kids love cool stuff which is why they are very motivated when you have cool educational gadgets and toys for them to use for reading words at the word wall, for playing games to improve focus, and for organizing the brain for reading with exercises for coordination.

Class Band

One of the most creative activities I have done through the years is forming a class band. When there has been enough talent to do so, I have jumped at the opportunity to incorporate live music into my class, taking one of my keyboards to school so that I could play with my student musicians. We always call ourselves "The Equations" and play a variety of music depending on the talent in the class.

I have been privileged to play with some phenomenal drummers as well as some really fine bass and guitar players. Some have gone on to become members of "real" bands and have been on tour in the United States and Europe.

Though I am not certain they would tell anyone they got their start in "The Equations," it is a fun memory for all of us!

About You

Never lose sight of the fact that you are the most important resource for your students. You have gifts and talents that are unique and wonderful, and no doubt you are already using them with your students so relax and let your light shine!