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Four Strategies for Teaching the Unmotivated Student



All teachers have or will encounter students that just do not seem to want to work. Whether it be that they do not like school or do not like the coursework, there will be some students that you just cannot seem to get through to. It is possible to reach even the most unmotivated students, and these four strategies may be the ones that work.

Strategy One: Learn the Student

Take the time to actually know your students on a personal and individual level. Do not only learn about their working styles and what you can do to help them learn the best, but also learn about their likes, dislikes, interests, goals, and ambitions. Make them feel comfortable talking to you so they can better voice their concerns. This can help you figure out what exactly what you can do to be the best teacher for them. This same concept can be applied to classwork and homework. By individualizing assignments, students are more likely to do the work. They do not want to spend an hour doing work that you know they cannot do or you know they have already mastered. Giving them more targeted work to help build their skills while keeping them challenged, but not overwhelmed, can make the work seem more manageable.

Strategy Two: Make Lessons Relatable

Many students feel unmotivated to learn because they feel like the material is totally unrelated to their lives and interests. Find ways to relate lessons to everyday life and explain why they are learning the things that they do and why it is relevant to their lives. Make lessons more interactive to engage students. This could be done a number of ways including working outside of the classroom, relating topics to current events, or taking some time to teach things that the students want to know. Finding fun ways to incorporate the curriculum will make the material more appealing and more memorable.

Strategy Three: Break Tasks into Smaller Parts

Larger tasks and projects can be overwhelming for some students, which could lead to them not wanting to do the work. By introducing larger tasks in smaller segments, the work seems more manageable and less overwhelming. Make sure that the students are using and developing the proper skills during each step of the process to ensure that they are actively learning and applying what they learn to their work. It feels more rewarding when you know that you are doing the work properly from the beginning.

Strategy Four: Focus on and Reward Individual Progress

Commenting on what they did correctly on assignments will feel better for these students. Instead of criticizing and pointing out what they did incorrectly, guide them to do the right thing. Do not say, “do not do this,” instead say, “do this instead…” The subtle change in wording is a lot more constructive and positive. Explain why what they did was not correct and offer solutions for them to use in the future. When giving verbal feedback, do not be eccentric or announce their achievements to the class. The eccentricity and public praise can make them feel singled out or targeted and announcing achievements to the class can make other students feel like they are not doing good enough.

We hope that these simple strategies can help you with your unmotivated students. Remember that the last thing unmotivated students want to feel is like they are being treated differently from their peers, so make sure that you do not make them feel targeted.

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