Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Want to Motivate Students? Make Success Attainable

It only makes sense. If students do not believe that they can be successful, why should they even try? One of the most important actions that we can do as teachers is to make sure that our students know that they can succeed at the tasks we ask them to complete. Sometimes the roadblocks to accomplishments are ones that are easy to manage, while others may require a bit more time and effort on our part.

            No matter what the obstacle is, though, teachers who want the best for their students will make school success something that is achievable for all students. Here are some actions that you can take to help students feel that their success in your class is something that is within their reach.

  • Teach students to pay attention when you are giving directions. Good listening skills and the ability to understand and follow directions will enable students to proceed with confidence because they will have a clear idea of what to do and how to do it correctly.
  • Offer plenty of models, samples, and examples of finished products so that students know what their own work should be. If you also offer examples of incorrectly done work, your students will also be aware of the mistakes that they need to avoid.
  • Offer detailed rubrics when you make assignments so that students are aware of the criteria for success.
  • When you make assignments, be sure to discuss the best study skills and time management tips that will allow students to make good choices when they begin working. Teachers who take the time to help students figure out the most efficient ways to do their work make it easy for students to do well.
  • Even if students are not officially working together on a project, provide opportunities for them to consult each other or periodically check each other’s work. Allowing them to do this often clears up mistakes before they become permanent ones.
  • Make sure students know how to seek help from you while they are in class or even after class. Making yourself available at appropriate times to help students can really make a difference for those students who may be struggling with an assignment.
  • Break down larger projects into smaller increments with specific mini-due dates so that students are not overwhelmed.
  • When you are working with student formative assessments, take the time to offer specific encouragement instead of just praise or error catching.
  • Check to be certain that all of your students have the resources they need to do their work. If a project calls for online research, for example, students will need access to a computer and printer. Even something as insignificant as the lack of a pencil can make it difficult for students to do their work well.
  • Be prepared to allow students who need extra time to complete an assignment to have that time. Be flexible and work together with them to determine an acceptable deadline. Sometimes just a bit of extra time is all that students need to really do a good job on an assignment.
  • Use the electronic resources available to you to share information and notes about class on a classroom blog or Website. Be careful to keep your postings about such important information as homework, classwork, grades, and other requirements updated regularly.
  • Appeal to your students’ learning style preferences whenever you can so that they can access the material as easily as possible.
  • Offer assignments that allow students to present their work in different modalities so that they will be motivated to work well. Vary the types of finished products you require whenever you can, also. Allowing students to have a choice in the type of final product they need to produce will encourage them to work to completion.
  • Show students how to take good notes for your class and how to maintain an organized notebook. Keeping up with notes and papers  is an important skill that can make it easier for students to succeed. Experienced teachers know all too well the frustration of watching students search overstuffed book bags for missing papers.
  • Design assignments so that the difficulty level of the work begins with items that are easy to manage and then progresses in complexity. This encourages student confidence and willingness to persist at completing the assignment.
  • Provide appropriate enrichment and remediation opportunities as often as you can. Both offer students a chance to improve skills and develop knowledge.
  • Make frequent checks of student progress so that students are aware of what they need to do to succeed.
  • Encourage students to reflect on and self-assess their own work. Students who engage in metacognition about their assignments and work habits tend to be more successful than those who do not.

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