No two students are the same. Just like in the “real world”, the classroom has a diversity of students. And, each unique student learns at a different pace. Some students learn quickly while other students struggle to comprehend even the simplest assignment. Then, there are the students who are just not motivated to learn. So, what can a teacher do to motivate her underachievers?
Identify the problem
The first thing a teacher will need to do is to identify the cause of the problem. There is usually a reason that a student is not doing well or seems disinterested in learning. The student may be distracted by things going on in the classroom or by things that are happening at home. Maybe, the student is trying to work an after-school job that is taking time away his studies. If the student is a female, she could be pretending not to know or not to care in order to appear more attractive to the boys in the classroom. Or, the underachieving student may have a learning disability. A student’s lower performance may also be the result of a poor student-teacher relationship. So, before the problem can be corrected, the teacher must first discover the cause.
Provide opportunities of success
Next, the teacher should provide underachievers with opportunities for success. Although “increase the rigor” seems to be the magic words in today’s classroom, not all of the assignments should difficult. Start small and increase the level of difficulty gradually. Struggling learners need to experience success. This will prevent them from becoming so frustrated that they give up.
Provide a comfortable environment
Make your underachievers feel comfortable. Create a learning environment where all students are made to feel important. Actively listen to these students responses. Encourage them to keep trying. Let them know that it is okay to make mistakes. Discourage your other students from making fun of your struggling learners. Teach your students to respect each other and promote a healthy learning environment.
Place them in small groups
Most students love to work in groups. Although group activities can be noisy, they can provide your struggling learners with a wonderful learning experience.
Rewards and Incentives
Students love to be recognized and rewarded. So, one of the oldest and simplest ways for a teacher to motivate underachievers is to offer them some type of reward for improving their grades. This does not have to be monetary. Nor does it have to include sugary sweets. It can be something as simple as placing the student’s name on a “Wall of Super Achievers” or giving them a pat on the back. A friendly phone call to their parents to brag about their achievement may be just the thing to motivate them to keeping strides. And, remember, younger students love stickers.
Keep your cool
You have heard the saying, “Never let’em see you sweat”. Well, in this instance it is true. Never lose your cool in front of your underachievers. Don’t yell or shout. Continue to encourage them and communicate your high expectations for them.
Effective teachers know that their students will respond to their expectations. If you don’t expect your students to achieve, they won’t. If you expect your students to achieve, they will. This concept even works with underachievers. Have high expectations for your students. Constantly communicate your high expectations to your students and your parents.
Discover their interests
Discover your students’ interests and find ways to incorporate this into your classroom. Students love to talk about movies, to listen to music, and to discuss the latest celebrity gossip. Find a way to integrate pop culture into your classroom. No, you don’t have to sacrifice the classics or good old fashion teaching to accommodate your students. However, you can show YouTube clips of documentaries, allow students to listen to poems, and use comic strips to teach figurative language. You can also have them create a CD for the classic novel they just read.
It may seem almost impossible to motivate your underachievers. However, it can be done. Use some of the strategies listed above and get those underachievers excited about learning.