Image of Strategies to engage and motivate your students

Strategies to engage and motivate your students

In this blog, classroom behaviour management expert Karl C. Pupé shares effective ways to engage and motivate learners.

Motivation. What comes to mind when you think of that word? Sessions in the gym hammering the treadmill to your favourite workout soundtracks? The 1am university sessions where it took five Red Bull energy drinks to get you through 5,000 words of your third-year dissertation before the next day’s deadline? Or when you finally sent off that email to your initial teacher training provider, having decided to shape the future leaders of tomorrow?

Well, guess what? In the same way that there are a million ways to get you motivated towards your goal, it’s the same for student motivation. You, as the educator-in-charge, are a key component of their journey.

Teachers play a crucial role in lighting that motivational fire, setting the stage for epic achievements, personal growth, and possible generation-changing events that a great education can provide. You change lives every day. Never, ever forget that.

So, let me give you three of my favourite strategies to engage and motivate learners.

1) Use ‘bridging’

'Bridging' is a teaching technique that connects new concepts to what students already know. It's about creating an emotional hook by relating the subject to their genuine interests, like sports or music.

Successful bridging involves aligning our lessons with what students think is cool, rather than imposing our own outdated preferences. For example, you could use a popular song to teach language devices, like metaphors or similes.

Two important aspects of bridging are explaining the "why" behind learning something and showing practical applications. By demonstrating the relevance and usefulness of what they're learning, students stay engaged and can apply their knowledge to real-world scenarios.

  • The "why" factor: Don't just teach them how to do something; tell them why it matters! If students can't see the point of what they're learning, their attention wanders. Take my English class, for example. It was full of budding rappers and singers, so I made sure to connect metaphors, similes, and all those fancy language devices to writing killer songs. They were like, "Oh snap, this stuff actually helps us drop some sick rhymes!" Building those connections is key, folks!
  • The power of application: Let your students apply what they've learned to real-life situations as fast as possible. It's not enough to know how to solve a problem; it's about knowing when to use those techniques. Throw some real-world scenarios at them and watch their eyes light up. They'll stay engaged, retain the knowledge, and you'll avoid the dreaded lecture-induced coma. It's a win-win!

2) Tell stories

Human beings love a story.

Storytelling is a massive part of human history - we've been doing it for as long as we have been around! Stories were how we shared knowledge, history and beliefs from one generation to another. They helped build friendships and form communities for our children to thrive in. And most importantly for our ancestors, storytelling was vital for our survival, like telling others where to find food and stopping your mate from the cave next door from going in the forest and becoming a predator’s Friday-night Nando’s.

Stories make it easier for us to absorb new information and remember the key facts because they contain emotions. Here's a simple three-part framework for telling great stories that can help with motivation for students:

  1. Introduce a relatable and interesting character
  2. Present a conflict that challenges the character
  3. Show the character overcoming the problem and achieving their goal

Take Muhammad Ali as an example:

  • Part 1: He was a brilliant boxer who was also exceptionally handsome, eloquent and empathetic
  • Part 2: He was operating in a time of racial injustice, violence and coercion, and was forced in his prime to give up his titles after he defied the draft to fight in the Vietnam War
  • Part 3: He returned to the ring and, against all odds, beat George Foreman to become the heavyweight champion of the world and an icon to all peoples

Stories are everywhere you look – try to bring them into your classroom!

3) Use ‘friendly’ competition

Competition can be a powerful motivator, and let's be honest, we all love that sweet taste of victory. So, why not turn your lessons into exciting games that get students engaged?

Picture this: an interactive quiz that sets the classroom on fire with excitement. Students eagerly raise their hands, ready to answer questions and show off their knowledge. The competitive spirit takes over as they strive to outshine their peers and earn those coveted bragging rights. Hey, who doesn't want to be the cool kid in the class?

Young people are especially driven by the desire to look cool, and what better way to achieve that than by being better than their friends in something they all care about? By tapping into their natural group dynamics, you can create a positive atmosphere where students can showcase their skills, impress their peers, and feel a sense of accomplishment.

But hold on – we're not talking about cutthroat competition here. It's important to create a safe and inclusive space where students can let their competitive instincts run wild without anyone feeling left out or discouraged. Encourage teamwork, collaboration, and respect for one another. Let them learn from each other's strengths and weaknesses, and watch as they grow both academically and socially.

The beauty of these game-like activities is that they blend learning and fun seamlessly. Students won't even realize how much they're absorbing because they're too busy having a blast. By gamifying your lessons, you're not only sparking their competitive spirit but also making education an enjoyable experience.

There you have it! Pick one and try it today!

Discover more about Karl C. Pupé’s behaviour management techniques for the classroom by visiting his website.

The National College offers comprehensive professional development to help you establish a culture of positive behaviour and classroom environments where all pupils can flourish. Please click here to find out more.

If you’re concerned about keeping up to date with the latest education policy, practice and research, consider a membership with The National College. Not only does it provide access to thousands of school professional development resources for all staff, but also enables leaders to create training programmes precisely tailored to individual and collective needs, to help ensure compliance and drive up standards.