Strategies to Motivate Unmotivated Students


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Strategies to Motivate Unmotivated Students

Includes Free, Printable, Motivational Classroom Poster


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Student motivation can sag as everyone returns from the holidays and heads into the long stretch until Spring Break. If your students' motivation has dropped with the temperatures, here are some lively and very effective motivational methods that are sure to fire up interest, enthusiasm and focus on school and education. The assortment includes a free printable motivational speakerclassroom motivational poster that has received lots of comments. Many educators find it to be an eye-opening, effective way to build motivation in students who are unmotivated, discouraged, bored, frustrated or lacking confidence.

Happy New Year from all of us here at Youth Change Professional Development Workshops, and a special shout-out from me, Youth Change's director, Ruth Herman Wells. I hope I will be seeing lots of you this year at our 2017 general session professional development workshops, and at the conferences, schools and agencies all over North America where I will be leading workshops or providing keynotes. Please come up and say "hi." It is always so wonderful to get to meet our Problem Kid Problem-Solver magazine subscribers in person so be sure to come down front to say hello. If you have a bad budget but want to attend our general session workshops coming to Seattle on May 4-5, 2017 or Portland, Oregon on October 12-13, 2017, we have scholarship slots open for both events. A quick call to 1.800.545.5736 is all it takes to grab one.

strategies to motivate


Motivational Strategies

for the Most Unmotivated Students


poster motivates unmotivated studentsMOTIVATIONAL STRATEGY

Replace Missing Motivation with

Artificial Motivation

Few teachers have ever taken a class called Motivate the Most Unmotivated Students, but most teachers probably wish they had. Typically, many teachers see a plethora of unmotivated students when they look out at their class. Typically, most teachers don't feel like they have a plethora of awesome motivational methods to improve the situation. This article is going to change that a bit for the better.

You may not be aware that you can actually build motivation for school, education and class work. Initially, you should start the process of building motivation by relying on external items that are already very liked by students. Think of it this way. You can initially use a "carrot" to lead student to Literature, Algebra or History class, and once you've gotten and held their attention, you can reduce the reliance on external positives. It is sad that some families don't reliably teach their children the importance of school, but like any other area that is being overlooked in a child's life, teachers may be the ones to have to fill in the gap. That is certainly true here, but the good news is that improving a child's motivation is a lot easier than (figuratively) dragging a kid to school and forcing them to learn– which is what the situation may feel like now.

Money is a very effective external item that can serve to engage many unmotivated students to care more about school, class and education. Yes, ideally, children would come to love reading Hemingway, or find early American history enthralling, but money makes a great "hook" to start to transform how students view education. In the meantime, you are going to have to market school, classes and education like they were a pair of way cool jeans or a new iPad. You're going to be working to convince students that school is the only path to many of the things they very much need, want or value…which brings us back to money.

Our popular motivational poster, Poster #471 (shown above) does a great job of marketing school and education by linking them to something most students care a lot about: money. It shows students what they "earn" every second, minute, hour, day, month and year they spend in school. This poster is based on the belief that high school grads earn approximately $330,000 more per lifetime so it reflects life expectancy and earnings stats.

You can print this eye-catching, motivational school poster for free and post it in your classroom, or the hallways of your school. You can download the free motivational poster here. Feel free to share it with your colleagues. Obviously, one motivational strategy can't fix all the boredom, disinterest and yawns, but it's a terrific first step. You can find thousands more motivational strategies throughout our website, and another great motivational strategy further below in this article. You can use our site search engine to search for more "motivational strategies." Most strategies are free but you will find many in our books, in person professional development workshops and online courses too.

Yes, this "artificial" motivation may not start off being nearly as beneficial and reliable as the real thing, but now that you may have your students considering the possibility that school just might be important to them, while you have their attention, you can help them discover what they could love in the world of education.


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Learn What to Do About

Work Refusers

Some students don't start off unmotivated– but they sure end up that way. Among other university training classes that most teachers haven't taken but may wish that they had is Work Refusers 101. Some of your youngsters become so discouraged or frustrated by school that they stop working altogether or do as little school work as they possibly can get away with. Often, these are very well-intentioned students who have learned over time that doing nothing seems a lot less painful than taking a test or completing a homework assignment. Since teachers often have little real-world training or tested strategies for work refusers, these youngsters can quickly become a nightmare to teach. They may appear to be your most unmotivated student since they do so little actual school work, and require constant help to complete almost any academic task.

Here's the secret to successfully engaging your work refusers in school: They are not necessarily unmotivated. They can have great motivation but the child has simply learned that shutting down and doing nothing seems to yield better results than taking action. In your Psychology classes, this pattern was described as Freeze, Flight or Fight. Work refusers camp out in Freeze. That makes these students seem passive-aggressive or oppositional when really they just freeze and have trouble moving beyond that. To best understand, look back in your life for a time you crawled into bed and wouldn't come out. It may have been after a traumatic experience or a romantic setback or a job loss, and for you, a short-term thing– but for these students, freezing up has become a long term, entrenched pattern.

So, motivational methods will only take you so far with this population. And, as you may have noticed, it is so easy to get caught in a power struggle with them. So there's what won't work. Here comes what will work: step-by-step, slow transition from doing nothing to gradually doing something. So, if the student typically does two paragraphs of handwriting, maybe we aim for two paragraphs and one more sentence. The next step might be two paragraphs of handwriting and two sentences…and so on. The steps need to be tiny and when the student balks at a step, consider dropping back a bit and carefully observing for anxiety. When this student's anxiety goes up, their work production goes down. Over time, you will learn to calibrate their work load with their anxiety. The more you can create a cooperative team feeling while avoiding increasing their anxiety, the more work you will ultimately get out of this youngster.

We devote entire classes to teaching about work refusers so we are just skimming the surface here for what you can do, but we thought it was important that you realize that the student who may look the most unmotivated, can be much more accurately viewed as a child rife with anxiety issues.


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About Ruth Herman Wells

Author/Trainer Ruth Herman Wells, M.S. is the director of Youth Change Professional Development Workshops. In 2011, Ruth was rated as a Top 10 U.S. K-12 educational and motivational speaker by Speakerwiki and Speakermix. She is the author of several book series, a columnist, adjunct professor for two universities, and a popular keynote speaker and workshop presenter. Ruth's dozens of books includes Temper and Tantrum Tamers and Turn On the Turned-Off Student.