Motivating Your Reluctant Learners

As expectations rise with the Common Core and from the push nationwide towards college readiness, our reluctant learners, who typically score lower and have seen less success in school, can grow increasingly discouraged.  Here are a few ideas for reviving their motivation.

Celebrate learning from mistakes. Making mistakes is essential to learning, yet many students are sent the message that making mistakes is a bad thing.  Instead of praising correct answers, try regularly asking students to share mistakes they made on a task and how they fixed them, and celebrating that process.  This encourages a growth mindset and gives all students a platform on which to be successful.

Pre-teach new material. Instead of using tutorial time to review material, try pre-teaching upcoming content instead.  The students from tutorials now have a leg up the next day in class and will be more confident interacting with the material and participating in class. 

Encourage self-advocacy. Knowing how to ask for help and being confident enough to do it is an invaluable skill for our reluctant learners and lower achieving students. If they feel bad about their academic skills, they are less likely to reach out.  But if they are praised for their efforts and for acknowledging when they need help, they’ll be more comfortable with their weaknesses and more willing to ask for help.  This will be an essential mindset for students once they enter postsecondary course work, when seeking out the supports they need could make or break their success.

Practice what you preach. If we want our students to embrace their own weaknesses and learn from their mistakes, we can encourage that by modeling it ourselves.  If your students see you admitting and learning from your mistakes or reaching out for help, it shows them that it’s okay to do.  And the better your relationship with them, the more willing they’ll be to trust your model and follow your lead.

Create space for all strengths. Even with all these things in place, every student needs to have the opportunity to do things they are really great at and have that buzz of success.  Maybe some students are very musical, athletic, nurturing, or artistic.  Tying these strengths in can be really powerful and gives all students an opportunity to shine and lead, even if it’s not for an academic skill.  And even if it doesn’t tie in, just fit it in anyway.  If a student who struggles in your class had their art featured in a show, have them bring it in and share it so the class can celebrate it and that student can feel successful and strong.

No matter their scores or how they feel about your class, every students deserves to feel motivated and successful in school.  How will you give students that lift this week?

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