Strategies to Motivate Students in the Classroom

Children, those with and without special needs, often suffer from a lack of motivation when it comes to learning. This lack of motivation can impact the students in the classroom in many ways. Developing strategies to address the student’s lack of motivation is vital to school success.  Motivation comes in two forms: intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation.  Intrinsically motivated students are naturally motivated to do their work.  Extrinsically motivated students are motivated by external rewards.


The following are some ideas for motivating students:

  • Build relationships with your students. You will be able to better understand their learning needs and, therefore, tailor your instruction when you know more about your students. Showing a personal interest in your students will also inspire their trust in you and make it more likely that they will be open to learning new material without the fear of failure.
  • Use examples as often as possible. Many students want to see a finished product so that they fully understand what is expected of them. This will help them to be more confident as they learn new concepts thus increasing their motivation to learn.
  • When possible, hand over control to the student. If students have control they are much more likely to be committed to the lesson.  Offer students choices of how the material will be presented and what type of activities they would like to engage in for reinforcement of the lessons.  Ask the students for input regarding the methods by which they learn best. This will help you to offer differentiated instruction to the students that require different methodologies.  It also helps the students to know that you care about them and are willing to do your part in their success.
  • Use all types of technology available to you. We are living in the age of technology and students are learning to use it at very early ages.  Lessons presented to students via computers, Smartboards, Ipads etc will help even the most distractible student attend because they view these devices as something fun and “cool” as opposed to learning from books alone.
  • Provide specific praise to students for little things and big things. Display their work around the classroom and mention it to classroom visitors.  Tell the students how proud you are of them when they learn a new concept that you know they had difficulty understanding. Recognize when one student does something kind for another student.  Recognize the class when they have followed the classroom rules for a day or week.  Send POSITIVE notes home to the parents and make sure that the student knows that you are doing so.
  • Set up a token or points system. Many students require external rewards for motivation.  There are those that may think of this as “bribery” and thus, undesirable. The reality of it is that we all work for external rewards; we just call it a paycheck. Also, rewards give students something tangible to remind them of an accomplishment.
  • Show your creativity. The use of games as a reinforcer for learned material is fun for the students, especially if there is a prize at the end for the winners. Using visual aids such as colorful charts, diagrams and videos can be motivating. Create a classroom that is exciting by using posters, seasonal themes and displays of student work.
  • Establish Routines. Many students need to know what to expect when they walk into a classroom. This provides them comfort and a sense of control. When students feel comfortable and in control, they are much more motivated and open to learning.
  • Be Expressive and Smile. Greet the students with a smile everyday and tell them that you are glad to see them. When you appear happy and motivated then your students will respond in kind.