“Hey, Ms. …, can I read this book to my friends? I read it to my mom last night. Can I read it to the class later on when we have free time?”
J walked into class and held the beginning reader right next to my face. On any given day, she struggles with blending letter sounds to read CVC words (c-a-t, b-a-t). On that particular morning she was so excited. We changed our class schedule and gave her time to read her book to her classmates.
Later in the day, I could hear J commenting to her friends,
“Hey I’m going to try to spell that word all by myself.”
Why did we change our schedule?
Because the student came all motivated to class—she had persevered and accomplished something which was particularly difficult for her. The recognition from the adults and her own understanding of her accomplishment was so good for her self-esteem that she was motivated to try similar tasks.
Motivation and self-esteem go hand in hand
A child with good self-esteem is motivated to try challenging tasks. A motivated child succeeds at new tasks and so her self-esteem gets a boost.Motivation can be because of external factors—for example, doing well in exams to get parent’s approval, working hard to get a reward, etc. This is called extrinsic motivation. Young children get motivated by extrinsic rewards.Our goal is to develop lifelong learning habits. We can’t always be with the child motivating her with rewards! How do we foster that in our students? By targeting intrinsic motivation.When a student learns because engaging in the activity brings satisfaction, it is called intrinsic motivation. For example, when the topic is interesting to the child, the activity is enjoyable, the activity leads to understanding a difficult concept or achieving a goal are intrinsically motivating factors in learning. The self-motivated learner will try to learn independently. But she knows the importance of asking for help when something is difficult to understand.
Teachers and parents have a big role to play in how children develop intrinsic motivation
Give them control over their learning — how often do children chose their subjects because of what their parents want them to study?
Make the activities challenging to the right degree – If it is too simple, the student will be bored. On the other hand if it is too difficult failure occurs. Children need to feel successful.
Respect and recognize their efforts — the process of learning is more important than the outcome of the immediate activity. Make an effort to draw attention to what they did right instead of what went wrong. The student will repeat the ‘right’ actions.
Let your students make the connection that if they make a mistake, it can be corrected. Everybody makes mistakes. Also, a lot of times it is not the ‘bright’ kid who succeeds. It is the kid who tries and tries again—teach them perseverance through positive feedback. Don’t rush them—It takes time to learn to tie your shoelaces. It takes time and several tries to remember those multiplication tables.
Make them feel accepted for who they are – A student who doesn’t feel good about herself will not have much to feel intrinsically motivated.
Keep external rewards to a minimum – Students must learn to learn for what the learning brings…not just for awards and competitions.