Student Motivation in the EFL Classroom
Sparking student motivation is an important part of any teacher’s function. Effective teachers will make sure that students know WHY they need to learn the language that is the target of the day’s lesson.
There are several things that the instructor can do to drive student motivation. First, at the beginning of the lesson, build a context where the target language might be used. Then when building a dialog or structure chart on the board, attempt to elicit as much of that language as possible from the students. The more the language actually comes from the students, the more they will be interested in it.
During the “production” or “activation” component of the lesson, be sure that students are using the target language to talk about their lives, feelings and interests. This makes the lesson more personal and thus more interesting while building motivation. Most people enjoy talking about themselves.
Relevance is an another important factor in building student motivation. Adults need to talk about adult things; kids need to talk about kid things; teenagers need to talk about teenager things. All to build their interest in the lesson. You will sometimes have to step away from coursebooks to make this work. One popular coursebook for young learners actually has dialogs about buying cars and airplane tickets! Things that those students would never do at that age. Buying a stuffed toy or video game would be much more interesting and motivating to them.
Realia, the use of authentic items in lessons, also builds interest. When teaching about fruit, bring some fruit. In a work environment, use documents from their daily work as a base for lessons.
Excellent references for motivation readings:
Ideas for Motivating Students: an older but excellent page of ideas