Demotivated students – solutions!

demotivated students slumping at their desk in a university lecture hall

Have you tried being a language student lately? Do you have demotivated students looking at you with glazed eyes and slumping at their desks? Here are some considerations to try to change that!

Share the stage!

Many teachers give teacher-centered lessons or lectures. The teacher is animated, talking, explaining, and writing on the board. But, in the meantime, the students are sitting, listening passively. Sitting for long periods is tiring. And by the time students come to your English lesson, they might have been sitting for five hours already in other classes. No wonder it looks like you’ve got a room full of demotivated students!

bird hogging a bird bath to illusrate a teacher who does all the talking in class

Concentrating for long periods is also tiring. The students are soon bored, or at best, soporific. While the teacher has a whale of a time running the show at the front, the class wilt like flowers in a barren desert under the baking sun. So, don’t hog the birdbath like the bird in this cartoon! Instead, share the stage and talking time so your students participate actively. It’s no wonder that most pupils in France, having attended English lessons several times a week for six years, can only say, “My name is.”

Get students moving

Teachers need to have students moving, working in groups or pairs, or doing something hands-on. Passive listening is the worst way to learn a foreign language. Gazing passively at a textbook while somebody reads out a paragraph is not an effective use of classroom time. It’s certainly easy for the teacher, but not for the students.

Do your students know what you are talking about?

The other important thing to help a teacher focus on students, rather than the sound of their voice or the textbook, is to ask questions all the time. However, asking, “Do you understand?” or “Is that clear?”‘ is not the right question. Ask something that requires students to prove they understand. For example, “What question are you asking each other in this pairwork task?” “What are some potential answers to this question?” Or let’s say there is a crossword to fill in. The columns and lines are numbered. Point to a number in a column and ask, “What is this number 5 for?” Students tell you, or a student points to the related clue. Inversely, point to a clue and ask, “Where do you fill in the answer to this clue?”

Don’t put down your students

I’ve seen a lot of sarcastic teachers in France, teachers who put down or humiliate their students. Sarcasm is a cheap trick just because you are older or in a position of superiority. Even though it might be tempting, try always to set an example and be a mentor to your students, with courteous behaviour, however much they drive you mad.

Use my resources and be a successful English teacher

For activities to involve your students, make them think, and keep them moving, check out my TEFL / TESOL games and resources for all ages here.

I’m here to help if you have any questions just ask in the comments box below. I’ll be happy to help you. If you tell me about your students, their age, level and how many you have in your classes, I’ll help you choose the best resources and send you some free samples;

Kind regards

Shelley Ann Vernon

Further reading

You may also find this post on getting shy students to participate helpful.

2 thoughts on “Demotivated students – solutions!”

  1. There are two visually challenged students in my class. How do I manage this situation without alienating them or discouraging them from learning the language?

    1. Shelley Vernon

      Hello Ashita, Thanks for your question. I don’t have any direct experience with visually challenged pupils. Can they see at all? If they have trouble seeing, then make sure they are at the front close to your visuals. Allow them to come close to the board if they need to. Many of my activities use movement, and talking, it’s not all about reading and writing.

      But it depends just how impaired their vision is, since there’s a big difference between being short sighted and having no sight at all.

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