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General Science and Teaching

How to Motivate

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Alex Storts Alex Storts 468 Points

I am getting ready to start student teaching in an inner-city school and a lot of students are simply not motivated. Some have IEP's, but the ones that are perfectly capable of doing their work and they don't. I dont want to waste all of my time on trying to get these students to do their work because that is not fair to the rest of the students. How do I motivate all of the students without focusing too much one one particular student? Thanks!

Al Byers Albert Byers 4498 Points


I appreciate your query and see that others are responding. Outstanding! So for what's it's worth, I'll chime in and add my 2 cents..

I'm located at Virginia Commonwealth Univesity, which is an urban facing institution, with over 40% of our students from diverse backgrounds. We collaborate with some of the 'highest needs' schhool districts in the area, e.g., Richmond City Public Schools, Petersburg City Public Schools, Chesterfield County, Henrioc County, etc. What I'm learning is that while many focus on engaging NGSS (3D learning) that interwines the three dimensions of practices, core ideas and cross-cutting concepts, building off anchor phenomena, and students' own driving questions--all Awesome recommendations we should move towards with utmost importance, there is also a body of research out there looking at how to also work with high need students from diverse and varying socio-economic backgournds, Here's a couple references from Chris Edmim out of Columbia University (and others) that might help in your quest (several full texts available online):

For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood...and the Rest of Y'all Too (Reality Pedagogy and Urban Education) By Chris Edmins, 2016

Exploring the Impact of Reality Pedagogy: Understanding its Implementation on Urban Immigrant Students, Universal Journal of Eduactional Research, 5 (11), 2017 (Tanzina Taher, Felicia Mensah, Christopher Edmin).

Moving Beyond the Boat without a Paddle: Reality Pedagogy, Black Youth, and Urban Science Education, Christopher Edmin, The Journal of Negro Education, V. 80, N. 3, 284-295 (2016).

There may be something there, looking across the 5 C's of culturally relevant/critical Reality Pedagogy for those in urban settings:

  • Cogenerative Dialogs (discourse structured to emulate way manyu urban youth communicate-cypher)
  • Co-teaching (role reversal, student plans lesson, ensures relavancy, teacher observe, student empowerment/identity)
  • Cosmopolitianism (transforms classroom roles (responsibilties for each other and value of differences), greeter, equip distributor, tech manager, even comedian (comic relief).
  • Context (bringing in cultually releavnt artifacts into classroom as anchor to lifeworlds outside classroom for urban students, e.g., weathering-using images of worn street signs, store fronts, graffiti art)
  • Content (related to academic science content), teachers' willingness to expose and embrace limitations in content knowledge in classroom, student/teacher explore content togehter. Reframing that knowledge is infinite, ripe for interrogation. Reframing of who is a content expert could highlight science-informed professions not traditionally viewed as scientific (music engineers, graffiti artists).

Hope it helps...great question we should be exploring and addressing.

Megan Hardesty Megan Hardesty 500 Points

Student engagement can be a very tricky thing to encourage. I believe that the first step is creating strong student relationships. When students feel comfortable with you as a person, mentor, and friend, they are more likely to contribute to conversations and activities. Find out their interests and cater to them. Discover their different preferred learning styles. Vary your daily activities. Do not let the routine turn your classroom into one that the kids dread. Everyday in school should be a chance for them to learn while also expressing themselves, trying new things, and being hands-on.

Emma Neuss Emma Neuss 350 Points

I can see that you have probably already graduated and may have figured this out on your own, but it never hurts to get new ideas. I find that being excited about the work and designing lessons that are culturally relevant to the students will help motivate them to participate. It may take a few months for them to really catch on, but if they see that you're persistent and passionate, I don't think that they could resist for too long. Most of them may have a negative outlook on school and that is why they don't participate, so try and show them how good school is and why they should be interested. 

Dakota Grosscup Dakota Grosscup 775 Points

I also struggled with this this semester at the beginning of my student teaching. One thing I learned was try and have patience. It's easier somedays than others. Another thing I did was tried and relate to them and what they like. I came up with questions that related to them and their likes and got more participation in answering questions and discussions that way. Hands on activites and group work was another way that I got students to interact and participate. However, you may have to assign them certain roles depending on the activity they are doing. We did a fossil dig and everyone was wanting to dig, even though some had to write, map, and clean. So I gave them roles and a time limit then had them switch. Hope this helps!

Kyle Skillings Kyle Skillings 4340 Points

I am Kyle Skillings, an elementary education major from the University of Northern Iowa. I am heading into my student teaching experience this spring and share the concern of engagement and motivation in the classroom. I think science is a great model for motivation. It's hands on and has a natural- relevant connection to real life because science is a subject that requires discovering life. Relevancy is the key to any lesson. If students don't find a topic relevant to their lives, then it means nothing to them. Make it about a topic of interest, then motivation will eventually come. A great way to establish this relevancy is devising an impacting hook. Once this is implemented, then most students should be interested in the topic at hand. I will conclude by saying that remaining poised and being persistent is the key for students, especially those with IEP's. Get to know all of your students to find their interests. Also, find something you like about the topic at hand. If you don't appreciate what you're teaching, then it will reflect to your students. You got this and you are awesome!!!

Helen Martinez Helen Martinez 1175 Points

I've been teaching for 19 years and, unfortunately, there's no one right answer.  I'd suggest that you start off with something simple that all students can get involved in as a way to encourage team work.  I usually start the year off with The Marshmallow Challenge (teams build a tower out of spaghetti sticks and tape that supports a full-size marshmallow) as a way to get them talking to each other about science.  Continue with frequent, simple activities.  You'll see some come around and chances are you'll hear some pretty good conversations.  Best of luck!

Stephanie Gomez Stephanie Gomez 390 Points

Can you give me more inofrmation about your Marshamellow Challenge?  It sounds fun and like something I would like to try.

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