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Motivate Student's to Speak


"Tell me and I'll forget; show me and I might remember; involve me and I'll understand." 

No one ever learned to swim without getting into water. The same is true with speaking a language; the best way to learn, is to do. As teachers, we must motivate our students to speak for themselves.

A common system to increase motivation amongst students is to offer prizes, points, stickers, stars, and rewards. Ranging from anything the students might desire, from candies, to games, or extra privileges. These systems can be very beneficial in giving tangible results, and showing visual representations to aid in student motivation and effort. They can work either by rewarding good behavior with prizes and privileges, or by punishing poor performance with punishments and loss of privileges. The common visual style is to add or remove points to a score board, which builds towards either a reward or a punishment, and can be an effective system for class discipline.

But in order to truly motivate your students to speak English in class, a teacher ought to instill a system of self-assessment in their students. Having students agree to, or even create their goals about speaking and learning in class will create a motivational contract, where they have to answer to themselves regarding their behavior, and removing the teacher from the equation. Optimally, a teacher ought to instill a sense of self-responsibility in their students to reach their goals. If they have poor performance, and you call on this contract, they will feel a greater sense of ownership to the rules or guidelines that they are not following. It's one thing to break someone else's rule, it's something different to break a rule you've set for yourself. An example would be to have a periodic self assessment at the end of a class or the end of an activity, where students are asked if they feel that they made an effort to speak, to participate, and to cooperate. If all 3 areas get a star, and the teacher agrees, then they've earned an emotional reward, the teacher's praise, a sense of victory, and maybe a game for good measure. If you can get the students to care about their goals, they will give honest assessment, and have a greater sense of fulfillment and motivation to continue to learn.


So why not try a new technique to get your students to speak up more in class? Warm up each class with a reading activity, such as the class rules or goals, a poem or a story. Design more activities to utilize group work and information gaps the require mingling. Ask 'yes/no' questions to break the ice, and slowly ease them into more detailed interactions. When they speak too much Japanese in class, kindly ask them "Is that English?" to passively remind them of the goal to speak English in class. Start or improve your self-evaluation class progress system to improve their motivation, and give them opportunities for tangible satisfaction for achieving a goal they've chosen for themselves.

Please join us next time to investigate increasing the unconscious participation of students in class.

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