Motivating students to study hard and focus can be difficult at the best of times. This is particularly true at the beginning of a new semester when kids are still in the mood for a summer vacation.

Fortunately, there are things that can be done to tackle short attention spans and get kids excited about learning new things.

If you’re reading this as a teacher, you’re probably already aware that you have a great deal of power to motivate students to think about their future prospects – far more power than any particular school district, for example. Indeed, as their primary source of knowledge and inspiration in school, you are privileged with the power to shape their ways of thinking and learning. If you’re able to make your lessons both fun and intellectually stimulating, you’ll already be well on your way to motivate them to achieve great things.

If you need a little help with motivating students in the classroom, we’ve put together a brief but helpful guide.

Try out the following tips and see your students’ attitudes improve within a matter of days:

1. Remember that praise goes a long way

Kids love being told that they’re doing a good job and a healthy amount of praise will motivate them to achieve bigger and better things. Healthy praise includes displaying excellent work on classroom walls, sending positive letters about good work to parents, and even regular award ceremonies.

During these ceremonies, you could provide high-achieving students with small rewards such as a certificate or a free pass on a certain homework assignment. If you do decide to run award ceremonies, however, try to avoid giving rewards to the same students every time. As well as encouraging resentment between students, it can foster complacency and boastfulness in the kids that do well. If you need a little more help with running an effective awards system, this article provides everything you need to know.

2. Set out your expectations

It is important to let students know that you expect brilliant things from them. Whilst your expectations should, of course, be realistic, aiming high is a fantastic way to motivate kids to reach their full potential.

Make sure that you set out your expectations on the first day of the new year. Feel free to set them out on a beautiful and bold poster that they will be reminded of every day. You could even set up a goals chart with a number of short-term goals that can be crossed off once they have been achieved. You may be surprised at just how satisfying this can be for kids.

3. Don’t be afraid to try new things

If your teaching methods get stuck in a rut, so will your students’ work patterns. Mixing up your teaching styles will keep kids on their toes and will cater to all kinds of learners. Whilst studious, quiet types may enjoy fact-heavy lessons with plenty of reading, visual learners and more outgoing types may benefit from more interactive styles of learning.

The key to keeping all types of learners motivated is to cater to their needs on a rotating basis. To find out more about different kinds of learning styles and how you can cater to them in the classroom, check out this brief guide.

4. Show kids that you have a passion for learning

Everyone has their own individual passions. Don’t be afraid to let kids know yours. Demonstrating your love of impressionist art, the complete works of Shakespeare or even algebra in an engaging way will show kids that learning about the world around us can be a rewarding and lifelong pursuit. This will motivate them to follow their own passions and excel in the subjects they are particularly good at.

5. Give kids responsibilities in the classroom

Assigning individual responsibilities to your students will motivate them to take ownership over their work and will help them to find their own personal interests and talents.

Classroom jobs could include:

  • Updating the class calendar
  • Writing articles for a class blog or magazine
  • Looking after the class pet
  • Looking after attendance rotas
  • Cleaning boards, arranging furniture and any other tidying tasks
  • Picking songs for the class to sing

The list really is endless if you’re creative about it. Remember to switch up job roles every week or so, however. A student may start feeling bored or resentful if they get stuck with a job they aren’t happy with.

6. Plan special activities for Friday afternoons

Allowing students to pick special activities for Friday afternoons can help motivate them throughout the rest of the week. You can run the scheme so that kids that have attended the class for the entire week, behaved well, and completed all of their homework can vote on what kinds of activities they would like to do. This could include, for example, discussions on a popular topic, video sessions, or acting scenes from their favorite play.

7. Give students some control over their learning

Giving kids a voice when it comes to their education can help motivate them to do well. This is because it allows them to take a degree of ownership over their lives and makes them feel more in control (rather than simply following orders from school authorities).

While it is unwise to give them too much control over activities, conducting a regular audit of students’ favorite activities, learning styles and topics can help you plan lessons so that they are as engaging as possible.

8. Relate classroom topics to students’ lives outside of school

Linking classroom topics to aspects of students’ lives outside of school can help engage them in learning and motivate them to conduct further research. Pointing out the relevance of math when adding up the cost of their latest shopping trip, for example, will motivate them to enhance their adding abilities.

If you’re talking about a certain point in recent history, you could point out that their parents or grandparents may have been affected in some way. This is likely to attract a great deal of fascination.

9. Track areas of improvement

Reminding kids about how much they have learned over the course of a semester is a great motivator, particularly if a topic is particularly challenging. Track areas of improvement by setting short-term goals and offering students self-evaluation charts to take with them throughout the year.

10. Plan exciting field trips for the end of the year

The end of the year may seem very far away at the beginning of the new semester, but planning field trips is a great way to motivate students to do well. Have a chat with school administrators at the start of the year to ascertain what kind of budget you could realistically stretch to and plan accordingly.

In short, the better your students perform throughout the year, the better their field trip. You may be surprised at how hard kids will push themselves when they see that their field trip could be pushed up from a day at the zoo to a week-long excursion to their favorite city.

11. Reward good behavior outside of school

Remember that kids can learn plenty from the world beyond the classroom. Motivate them to spread joy and learning in their community by offering extra credit or rewards for taking part in extracurricular activities, cultural excursion, community volunteering, or productive hobbies such as art or sport.

Recognizing kids for these kinds of achievements will demonstrate that learning goes far beyond reading, writing, and math. In fact, it will set them up to cope well with life after education.

12. Help them to visualize the future

Talking about the future may be scary for some students, but it is important to remember that they won’t stay kids forever. Talking to your students honestly and openly about the future may actually motivate them to work hard in their favorite areas, particularly if they’re hoping to get into certain colleges.