Motivation is, in my opinion, the single most important factor in pretty much everything, including learning english
as a second language. Most of the time, if not always, students are their own worst enemies when it comes to motivation: sometimes they set too high objectives, sometimes they set them too low; sometimes they make a commitment they cannot fulfil; sometimes they don't set any objectives at all. For all these reasons students, sooner or later in the course, experience a lack of motivation and become discouraged in their learning process. I work a lot to keep students' motivation high all the time, to keep my students protected from themselves, as I like to say. If we draw the learning process as a line on a graph we can see that it slowly increases for beginner and elementary levels, it rises very quickly for pre-intermediate and intermediate levels and then it starts levelling again for advanced levels.
When students experience a certain decrease in motivation, I use different techniques and tools to get them back on track. These tools and techniques depend very much on their level.
For the beginner and elementary students, I try to remind them what enormous progress they made from the beginning, by comparing their initial material and the current one; or I remind them that EVERYONE, including english
people, learn english
from the basics; or I give them small and easy translations to make from italian
. I find the latter has the biggest impact. Simple translations on someone's routine or a family activity (simple present and present continuous), etc.
For the pre-intermediate and intermediate, I usually work on their self-motivation. These students usually are in a rush to achieve results. They have now mastered some more english
tools and they start raising the bar a bit too much. Typically these students would want to watch and understand full featured films, or listen to the radio and they would be very frustrated by not being able to. This is where I put boundaries rather than lifting them, lowering their objectives a bit. I make them understand that they indeed are at a good level and they achieved a lot, but there is still a lot to learn and they should do it by setting ACHIEVABLE objectives. To do this, I have prepared a one-page guide
on how to improve their vocabulary and grammar use by using different tools and techniques. I highlight different ways they can gain new vocabulary and keep their grammar fresh.
For the advanced level the situation is slightly different because usually they have a good knowledge of english
and they use the language on a regular basis. With these students I use the “exclusive” approach. I usually tell them that I am going to teach them some really special parts of the english
language. This is where I introduce phrasal verbs and idioms to make them start thinking like “true” english
Having said this, I also remind my students that learning english
is an activity that requires commitment and dedication and I urge them to consider if they have done everything they could so far or if they could do a little bit more before feeling defeated. Most of the time, confronted with this, they realise that maybe they could spend a little more time on their homework or other learning activities.
Motivation works differently for every students. I believe that the more a teacher
knows their students the higher the possibility of making them successful students.