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New Teachers

Motivating Students

Author Post
Nick Paliswat Nick Paliswat 331 Points

I am transitioning into my student teaching in a failing school district in an inner city middle school.  I take a lot of time to get to know my students and to try and build relationships.  One thing that is a constant battle is motivating the students to due the work.  Many of the teachers have the same issue day to day.  The kids are on a no fail policy and they are well aware that zero work still allows them to pass on to the next grade.  What kinds of things can I try as a motivational tool to reach some of the students that refuse to do anything?

Gustavo Sanabria Gustavo Sanabria 525 Points

Hi Nick,

One thing you can do to motivate these students is show them how the specific topic they are learning can be applied to real every day life situations. I think that once somebody can relate a topic to a personal situation/experience, only then will they have a much bigger incentive to learn the material. I find it easiest to learn when something is made relatable, as it helps me put ideas into context with much more clarity and ease. 


Pamela Dupre Pamela Dupre 92369 Points

Nick, this is a tough situation and I don't know that there is any one way to resolve such an issue. I'm not sure what your school life was like in middle school but it just may be that you can share something that you encountered during those difficult middle school years that will connect with your students. I am one of seven children. School was something that came easily to me but was not noticed by my parents. My siblings all made me hide my report cards until the day after they showed theirs to our parents. Then, divorce happened right before I went to middle school. Still, school was the only place I excelled and got positive reinforcement from my teachers. Except that my 8th grade math teacher embarrassed me in front of class one day when I didn't understand how to solve a problem. That one day caused me to withdraw any interest in math from then until 10th grade. My 10th grade math teacher promised the entire class on the first day of school that if we were struggling with something, the only way he could help us is if we let him know. Because of him, I started to like math again. Perhaps you can share something like this with your students. Some students are self-motivated and some need a little push. I'm also aware that in some cultures, it isn't 'cool' to be the smart kid. 

I found an article you might be interested in reading to gain some insight.


Gabe Kraljevic Gabe Kraljevic 4564 Points

Hello Nick,

If you ever find the answer to this you'll be up for a Nobel Prize!  

There really is no sure-fire method that will motivate every student.  So, use several methods.  One is to make the students take interest in what you are teaching by having them come up with what they would like to investigate or adapt a lesson to include something they are really interested in.  Such as, for a kid who is interested in basketball have them ask a question related to the sport that would be conducive to an experiment.  Perhaps pressure of the ball vs height of bounce.  Type of shoe vs vertical jump.  etc.  

Another way is to address their strengths. Allow choice in how a student can complete some assignments.  For instance: A good rapper could video a summary of one of your lessons.  A good artist might want to create a graphic novel.  (Look up the seven intelligences.) 

This might not work at middle school, but you might want them to dream what their life will be at age 25. Then look at what their lifestyle would cost.  Then find jobs that will hit a salary that would allow them to live like that.  In general, you can find a correlation between education and salary. Doctors get paid so well because they go to school for a long time.  

Bring in some speakers that can act as role-models - particularly if you can find a former student of your school.  That may have more impact than you might expect.  

Good luck, and please let me know if you ever find the right answer!

Hope this helps,


Jillian Priess Jillian Priess 1085 Points

Make them responsible for their learning. Create a reward in your classroom that is outside the pass/fail. Maybe a pizza party, special privileges. Sometimes though if you have students that will refuse to do work you can not stop the flow of your classroom for one student. It is sad to leave someone behind, but don't compromise your whole class for one student. 

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