Teaching unmotivated students

<b> Forum for ESL/EFL teachers working with secondary school students </b>

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Post by crow » Mon Jun 14, 2004 6:50 am

In response to Larry-

Of course learning English is the goal- however, in order for the students to learn English, first we have to convince them that they want to learn English- otherwise it is all for naught. I have the same unmotivated Japanese teenagers, and it seems to me that their teachers have spent the last few years attempting to convince them that English is the last thing they want to learn. Boring textbooks, boring translation exercises, boring choral drilling. Is it any wonder they tune out the minute class begins? Without being an entertainer, I have no chance of teaching these kids. If they laugh at me, they will remember what I was saying. If I can even sneak a little English into their heads, I feel like a success.

I consider part of my job to be an English motivator, that is, someone who the kids want to talk to and have to use English to do so, and I often think I do more good outside of the classroom than in. Cleaning, sports, and lunch are the times the kids actually want to communicate with me, and so they try to use their skills. Many of my students don't see any purpose to learning english, as they will probably grow up to be farmers in the same town their parents were farmers and so forth back into the mists of time. I have to spark their interest somehow, and being a clown is one way to do it.

Anyway, sorry for the rant.

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Post by Sally Olsen » Mon Jun 14, 2004 1:53 pm

Just to play the devil's advocate, different styles of teaching have been researched and if the teacher cares it doesn't matter if the classes are run in a teacher-in front, controlled manner, a teacher-in-front entertainer or a student-centered focus with groups and projects. The students come out the end with the same love of the subject and mastery of it and the same proporation fail and pass. You have to be who you have to be and you can't change your basic personality. We can all probably be a little better though by working on the areas we usually don't emphasize - having a little more fun and unplanned moments if we are too controlling and controlling a little more if we are too devil-may-care. Luckily, the students are always adaptable and hopefully take the best of each of us.

It is interesting to see the politics behind the making of textbooks and curriculums and their implementation. There is something to you saying that you think teachers are discouraging English in various ways. It might not be conscious of course. It would make a fascinating study.

I feel that if I hear, "I don't need English because I am Greenlandic, Mongolian, French, Japanese, Brazilian, etc. one more time I am going to burst! What is a funny answer to that?

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Funny answer to the old "I don't need English"

Post by serendipity » Thu Jun 17, 2004 4:09 pm

Well, I actually have two stories that I tell them whenever they give me that sort of attitude.

One of them involves a friend of mine, who's a darkish sort of fellow with a strikingly beautiful wife, who happens to work for the local space-program (and who I make out to be the absolute woman of each teenager's dream in the story) inspite of her English leaving ample room for improvement.

So when it's time to attend a rocket-launch (another teenager's dream...) her husband goes along with her, and at one point during the journey they were taunting and teasing each other over there in New York.

She got upset and jokingly whacked him in the stomach with her bag of newly-bought designer-shoes, and he set out to run after her, whereupon he found himself surrounded by no-nonsense US- police-officers demanding to know in astern voice why he was bothering that woman.

She shouted"Tell them I'm your wife", but he didn't know the term for "wife". She shouted "Tell them you're my husband", but he didn't know the term for "husband". "Then for God's sake", she shouted, "Look it up in the dictionary in your coat-pocket!"

He did, and found himself pinned to the ground, with a gun pointed to his head, because they suspected he'd been reaching for his gun.

He's lucky to have made it out alive.

The second story involves a soldier who didn't know what the On/Off-switch on the sophisticated piece of high-tech weaponry stood for that he was meant to use to defend his country - a true story as well.

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Teaching unmotivated students.

Post by albinog0dwill » Tue Aug 17, 2004 2:36 am

In order to teach our students it is necessary for us to be effective teachers ourselves.

What are the qualities of an effective teacher?

"To love one's children is to be in complete communication with them: it is to see that they have the right kind of education that will help them to be sensitive, intelligent and integrated” (Krishnamurti, 2001)

I plan to address the qualities of an effective teacher on the basis of my experience and knowledge from my teaching experience from the last five years in India.I have had all kinds of students Difficult as well as adorable and you use the strtegy Different stokes for different folks. I believe effective teachers are the teachers who not only help the students learn but who also learn along with the students. Every teacher according to me possesses different qualities along with the appropriate qualifications to teach. The different techniques and strategies that one uses in class to get optimum student participation makes one what I feel an effective teacher.

As a student in high school I always wanted my teachers to be able to communicate both content matter as well as instructions clearly with us students , explain difficult concepts well, be approachable, knowledgeable, willing to listen, help prepare us for exams, help problem-solve, always be there for us when needed and take into account our student point of view. In this assessment I will focus on a few aspects like competence and creativity, respect for learner, pride in profession, the willingness to go the extra mile, skill in motivation, flexibility and most of all the willingness to take risks as well as make mistakes.
Much of the recent research on teacher effectiveness focuses on relating teacher behaviors to student achievement (Strong,2002). But this scenario is fast changing. Parents want their children to not only develop intellectually but to have an all round development and education wherein the child is encouraged to learn and think. Teaching ranks in the top quartile on complexity for all occupations. The complexity of teaching derives from its decision-making nature (Rowan,1994). Effective teachers have an extensive range of teaching strategies which they are able to employ according to the context and abilities of their class.
According to me on the basis of my 4 week practical experience at the Armadale Senior High School I believe an effective teacher is one who:
• Makes student learning the primary focus of attention
• Transforms knowledge into effective student understanding
• Has a positive regard for all students, and maintains respect for them whatever their exhibited strengths and weaknesses be.
• Establishes high, challengeable but not unreachable standards along with immense support.
• Values active over passive learning, and works to enhance :idea: students' own motivation and capacity to learn.
• Attends to student "feedback" in organizing, presenting, and structuring material, without compromising high standards and goals. Has an effective classroom management strategy.
• Models the kinds of understanding and wisdom that students should seek to develop.
• Creates a serious and thoughtful learning environment, while using light touches and humor to create a sense of community. Provides constructive criticism when required.
• Continues to learn from students and to grow in understanding of course content; uses previous experience to continually freshen perspectives. Holds him/her accountable to high standards of performance; seeks continual improvement in present and future performance (Ornstein, 1995).
The Teacher as a Person: This category includes qualities as caring, fairness and respect, interaction with students, enthusiasm, motivation, dedication to teaching, and reflective practice.
• Caring: Effective teachers care about their students genuinely and they care in such a manner that the students are also aware of it. The teachers through their patience, trust and caring attributes bring out the best in their students’ performance. A caring teacher always encourages and constantly motivates the students to perform to their maximum level.
• Listening: Effective teachers practice focused and sympathetic listening to show students they care about them. The teacher empathizes with the student providing a positive morale whenever possible. The teacher is genuine about her feelings and words making the student felt loved, needed and cherished.
• Knowing Students: Effective teachers know their students well both formally and informally sharing a two way communication system with the students. They are aware of the fact that the students come from different cultural as well as socio economic backgrounds.
• Role of Fairness and Respect: An effective teacher establishes rapport with the students by practicing fairness and respect. Teaching is all about giving respect. Students always want their teachers to treat them equally. An effective teacher is always fair and consistent. I feel students prefer when teachers treat them as people, teachers who do not use sarcastic comments and ridicule, teachers who offer students equal opportunities to participate.
• Social Interactions with Students: A teacher’s ability to relate to students and to make positive, caring connections with them plays a significant role in cultivation a positive learning environment and promoting student achievement. Teachers who attend sports, dramas etc in which their students participate build a stronger relationship with the students. An effective teacher understands the needs of all the students displaying cultural sensitivities when required.
• Promotion of Enthusiasm and Motivation for Learning: The teacher must always be enthusiastic and passionate about the subject. This then transmits to the students who in return get interested. The teacher in most of the cases is like a role model to the students. An effective, enthusiastic teacher through right motivational skills can bring out the best attributes in a student.
• Role of Reflective Practice: An important quality of an effective teacher is that of reflective practice. This skill focuses on the teacher‘s ability to assess and analyze their own practice, as well as the ability to assess students’ thinking and understanding (Stronge, 2002)
The Teacher as Classroom Manager and Organizer. Included in this category are organization, disciplining students, and classroom management. Effective teachers are able to set normality for the behavior of children and themselves in the teaching environment. They foster an environment based on interest, cooperation, independence and responsibility in order to maintain behavioral standards. Students need to know their responsibilities and behaviors when in a class to develop an orderly learning environment. The classroom rules of an effective teacher are consistent with the school policies, reasonable, understandable, and manageable and most of all consistent with the philosophy of practice what you preach to facilitate a positive learning environment (Moore, 2001)
Organizing for Instruction and Implementing Instruction. The importance of instruction, time allocation, teacher’s expectations, and instructional planning are included in this category. As a part of this category, instructional strategies, content and expectations, complexity, questioning, and student engagement are all included as important qualities. It is very important for the teachers to be very specific with their explanatory skills and instruction. Clarity of speech and audibility are very important. The instructions should be kept simple and easy for all students to understand and implement. (Snowman, 2003).
The Teacher Teaching: Monitoring Student Progress and Potential. This category focuses on the students - homework, monitoring student progress, and responding to student needs and abilities are discussed. One way is that of parent teacher meetings. The teacher gives constant feedback to both the students and the parents. This feedback is in the form of formal/informal notes, class observations, constructively motivating both the students and the parent’s to excel (Snowman, 2003).
Attitude towards the Teaching Profession: An important aspect of professionalism and of effectiveness in the classroom is a teacher’s dedication to students and to the job of teaching. An effective teacher believes all her students can learn and uses different strategies to understand as well as help the students. An effective teacher always stays abreast of the latest technological updates of their subject and content matter, rise to make class more lively and real, encourages student participations and is ever ready to go the extra mile when required. In times of mistakes an effective teacher doesn’t mind taking on the responsibility along with the students. (Stronge, 2002)

Conclusion: According to my idea an effective teaching is on who is well planned, has foresight to sense problems and cease them in the initial stage, right management skills , right communication skills but most important of all common sense. An effective teacher acts as a mediator-facilitator sharing knowledge and the information they know.

Krishnamurti, J. (2001). Alternative Education in India .Education and the
significance of Life. Available online on www.alternativeeducationindia.net

Moore, K .D. (2001). Classroom Teaching Skills. 5th Edition. New York, NY:
McGraw Hill.

Ornstein, A.C. (1995). Strategies for Effective Teaching. 2nd Edition. Dubuque, IA:
Wm.C.Brown Communications, Inc.

Rowan, B. (1994).Comparing teachers work with work in other occupations: Notes
on the professional status of teaching. Educational Researcher, 23(6), 4-17

Snowman, J., & Biehler, R. (2003). Psychology Applied to Teaching. 10th
Edition. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Stronge, J.H. (2002).Qualities of Effective Teachers. AASD, Vo.USA

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Post by LarryLatham » Sun Sep 12, 2004 10:17 pm

Nice essay, but unfortunately, it suffers from the same malady as most other essays, reports, research, books, and "training" that are supposed to help teachers become better teachers.

Sorry, albinog0dwill, I mean no disrespect toward you. On the contrary, you have obviously put quite a lot of work into your post here, and seriously deserve recognition for it. :) I acknowledge your work, but I am hoping to encourage you to think more about it, and more clearly too.

Your report, I'm afraid, is full of jargon, bias, insinuation, sweet-talk and short on hard thinking about hard concepts. It leaves me with more than a few questions. But here are one or two:
You wrote:Conclusion: According to my idea an effective teaching is on who is well planned, has foresight to sense problems and cease them in the initial stage, right management skills , right communication skills but most important of all common sense. An effective teacher acts as a mediator-facilitator sharing knowledge and the information they know.
What does "effective" mean? Can it be measured objectively? Would administrators measure it the same way teachers would? How about students?
What sort of planning does a "well planned" teacher do? Do lesson plans constitute what "well planned" means? What happens when events in the classroom demand a departure from the "plan"?
What kinds of "problems" are detrimental to the classroom? Are there any which could be used by teachers and students to good effect? Do you include academic problems in your sense here?
How could a teacher "sense" detrimental problems in the "initial stage"? What, exactly, is the initial stage, anyway? Do problems come in stages?
Which management skills are "right", and which not?
Same for communication skills.
What, exactly, is a "mediator-facilitator"? How will I know one if I meet one? Is a teacher not really suppose to teach, but rather, instead, mediate and facilitate? Between whom does this mediation-facilitation work?
What does "sharing knowledge" mean? Does it mean simply that I should tell the students what I know?

OK, I guess that was more than one or two, but there are many more, believe me. As a teacher (well, I'm retired now, but still a teacher, I guess) I'm grateful that you want to help teachers become better. We certainly need that. :) But I'm afraid we need much more than you have offered here in your essay.

Larry Latham

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Post by undeterred » Sun Sep 26, 2004 9:15 pm

(please forgive the edit)

I am teaching at a girl's senior high school in Japan. I am an experienced conversation teacher who knows little about class management, method, lesson planning, discipline and so on.I am new to forums but have been asking a lot of basic question since first joining several months ago and some people are fed up with me.I am looking to discuss these issues with likeminded people with the hope of sharing experiences and finding solutions.

Thank you for reading this.
Last edited by undeterred on Mon Sep 27, 2004 7:58 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by Lorikeet » Sun Sep 26, 2004 9:44 pm

Perhaps you could explain under what circumstance you are teaching? Where are the classes, are the students all from the same language background, is it a "conversation" class, how much leeway do you have about the book that is used and adding or subtracting things from the lesson, do you give grades, do have backup from the administration at your school?

One possibility, by the way, is to do the introduction another way. Have you ever tried involving the students in the introduction? (You can elicit answers to your questions that set the stage for whatever you are doing next, so they have to pay attention, for example.)

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Post by undeterred » Thu Oct 07, 2004 2:06 am

see previous post-

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Post by Lorikeet » Thu Oct 07, 2004 4:08 am

I'm sorry, I must have had the answer up for a while and you posted in between, and then I missed the answer. You said, "I am new to forums but have been asking a lot of basic question since first joining several months ago and some people are fed up with me.I am looking to discuss these issues with likeminded people with the hope of sharing experiences and finding solutions. "

I don't understand why people would be fed up with you. I don't think it's been on this board (I read everything and don't recall anything like that.) Most people are quite happy to discuss issues and give ideas. We can all learn something. There's nothing wrong with basic questions. *shrugs*

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Post by undeterred » Fri Oct 08, 2004 7:16 am


Thanks a lot. I have sorted out my problems but the next time something comes up I will be back.

Happy teaching!

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teacher creatures

Post by woodcutter » Fri Oct 08, 2004 11:38 am

When I read essays like the one from AlbinogOdwill, I feel a bit guilty. Sometimes, I don't much care if my utterly unmotivated students don't learn English. Sometimes, wonderful students really make me care a great deal. Sometimes I feel the beaten down kids in front of me need some playtime, not a grammar class, and I adapt a little.

I am a flawed human being, not a teacher-creature. Should I quit? Am I alone?

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Post by Duncan Powrie » Fri Oct 08, 2004 9:01 pm

Woodcutter (=Grasshopper), you must follow your instincts and do what it is in your nature to do: you get THEM to quit. :lol: :twisted: :wink:

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Ideas please

Post by Sienna » Fri Oct 22, 2004 8:15 am

I'm a first year teacher at a Chinese high school. Its my second week of teaching and I've just changed my approach to make classes more interesting for the students. I'm asking them questions about sport, eg. What is your favourite sport and why? I draw pictures on the board and ask them to guess what the sport is and I also teach them new words, like 'tennis racquet' and 'ping pong paddle'. I also asked them simple questions about themselves in the first lesson, such as What is your name? How old are you? What is your favourite food? They wrote this down and give it to me at the end of the lesson.

It works well, but I am having trouble in gaining the attention of unmotivated students who often talk without pause.

I've told them to stop talking repeatedly and used negative reinforcement, such as if you talk, you must stand up. If you still talk, you must leave the room. But in the long run I don't want to use this approach, I'd rather find out ways to keep their interest and get them to talk about the subject at least.

The classes are large, with a maximum of 77 students, so there is some difficulty in photocopying find-a-words or bingo sheets for every student. I have 16 classes a week, all with different students, so I don't have much time to get to know them.

So I'm asking for some practical ideas to gain the attention of at least the majority of the students, without the need for lots of materials or props. Thanks :)

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Post by fluffyhamster » Wed Oct 27, 2004 7:21 am

Hi Sienna, I've posted an activity ("Guess the movie") on the "Activities and Games" Forum. It might be just what you are looking for!

Of course, that is only one activity, but there are some general underlying principles that I think can usefully guide teachers in your kind of situation. These are:

1) Select an interesting topic
2) Try to go straight into USING the language (this is qualitatively different even from "demonstrating how the language is used")
3) Be prepared to cut out less interesting parts of the underlying discourse. For example, who wants to hear A establish whether B has seen a movie, or for B to perhaps ask who is in it or what it is about, if we can instead simply hear about the story?
4) Don't make the form of the student response the initial focus - keep things simple and relatively undemanding for them
5) When it is the students' turn to produce language, make sure that what they have to do is little different from what they have already seen you do and understood you doing - this will again cut down on the need for many instructions

Basically, you need to become more of a "one-man show" for these classes, you can't depend on anyone in them becoming a fellow actor willing to learn or improvise lines, and you will therefore need to be more selective with the underlying language than you would be with more motivated learners. I think that even "bad" students will enjoy the "immediacy" of the above kind of activities, and will in turn relish "entertaining" their classmates, all through the power of "real" English!

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unmotivated students

Post by Lrodrig » Thu Nov 11, 2004 6:31 pm

I am new to this forum and I have read all the posts on this topic. I share the anguish of teachers everywhere in trying to motivate students. One thing that is obvious from reading the posts is that all teachers face this challenge. I remember going through my teacher prep program many years ago and the big emphasis in lesson planning was to start each lesson with some kind of motivational activity or discussion....some kind of attention-getter. That's tough to do for every lesson, and sometimes what the teacher thinks will be motivating turns out to be a real flop. I have taught for many years now in various settings and I think my answer to the question of how to motivate students is simply to be motivated as a teacher. Staying motivated is challenging and requires energy, but mostly it requires a true love of teaching and helping children. It's hard and probably impossible to motivate every student every day, but in aiming for that goal we surely reach many. A motivated teacher gets to know her students' interests and needs, and she plans activities and designs lessons specifically with those students in mind. I truly feel for those of you who have to teach to large groups of 50 or more students at a time, and at limited intervals. I have not had that experience yet, but it sounds dreadful!

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