• How We Can Develop Intrinsic Motivation in Our ESL Students. Specific Examples. (Part 2)

REV Cover Intrinsic Pt 2

As I mentioned in Part 1, it is possible for our ESL students to be intrinsically motivated to learn English.  And there are ways that we can help them develop this. I discussed the first two recommendations based on research: 1) Give Students Autonomy and 2) Explain the Purpose of the Assignment.. Here, in Part 2, I explain the other three recommendations along with specific examples.

 According to research, how we can promote intrinsic motivation.

3. Show Your Enthusiasm

This doesn’t necessarily mean that you used an animated voice and happy talk.

Examples of Showing Enthusiasm.

  • When introducing a writing technique, for example, including a short story for support in a paragraph, we can say, “This technique is a lot of fun to use because you can use your creativity. The story doesn’t have to be true. For example, one of my students include an interesting story about her son’s problems, and later I found out that she’s not married and has no son.” (See • ESL Students Can Increase Positive Emotions in Readers/Teachers with This Writing Technique)
  • Tell them how much the technique will impress the reader. For example, when introducing dramatic introductions, “I love reading these at the start of an essay. I immediately become interested in what the student will write in the rest of the essay.” (See Teaching the most interesting type of essay introduction
  • We can demonstrate how much the technique (e.g., giving an example) will improve their writing. To do this, we can juxtapose a paragraph without an example to the same one that includes one.
  • In our comments on their papers, next to specific sentences, we can write, “Wow!!” or “Interesting,” or “Great example!” or “Funny!” or “Amazing! Is this true?” (See Effective method for giving specific feedback.)
  • At the end of essays in which students had obviously put in a lot of effort, we can write, “This was fun to read.” or “I enjoyed reading this.” or “You are a talented writer.”
  • When conferencing with students about their essays that they are revising, we can point to specific parts and say any of those descriptions above (e.g., “Wow!” “I like this example,” etc.)
  • We can use a similar approach when introducing conversation activities. For example, we can demonstrate how much this activity or technique is going to help them in conversational situations. (See Want your students to seem more likeable? Teaching them follow-up questions.)
  • When we give individualized, written feedback to each student in a Conversation class, we can include extra comments, like, “Your partners seem to enjoy talking to you.” or “You always seem to have interesting things to say.” (See Don’t give grades for these in conversatoin class. Do this instead. and Most important tool for classroom management.)

4. Arouse Curiosity

We can stimulate students to want to learn more about what they’ll be doing or studying in the upcoming activity or assignment.

 Examples of Arousing Curiosity

  • We can tell them the reaction former students had about the upcoming activity. For example, when introducing Definition Essays, I start by saying, “Several of my students have told me that this was the most challenging essay, but it also was the most rewarding type of essay.” (See Most stimulating and engaging essay mode)
  • We can explain howthis assignment is going to make them special. For example, I’ve introduced a set of exercises about using commas by telling my ESL students, “Most Americans don’t know how to use commas correctly. Several of my American students told me that when they read what they wrote, if they take a breath, that’s where they put a comma.” (That usually gets a laugh from my ESL students.) Then I tell them that after they complete this assignment, they will know so much more than most Americans about using commas. (See Inductive grammar: Why are there commas in these sentences?)
  • If students are going to be discussing a topic or an article, we can give them the discussion question a day in advance. For example, I assigned an article about social media, and I told them that the next class, they were going to be discussing it in small groups. For homework, I gave them this:

Think discussion questions

(See Impulse control: Don’t look at social media)

5. Encourage them to take intellectual risks.

Any of us who have developed an intrinsic motivation in something know the thrill of stepping out of our comfort zone and how doing that is what leads us to a higher level.

Examples of Encouraging Intellectual Risks.

  • By not receiving grades on the first draft(s) of essays, students will be more apt to try out new ideas and unique support. Also, after we have given them feedback on a semi-final draft, we can allow them to revise it again. (See Writing class: How many drafts should ESL students write? Three! and Argumentation Essay: Tapping into Creativity
  • To challenge students to write more advanced-type details, we can introduce this by first juxtaposing common support vs more advanced and unique support. Then in the exercise for this, they identify which items are common and which are more advanced and unique. Then when they write a list of ideas or outline for their next essay, we encourage them to try to write more advanced / unique ones. (For an introductory PowerPoint and exercises, see Getting students to write more interesting and unique ideas in essays.)
  • On grammar lessons in which the culminating exercise requires students write their own sentences based on the grammar point, they can be encouraged to write sentence that involve more advanced topics. For example,

Advanced Simple topics

(For a complete exercise, see Subordination Pt 2)

  • In Conversation classes, one of the worst things we can do if we are trying to encourage taking risks is to give students grades on their grammar and pronunciation during speaking activities. There are ways to help students become aware of their weaknesses without discouraging their initiative. (See Don’t Give Grades For These In Conversation Class. Do This Instead.)

OK, time for me to go for a run through one of our Pacific Northwest old-growth forest purely for the intrinsic pleasures of it.

David Kehe

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