I know people write full books about this topic. I’m not looking to dissect motivations here, but shine a light on the basic key to student motivation.
5 Easy Steps to Uncover Student Passions and Interests
1. Observe students. What sort of activities excite them? This is very telling. A student with a passion for technology may eagerly begin creating a Social Studies PowerPoint, but reluctantly demonstrate the same understanding by writing a story.
2. Collect information from students. Most of the time students know themselves best. I have students complete this About Me form during the first few days of school. Some students are easily motivated or they know exactly what they like and what motivates them, while others are tougher to analyze. This gives be a great starting place to make sure I am best equipped to meet all student needs.
3. Reflect, reflect, reflect. I’m a huge fan of reflections. I provide students many avenues to reflect. To me, it doesn’t matter how it’s done; as long as reflection is taking place, so is growth. We reflect on our goals and at the end of units or projects. Really, we reflect every day, but those mentioned are our “formal” reflections. These reflections enable self-awareness. Also, when reflection becomes a part of your classroom culture, students seem to be more invested. I think reflections alone are motivating to students. That aside, the reflections provide you with more insight into your students likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses. It’s a time for honesty, and wow, 5th graders are HONEST!
4. Set goals. Some students are naturally goal-oriented. Others, not-so-much. Regardless, I’ve found that making progress towards a goal feels good to all students. When you give students control of setting their own goals, you put the student in the driver’s seat. They have just set a goal for themselves to reach. THEY created them, NOT the teacher. This motivates students. It also, once again, gives you the opportunity to see what is currently important to them, what they are motivated to achieve.
5. Teach students about the multiple intelligences. You may have an understanding of each student’s unique learning profile, but when students understand it, they become more invested in their learning. I’ve seen it several times – after students learn how they learn, they feel empowered. I’ve seen magic happen by engaging in this dialogue with students.
5 Easy Steps A 6th Step to Uncover Student Passions and Interests
6. Kidblog. I had to take the easy out of this one, just because it requires that you roll it out successfully first. Through independent posts on Kidblog, you are able to get to know your students even better! You’re able to gain more insight into what motivates your students. For those who really enjoy Kidblog, publishing work to Kidblog is a motivating factor on it’s own.
Sometimes, around this time of year, we need reminders of the simple things. Just like you and I, students are intrinsically motivated by their passions and interests. They are intrinsically motivated when they are invested in a project or understand its significance.
Whenever I feel like a student is unmotivated, I look towards myself. Have I uncovered this students passion yet? Have I found what drives him or her? If not, that’s where I have to start. The 5 points listed above help me greatly.