How to Keep Students Motivated

I am a huge believer that a student’s intrinsic motivation comes from building and fostering a community-centered classroom. While this year is incredibly unique, the one thing that remains constant is the essential teaching practice of creating a classroom community. With students longing for interaction, this is a phenomenal opportunity to engage students’ intrinsic motivation.

It is important for me to reflect on my delivery methods and the students' views on assignments. I am trying to change my students’ mindset to become more intrinsically motivated. With other more alluring options, choosing to come to a video meeting is not always at the forefront of young minds. Hence my effort to change their perception of school and motivate them to become active participants. My goal is to convey that student grades are not what they have earned, but rather grades show what they have learned. I consistently ask myself if the verbiage I am utilizing during instruction is promoting discovery, learning, and intrinsic motivation within my students, rather than promoting compliance. I reflect on these questions frequently during instructional times to see if I am actively promoting intrinsic motivation.

For example, when explaining a fun and engaging activity I must refrain from making it a compliance issue by reminding students they will have a test later on it. If you would like insight into how to change your verbiage to promote intrinsic motivation rather than compliance, check out this article: How to Choose Words That Motivate Students During Online Learning

Student engagement and motivation are always at the forefront of our minds. They have been educational buzzwords for some time now. I know when I am planning, I constantly think about how I can get students to want to do their work. Teachers, more than ever, are spending endless hours trying to make sure students in their classrooms are motivated to learn from intrinsic forces rather than extrinsic. Below are some strategies that encourage community building and social engagement.

Good Things

During these strange times, we are all starved of attention. Social isolation has multiple ramifications—namely lower productivity, lower self esteem, and general malaise. In these trying times, I am trying to impact my community by creating a small community online. A simple practice that I institute in my daily lesson to promote community and social interaction is having students share “good things” (an activity within the program Capturing Kids Hearts). This seemingly innocuous practice of letting students share good things allows them to feel they are worthy of being acknowledged and are valued members of our community.  This sense of community and camaraderie entices students to come back day after day to have their good things heard and to hear the good things of their fellow community members. 


Co-Creating Norms

Have you ever tried to force a kid to do something? You were probably met with a complete power struggle. To mitigate this issue and enhance students' engagement, I sit with my students and we work as a collective to create our classroom norms. My go-to activities for creating a safe learning environment where student voices are heard are: The Right Family activity, Broken Circle activity, and Sara VanDerWerf’s 100 numbers activity.

These activities guide the students to self discovery and creating norms that are conducive to an effective and inclusive learning environment. To synthesize all the information covered we then utilizing the Build It activity where they work as a group to compile the norms and make our class rules, procedures and norms. By working in concert to create these norms, I ensure buy-in from my students and motivate them to fulfill their part of the social contract we constructed together.



Here is why I love Flipgrid: it builds confidence, it helps with shyness, it lets students be social, and it builds community. Students are allowed and encouraged to use Flipgrid (a video response tool) to collaborate and comment on each others' school-related material. I have even created some fun topics on Flipgrid to encourage general social interaction outside of class. I have noticed that since using Flipgrid students feel more comfortable coming to class, turning their cameras on and are motivated to converse.  One of my new classroom jobs was inspired by this interest in Flipgrid.  The “News Reporter” has become the most coveted job yet! The “New Reporter” synthesizes what we did in class on Flipgrid for absent students. Try it! The kids are now motivated to pay attention so they can be the “News Reporter.”


Modify and Adjust

Don’t be afraid of technology. One thing I have come to realize is that my focus of control have shifted completely, but in my experience students have risen to the expectation time after time. I was terrified to let my 1st hour students go into breakout rooms until a student mentioned they wanted to discuss a problem with their peers. In that instant, I decided that my fear of two children being inappropriate should not decide the fate of the 98% of other students that would maturely handle the task. When I decided to modify and adjust my teaching to meet the needs of my students I was amazed at the result. They were incredibly motivated to participate! Every breakout room I popped into was running smoothly with students presenting their work and actively participating in mathematical discourse. We took this a step further when I noticed the kids respecting the boundaries WE had co-created. 


Nicole Mercurio

Nicole Mercurio currently lives in Tempe, Arizona, where she teaches 6th Grade Math for the Tempe Elementary School District at Gilliland Middle School. Nicole has 6 years of experience teaching math in Pre-K, 3rd grade, 5th grade, 6th grade, and 8th grade. She has spent all of her time in the classroom fostering the love of math to her students in many states including North Carolina, Arizona, and Massachusetts! Nicole loves to create resources for making math enjoyable and attainable for everyone. She is a New Englander at heart and loves all Boston sports! In her free time she loves to go to the pool to escape the heat! Follow her on twitter: @MathWithMsM