How do you motivate all students to enjoy learning?

This question has been mulling in my mind for a while now. As I look around my classroom, I know that all the learners in it are different and they are all at different stages in their development. For some, primary school comes easy, they learned to read and write with ease and they are used to doing well. For others literacy and numeracy is a struggle and unfortunately some of them already find school hard. I know that personality makes a difference and I have blogged before about the animals I often find in the classroom. My classroom menagerie I called it then.

Yet what is the elusive quality that motivates some students to do as little as possible and some to work as hard as they possibly can? Because I just wish I could bottle it. Why are some interested and motivated by rewards such as stickers and house points? And others not? Why do some care deeply what I say about their work and others not?

More than that though, how can I their teacher draw out the ones who just do not seem to want to push themselves? The ones who do the essential tasks but no more? The ones who usually complete their homework but only the minimum? The ones who will answer questions when asked but never raise their hands?

I know I work hard to create trust and build relationships. I know I work hard to create a stimulating and differentiated program where choice and creativity are offered. Yet as I look around my classroom I know I am not reaching them all. Yes there are many who are learning and working as hard as they can, whether gifted, struggling or in-between. But there are also those elusive few, who just do just what is required no more, no less.

You see I was one of those few. I passed through school not caring about the learning. I realised very early on that if I did not want to work, then no-one could really make me. As a result I failed many high school exams and only really became a leaner as I reached adulthood. I know that I am more of a learner now than ever but I sometimes wish I had not given up so easily in school.

How do I ensure all my students become the lifelong learners they will need to be for the future?

I have so many questions? Do you have the answers?


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  1. Jane

    This is something that I wonder about too and as a parent (also a preservice teacher) I struggle to motivate my 13 year old son to put in more than the minimum effort. I find if I relate it to something he is interested in, such as computer games, he puts more effort in but you can’t always do that. So I will watch with interest!

  2. You care. That is by far the biggest factor to ensure LLL. Your students are lucky to have you in their lives. I bet they will remember the buzz of your bright and cheerful being for many years to come. They will remember your dedication and commitment. What a life lesson!!

  3. Thank you Jeanette for your kind words, you are right I do care. Yet for a few even that does not seem to be enough. I guess it is because I care that it matters to me!

  4. Hi Jane, I too have a son who would rather be playing computer games. It worries me as an educator that a generation may be lost within the system if they fail to engage these typical boys. All I feel I can do is to ensure he still reads, every day. Even if it means using a timer as I do. To ensure he talks, everyday around the dinner table and to ensure he keeps fit and healthy. I assume the maths and problem solving he uses when playing games will build within him, life long learning skills.

  5. I don’t think students are any different than adults (teachers included). There are some who have a natural thirst for learning. I suspect that they are helped by parents and by teachers like you, but then again some children love learning despite parents or teachers who do not model this.

    There are some students who don’t seem to be interested in anything and again they might learn this from home but they might not because I have seen parents despair about their child’s apparent lack of interest.
    I still don’t know what this illusive thing is that makes some of us into life long learners, curious and creative about all manner of things. If we knew we could bottle it! Or perhaps earn a PhD!
    I think that we need to do everything in our power to satisfy the curiosity and thirst of these children and along the way we just might carry some others into this way of thinking. I think some students are still too young to ‘get’ the value of school and some, sadly never will. Perhaps they will be fortunate to meet a mentor at some point after they have left formal schooling who will help them discover the joy of learning that lots of us embrace. The teachers and other adults who don’t love learning yet what really worry me.