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Motivating Students One of the most challenging aspects of
One of the most challenging aspects of teaching English to non- native speakers is refining the ability in oneself to maintain student motivation. This is obviously more salient to children than to adults, but is present in all groups nonetheless. It is important for the teacher to adjust motivational techniques based on the age of the class. For example, if a teacher has a class that is all (or mostly) adults, there is a very good chance that everyone in the class is there because they were motivated on their own to learn English. For this reason, the teacher's primary role will be to maintain motivation instead of creating it. Just because people came into the classroom wanting to learn English, that does not mean that they will remain motivated to learn it, even after the first class. Many adults who come in to learn English have not been in a classroom setting for a long time, and it can take some time for them to adjust to the environment. For groups such as this, the teacher can help motivate by facilitating the adjustment by doing numerous ice-breaking activities, as well as keeping the pace of the class varied and interesting. Maintaining interest and giving frequent encouragement are key when working with older students, because they are not used to a classroom setting and may get bored/frustrated easily in a classroom environment.
Much like older students, younger students also require constant work on the part of the teacher to maintain motivation; however, the challenges facing the teacher are different with a younger age group. Younger students are often used to the classroom environment, but might not want to be in the class (as it was likely chosen for them). The goal of the teacher therefore is to show the students the positive effects of learning English. Once the students can see the class as something that is important to their lives (as opposed to 'just another class'), they will be motivated to learn and participate. This is one key difference between the two populations: the older students come into class already knowing what a valuable skill leanring English is, and they have likely already encountered moments where they would have benefited from its knowledge. The younger students have not had as much (if any) outside contact with the language, and cannot therefore directly see how it relates to their life, and how it might benefit them. The irony here is that younger students are much more apt to learn the language if the teacher can properly motivate them, because their brains are more receptive to new language skills and new instruction. When working with younger students, it is important for the teacher to keep their short attention span in mind, and employ short games, give frequent encouragement and maintain a varied and interesting pace in the class (obviously this varied and interesting pace will differ strongly from the same in an adult population).
As outlined above, the motivational techniques used for younger and older classes are very similar. The difference that the teacher must understand is the respective strengths and weaknesses of each population. Older students have longer attention spans and enter the class with a higher motivational level, but also come in with a more limited capacity to learn. Alternatively, younger students enter with (usually) almost no motivation and very short attention spans, but a much greater ability to absorb information given. The teacher must also possess a certain instinct about what techniques will work in one class, and which ones will not work. This obviously cannot be pre-planned, but it is something that the teacher will figure out as he/she gets to know the students and gains experience.