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There is something truly magical about a classroom where the students are actively engaged in the learning process. There is a constant flow of energy, as students work together to solve complex problems. Classroom environments like this don’t happen by accident. It takes a lot of planning and a willingness to trust the potential your students have to create a culture that promotes innovation and creativity.

One of the first thing visitors notice about my classroom is how engaged all of my students are from bell to bell. It takes me approximately 3 weeks at the start of each school year to create a culture that empowers my students with the tools and support they need to begin their journey. Here are 5 tried and proven tips I have used to motivate students.

We are in this together

One of the most important lessons that my students learn is that if it matters to them it matters to me. Unfortunately, for many of my students, this will be the first experience they have with an adult actually sitting down and listening to their dreams and aspirations. Together, we learn to celebrate the positive and deal with the negative. This requires that I schedule a regular time to meet with all of my students both individually and as a class. I understand the lure to steer away from doing this in today’s pressure packed school calendar. Don’t! Find something else to cut. Use this time to create a classroom family. For some of my students, it’s the only family they have. One of the major reasons my students find success is that they know they are part of a family and together we will solve whatever problem stands in our way.

Embrace failure

Don’t let the pressure of high stakes testing and new evaluation models scare you into thinking there is no place for failure in the classroom setting. Failure is one of the most important tools in my student’s toolbox for success. As a class, we constantly probe and research why things don’t work. Those efforts pay big dividends. My students develop the skills they need to understand how to solve complex problems, grow through persistence, and learn how to handle both success and failure. Failure is an inherent part of life. Teach your students how to overcome it.

Make your learning space a learning space

Ask yourself the following question? Does your learning space promote learning? The tables and chairs in my room are constantly being rearranged to support the learning of the day. Ask your students how the room could be better arranged to support the task at hand. You may be surprised at some of the ideas they have.

Discover their interests

Have you ever sat down with your students and asked what they want to learn and why? If you want to see the motivation in your students grow exponentially find a way to ‘tie in’ something they care about. Likewise, do you offer your students alternate ways to share their knowledge on a specific topic? Some of the best student work I have seen came in the form of plays, short films, songs, and video games they created in order to showcase the mastery of a skill.

Connect the curriculum to the real world

Have you ever been asked, “Why do we need to know this stuff?” Help your students answer the question by connecting the curriculum to the real world. Your assignments will take on a new purpose that will drive students to do their best.

By Joe Fatheree

Joe teaches media production and innovation at the Effingham High School in Illinois, US. He is the recipient of several education awards. His fresh approach to teaching and learning made him a key contender and top 10 finalist in the Global Teacher Prize 2016.

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