Motivating Students

Students may be motivated to participate in a variety of ways. While motivational techniques may be used at any point during a lesson, teachers are particularly encouraged to begin lessons with some way of capturing student's attention and interest. Although the goal is to foster intrinsic motivation over time, some of the possibilities described below also motivate extrinsically in view of several obstacles to motivation that exist. (See Power Point file: Motivate.ppt)

Current event: Teachers may capitalize on some sporting event students saw in person or on television. Examples include the World Series, Olympics, or local highschool event. The focus of the brief discussion could be to emphasize motor skill technique, strategy, or sportsmanship (or lack thereof) observed.

Example: The teacher asks students what was remarkable about the Michigan State-Northwestern football game over the weekend (10-21-06). After soliciting a few responses, the teacher emphasizes the unusual example of perseverance--the fact that Michigan State kept playing hard even when they were down by 35 points in the third quarter (38-3). Their perseverance resulted in the biggest comeback in college football history, winning the game 41-38.

Humor: Humor helps create a friendly environment in nearly any setting. Although a teacher needs to distance herself from students to some degree to maintain authority, she can still remain friendly. As teachers use humor they need to avoid directing the humor at the attributes or performance of students. One way to do so is to direct the humor to themselves, or to the instructional situation at hand.

Example: As the teacher crosses the volleyball court she is hit in the head with a hard spike. Instead of expressing any ill regard for the student, she responds: "How's that for using your head."

Impending activity: Often students look forward to participating in a particular activity, such as a favorite game. Teachers may motivate students by informing them that time has been set aside for the preferred activity, provided that students give good effort toward other instructional objectives first.

Example: The teacher intends to devote most of a period to individual practice of basketball skills. Students are to rotate to stations and record their progress for dribbling, passing and shooting on individual skill cards. Since independent practice requires considerable self-responsibility, the teacher begins the instructions by noting that time will remain at the end for playing scooter basketball if students use their time well.

Personal goal: Many people are motivated by trying to achieve a personal goal, particularly when small steps toward that goal may be measured along the way. Helping students to realize their abilities and limitations enables them to more realistically set and attain goals both in and out of class.

Example: The teacher dispurses fitness charts to encourage them to move aerobically outside of class. Each student is responsible for monitoring the time they walk, jog, bicycle and/or in-line skate for one month. The total time is converted to distance to represent traveling from the Headwaters of the Mississippi river to the Gulf of Mexico.

Teacher participation: Participating with students indicates to them that teachers value and enjoy a given activity. Whether the activity is rope jumping indoors or jogging outdoors, it is easier to justify in the minds of students when the teacher is willing to participate also. Naturally, teachers cannot regularly participate and fulfill other responsibilities at the same time, such as setting up equipment, supervising activity, giving students feedback, or assessing performance. In addition, the sheer demands of an activity may necessitate participating with some classes on one day, and other classes on another day.

Example: As students jog on the track five minutes for warm-up, the teacher jogs with Periods 1 and 4 on Monday, Periods 2 and 5 on Wednesday, and Periods 3 and 6 on Friday. To enhance supervision, the teacher intermittently jogs "against traffic" in an outer lane.

Trivia question: Students may be interested to know specific facts about a sport or activity to gain better appreciation for the athletic abilities or attributes required.

Example: Prior to playing badminton, the teacher asks students how fast the shuttle can travel after it is hit. After soliciting a few ideas, students may be surprised to learn that a shuttle can travel nearly 200 miles per hour, twice as fast as a major league pitcher throws the ball. Aside from learning a new fact, the information has meaning when contrasted with most people's impression of the physical demands of badminton.


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© Steven A. Henkel, 10/06

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