A lack of motivation can be the biggest obstacle to success for students. This is particularly true of students studying english
as part of a school curriculum as opposed to chosen independent study; they may find it difficult to see how learning the english
language will benefit them scholastically and in their personal lives. Adult learners tend to sign up for english
courses for personal or career related reasons. The most important factor here is that these students have chosen to study the english
language and generally begin the course feeling excited and motivated.
Herein lies the objective for the teacher
s: to MOTIVATE young or unwilling students and to RETAIN motivation of autonomous learners. We must first accept that the desire to please the teacher
will never be (and nor should it be) the central motivator for learners. The simple fact is that students should develop a personal sense of motivation. It is the teacher
’s job to inspire and nurture that desire.
The next step then, is to get to know our students, find ways to relate to them and develop lesson plans around topics that will captivate their interests.
In my experience of using a student type book in privately tutoring young (six and seven year old) intermediate english
speakers, the books were valuable in many ways. They provided some structure and the exercises were designed progressively, in the sense that I noticed repetition but a steady progression toward more complicated language points. They also included Unit Reviews that were useful for me, the inexperienced “teacher
” to understand if the children
had actually learned the material. And herein was the problem: I found on particularly boring units, the kids
were simply not absorbing the material, or they were retaining it only long enough to complete the exercises and could remember nothing the next day. They were lacking motivation because they simply were not interested in much of the material. For example, a unit on simple creative writing that focused on American cities. For italian children
not only was this not an interesting topic, but it was nearly impossible for them to understand with their limited understanding of world geography. After ten minutes of attempting to explain countries, states, cities (the breakdown of italian
social states is very different) I had four unmotivated and frustrated children
. I decided to try something different.
We found a class of same age children
living in New York
City that wanted to correspond with us. We chose some simple topics to write letters about, using material we had already covered. Introductions, we told them about living in rome
, what we liked/disliked, what we did recreationally and lastly we asked the children
some specific questions
about things we were interested in. We read a book about New York
City and looked at pictures on the internet so we would know what types of things to ask about. We drew pictures of ourselves doing some of the things we had talked about and asked the American students to do the same. When we got our first batch of response letters the kids
were ecstatic and couldn’t wait to reply. They had never actually even written a letter in their native language before. It was while taking this course did I realize that I had, in a way, created a type of lesson plan.
The essential lesson here is that a student’s level of motivation can make or break the learning process--for the teacher
and the student. The most well-rehearsed, knowledgeable and relatable teacher
in the world will struggle if they cannot capture the attention of their students with diverse and creative lessons.