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Even the best teacher has days when their students just won't pay attention. Perhaps the whole class is anxious for summer, or perhaps a few students have a hard time listening. Students never seem to focus completely all the time. However, there are a few simple ways any teacher can motivate their students. Positive energy is a key for motivating students. Educator Barbara Gross Davis tells us that students respond positively to enthusiasm on the teacher's part. But any strong emotion won't do to motivate students. Positive emotions, Robert Harris insists, are necessary to motivate students. In his article Motivation in the esl Classroom, William T. Lile writes “A smile is contagious. Positive attitude is a must for a successful learning atmosphere.” Fun is a big part of positive energy. Students who are learning about something they want to learn will be much more motivated to learn grammar than students who are learning about a boring subject. Davis suggests letting students have some say in what will be studied. This is not possible in all courses, but it should be fairly simple to incorporate student interests into esl lessons. Lile adds that problem students are often discouraged and punished instead of encouraged. How, he asks, can anyone expect a student to learn english while being actively discouraged by their teacher? Davis suggests de-emphasizing grades. Grades may motivate a few very competitive students, but especially in esl, they will often discourage the students who need most to be motivated. Similarly, using grades as threats simply does not work. Clarity is also an important factor in motivating students. This is a problem even when students are speaking their own language. Robert Harris writes “Research shows that many students do poorly on assignments or in participation because they do not understand what to do or why they should do it.” esl students will be especially discouraged if they cannot understand what it is they are supposed to do. teachers who explain instructions slowly, clearly, and in multiple ways are much more likely to have happy students than teachers whose students are frustrated due to miscommunication. Lile suggests using achievable, relevant material, in other words, texts that students will be able to understand with a little work. Harris points out the need for visual learning, which is especially crucial for esl students. Achievement is what will keep students wanting to learn english. In order to want to learn more, students need to feel like they are really progressing. Achievable material is a part of this. Another aspect of achievement is involvement. In order to feel as though they are really learning, students must participate in classroom activities and be encouraged when they succeed. “Students love to be needed,” Harris says. Similarly, Davis emphasizes the need to have students feel achievement based on mastery, not on their grades. She also recommends increasing difficulty as the course progresses. While doing this, it is a good idea to point out to students just how much they have progressed. This will spur them on into greater achievement. Positive energy, clarity, and achievement are three key factors to helping students want to learn. Without positive energy students would be bored by lessons. Without clarity, students would find lessons difficult and frustrating. Without achievement students would never feel like they were getting anywhere. If a teacher incorporates these ideas into lessons, students will want to learn. Bibliography “Motivating Students” Barbara Gross Davis http://honolulu.Hawaii.edu/intranet/committees/FacDevCom/guidebk/teachtip/motiv.htm “Motivation in the esl Classroom” William T. Lile http://iteslj.org/Techniques/Lile-Motivation.html “Some Ideas for Motivating Students” Robert Harris http://www.virtualsalt.com/motivate.htm