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Motivating teenagers

Submitted by TE Editor on 4 November, 2003 - 12:00
"Motivation is as much an effect as a cause of learning." Ausubel
In this article I will discuss how teachers can aim to improve the motivation levels of teenage


I will link three practical classroom activities to the ideas of American Psychologist Carl Rogers.
The ideas of Carl Rogers
Types of motivation and teenagers
Ways to improve motivation
Journals - empathy
Using photos - authenticity
Music - acceptance

The ideas of Carl Rogers
Rogers (1957) outlined 3 attitudinal qualities that a teacher, or in his words, a facilitator, should
have to assist the learning process. They are empathy (seeing things from the students'
viewpoint), authenticity (being yourself) and acceptance (of students' ideas and opinions).

Types of motivation and teenagers
It is widely agreed that motivation has a great effect on a student's capacity to learn. Motivation
can be broken down into extrinsic and intrinsic forms. Intrinsic motivation comes from within the
learner, who wants to learn for the sake of learning. Although not impossible to find an intrinsically
motivated teenage student, five years of experience working with Young Learners in Spain leads
me to believe that they are few and far between! It is much more likely that our teenage students
will be extrinsically motivated, meaning that their motivation comes from external sources such as
wanting to pass an exam or please their parents. The good news for teachers of teenagers is that
there are many things we can do in the classroom to increase the levels of extrinsic motivation.

Ways to improve motivation

Journals - Empathy
Journal writing can create wonderful opportunities to find out more about your students' lives.
When introducing the idea of writing journals it is important to make the aims and general rules
clear to students.
Students should each have their own notebook to use as their journal. These should be kept by the
teacher and it should be made clear that the teacher will not read anyone's writing out in the class.
It will be strictly a two-way 'conversation' between the individual student and the teacher. At the
end of the course I always give the students their journals to keep.
It should be made clear that the idea is to communicate effectively in English and not to worry too
much about mistakes. The teacher will not correct mistakes and will focus solely on the meaning. I
always keep a list of common mistakes that are made in the journals and deal with them as and
when it is appropriate as an integrative part of the course. I would never use a sentence lifted
directly from a journal to focus on an error.
Class time should be set aside for journal writing. At the start of a course, I ask students to begin
their journals by telling me about themselves and their reasons for studying English. The teacher
collects all the journals in and replies individually to each one and asks a question or two, which
will be the prompts for the next class's journal writing.
Although replying to the writing in the journals can be time consuming it really does help the
teacher to empathise with the students. Discovering, for example, that the reason one of my
students didn't like to sing in class was because his voice was breaking, or that one of the students

Spain C ancel rating P oor O kay . Students themselves can be involved in creating activities to use with their favourite songs. Rather than ignoring the differences in taste between them and you. Although it can be tempting to only use music in the class that you enjoy listening to. I often record music videos from a local TV channel. exploit them and use them as a real information gap! Joanna Budden. Due to the fact that so much popular music is in English it can be a source for highly motivating activities. sometimes the relationships may not last quite as long! Music . To get this information students can write surveys to do with the class to find out the top five favourite bands. Lyrics can be easily found on the internet and there are many opportunities to exploit language in songs. Given half the chance they want to know more about you and your life outside the classroom. family. A class vote decides what we listen to when we work. Rather than always play my own tastes I allow students to bring in their own tapes. teenagers really appreciate it if you make the effort to find out what they like listening to. To give a simple example. was having problems with a group of friends at school really helps to remind us of what it is like to be a teenager! I am sure these students would not have seen it as appropriate to come and talk to me about these issues but they did feel comfortable to write about them. Many students have really enjoyed the process of journal writing and have felt motivated to write in English on a regular basis. I have always found that personalising really helps to increase students' interest levels. "my teacher used to have long hair and a moustache"  Of course there can be drawbacks with letting the students into your personal life. Carl Rogers claimed that learning would be much more effective when the facilitator does not hide behind a façade. When students are working in groups I sometimes like to have music playing softly in the class. and you should think carefully about who to 'introduce' your class to! Teenagers have excellent memories. How much more interesting to describe a photo of the teacher's friend or sister than to describe a photo of a random unknown man in a book? How much more engaging to see holiday photos from the teacher's summer break rather than the typical desert island shots used in course books? Grammar lessons can also be supported with photos. Eg. Using photos .Authenticity Teenage students can be very curious and inquisitive. Using photos can really help to spark genuine interest and generate a lot of language. teaching 'used to' becomes much more memorable when sentences with a visual image can be formed. Most teachers have a variety of activities to use with songs. It is a personal decision how much of yourself you want to give away and share with your students. holidays or describing places. the motivation levels of a class can be improved. Teenagers know a lot about music and will be willing to tell you all about it. so questions about the people in the photos will last for the whole course. Having music on in the background can really change the atmosphere of a classroom. British Council. When you know what they like to listen to encourage students to lend you the CDs or tapes.Acceptance Teenagers love listening to music! A sweeping generalisation. By accepting their music tastes and 'tuning in' to them. Topics that lend themselves to the use of photos are describing people. but on the whole I have found it to be true.

I've been teaching ELT for the last 25 years (I hold a diploma on Translations.-1 p. Peru I am so pleased that a colleague sent me your address this morning and the information that I have just read in this page is just what I needed.lunch time!!). Peru I am so Submitted on 26 March. and to feel eager to learn (English is compulsory). We use Headway (American version) and I will certainly try some of the tips the article gives. 2008 . for this author is one of the experts we study in my course. Thanks again  Login or register to post comments . I just don't know how to motivate my students to do homework.m. and at present I am doing an MBA (virtual one). .m. Peru. to stop yawning in class (11 a.10:19 Carmen Rhor.2 (84 votes)  Tag Interesting to all users  Core teaching  Specialist teaching  Methodology/approaches  Motivation  Teaching Secondary  Methodology  Articles  methodology Show more  Login or register to post comments  Printer-friendly version Comments joe Carmen Rhor. but I am struggling with a group of teenagers (actually adults 17-22) from a very fashionable and expensive private university here in Lima. I am satisfied to read about Carl Rogers.G ood G reat A wesome Average: 4. but have been involved in language teaching since my student days).

2010 . 2012 . since i had prepared them for a language exam. Carl Rogers or not. but that is something that could lead to opposition. The worse thing to do is to get them hate the language. Having fun is one of the keys and most people have a good sense of humour and other abilities and skills too. or to be open to the things your students have in mind. fashion. in Hungary. would be important for him. also because i felt this was the thing he was looking for and it could make him understand how other things in the lesson . with them. having fun during the lessons is one of the most important things. be "in" when it comes to music.So. or boredom. put your tense schedule aside and have some fun. the one with more problems.12:13 And one more thing. but my practice and experience proves that sometimes or for a time you have to let things go. I think it is not difficult to be open minded to many things nowadays. concerning their tastes. celebrities. other than music. it is an international means of communication between different cultures. and since they had never been to a real English course before . during the summer and i had 2 students with a school leaving exam ahead. the teacher who will be aware of this. Then they like you and it's easier to work with them. which i had mentioned proved to be useful in other cases. it makes you feel relaxed too:) I had a course lately.12:03 I am a free lance teacher from Budapest. amusing. As parent of a teenager.  Login or register to post comments tasha0705 Music and fun Submitted on 13 August. etc. had a totally different attitude for me and it made him and me happy . having fun is really important because teenagers tend to roll their eyes on everything. you have to find . it was not really difficult. creating a connection between the teacher and the students. So you have to be open to experiment with the things in methodology. never push them or drag them to do something they are not interested in.that students at the age of 17. but the easiest way to put it . I have heard about teachers bringing their interests to the lessons only. but it is only you . I can say that you need to come down to their level. 2010 . they started asking me "favours". I did not want them to be the course leaders . and i also enjoy their kind of music. At the end of my experimental lesson. then they lose all energy and will and you have students who don't want to learn. and you can count on that . or below are really open to this kind of "exercise". or else. not because i have a teenage daughter. Never criticise them.tímea markó Motivation and music Submitted on 14 October. which can also be controlled. show interest in their everyday life. with music. in order to get along with them better. that is what it is for:)  Login or register to post comments tímea markó Having fun Submitted on 14 October. and even during the first moments . like lets do this and that during the lessons. sometimes.14:09 I agree. i noticed they one of them. It is relaxing. I had been using music for a long time as a listening and developing tool during my lessons and i had also noticed. become a teenager yourself! .