Four More Ideas for Motivating Learners

As a continuation from his previous blog post, teacher trainer, Alex Warren shares four more ways to ensure a positive learning experience to develop motivation for teen learners within the ELT classroom.  

1. Learner-Centered Learning

Take a step back from being the sage on the stage and become the guide on the side. Let students take control of their own learning, or at least give them the opportunity to discover for themselves, either individually or in groups, what they know and can do. American poet Mark van Doren had it spot on when he said that “The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery”, and this is especially true of the English language classroom. So, when it comes to teaching new grammar and lexis, don’t always stand at the front of the classroom presenting. Encourage students to discover for themselves through a guided discovery approach. This way not only will you make the learning journey more memorable for them, it’ll also empower them and help them to develop their autonomy. Remember, independent learners become motivated learners, motivated learners become confident learners and confident learners become life-long learners.

2. Make it Fun

Just because they’re teenagers doesn’t mean that they don’t enjoy playing games. Games are an integral part of the ELT classroom regardless of whether you’re teaching young learners, teens or adults. Indeed, I’ve seen adults have as much fun doing games as 7-year-olds, it’s just as case of choosing the right kind of games. As well as being motivating, games also have the benefit of involving everyone in the class, relaxing the learning environment, bringing language to life and making learning meaningful and enjoyable.

3. Use Technology

Teens love technology, especially their mobile devices. They live their lives through them and so it makes perfect sense to incorporate technology into class whenever we have the opportunity to do so. That might be using mobile devices for internet research activities or quizzes, using mobile cameras, voice recorders or using programmes like Kahoot, Mentimeter, Quizlet and Padlet to bring learning to life through a familiar format. Similarly, using social media sites and class blogs is another way of bringing learning into their digital world. And what teenagers don’t like those?

A unit opener called “Your Virtual Self” from Impact

4. Create a Positive Learning Environment

If we want students to enjoy coming to their English classes, we need them to enjoy coming into the English language classroom. Therefore, we need to create an environment in which they feel welcome, relaxed, respected, supported and safe. Students need to know that when they come into the language classroom it is a place where they are free to express themselves without judgment, a place where mistakes are seen as a chance to develop, improve and learn; a place where not just the teacher but classmates too, are always encouraging and positive. A lot of this comes from the teacher, but setting class rules at the start of the school year in tandem with the students can play an important part in this. The physical environment of the classroom can also have an impact on motivation – no one wants to learn in a room that is bereft of color or light or which is cold and gloomy. The simple act of having posters or student work on the walls is a simple way of making a room more inviting and therefore more motivating to be in. In essence, if we can create the right environment within the classroom, then it provides the perfect background for language learning

So, while motivating teens isn’t always going to be an easy task, hopefully, we have seen that by no means is it an impossible task. By creating a positive learning experience for your students using the different ideas above, you can certainly go some way to solving the puzzle of teen motivation.


Further Reading
Techniques & Principles in Language Teaching, Larsen-Freeman and Anderson, 2011
Motivational Strategies in the Language Classroom, Zoltan Dornyei, 2001
ETPedia Teenagers, Hughes and Dudley, 2018
Teenagers, Lewis, 2007
A Positive Learning Experience ETP March 2016, Bress, 2016
Motivation in your Classroom, Helen Stephenson, NGL In Focus blog

Author: Alex Warren

Alex Warren is a DELTA trained teacher trainer with over 14 years’ experience of working in ELT as a teacher, academic director and teacher trainer. Working for National Geographic Learning, Alex is driven by his passion for developing teachers on a global scale and helping them to reach their true potential. A firm believer in a communicative approach to language learning and student centred learning, Alex enjoys working with innovative, thought-provoking materials and presenting on a wide range of ELT-related topics.

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