TeachingEnglish
Ways of Motivating EFL/ ESL Students in the Classroom.

A/ WHAT IS MOTIVATION? 

  • The word "motivation" is typically defined as the forces that account for the arousal, selection, direction, and continuation of behaviour. Actually, it is often used to describe certain sorts of behaviour. A student who studies hard and tries for top grades may be described as being "highly motivated", while his/her friend may say that he is "finding it hard to get motivated". Such statements imply that motivation has a major influence on our behaviour.
  • Motivation can be defined as a concept used to describe the factors within an individual which arouse, maintain and channel behaviour towards a goal. Another way to say this is that motivation is goal-directed behaviour.

 B/ Motivation in the ESL/EFL Classroom 

  • Motivation has long been a major problem for most teachers of English as a Second Language (ESL) or as a foreign language not only in the Arab World but also elsewhere.
  • Motivation in the ESL/EFL classroom is easily one of the most important factors as I'm sure most teachers would agree with me. The main reason I'm coming to this point of view is that most of our students have low motivation to learn English. In addition to that, while most of them have a vague sense that whether "English will be useful for my future" or not, they don't have a clear idea of what that means, nor is that a very strong motivator; it's too vague and too far off.

 

  • The first step in tackling the problem of motivation is that the teachers need to understand and appreciate the role and importance of motivation in any learning. In the context of second language learning, William Littlewood (1987: 53) observes:
  • In second language learning as in every other field of human learning, motivation is the critical force which determines whether a learner embarks on a task at all, how much energy he devotes to it, and how long he perseveres. It is a complex phenomenon and includes many components: the individual’s drive, need for achievement and success, curiosity, desire for stimulation and new experience, and so on. These factors play a role in every kind of learning situation.
  • “Student motivation is influenced by both internal and external factors that can start, sustain, intensify, or discourage behaviour” (Reeve, 1996).The teacher has to activate these motivational components in the students but that is the precise problem. How can it be done in every class everyday?

 C/ Ways of motivating students in the classroom 1) - “Pair work” or “Group work” 

  • One of the successful ways, if the teacher is resourceful and skilful enough, to motivate his/her students to participate in the lesson is to use “pair work” or “Group work” appropriately.Language is best learned through the close collaboration and communication among students. This type of collaboration results in benefits for all or both learners. In fact, learners can help each other while working on different types of tasks such as writing dialogues, interviews, drawing pictures and making comments about them, play roles, etc…
  • Researches on Second Language Acquisition have shown that learners have differences in mastering skills. While one student is good in drawing, another can be good in expressing ideas verbally; a third other student can be good at role play and imitation. Besides, some students find it less stressful, if not much comfortable to learn certain rules or usages of language from their pears and comrades than from their teacher.Finally, communicative language teaching requires a sense of community and anenvironment of trust and mutual confidence which “pair work” or “Group work” can provide.

 2) The seating of the students 

  • The way the students are seated in the classroom will often determine the dynamics of the lesson. Indeed, a simple change in the seating pattern can make an incredible difference to group coherence and student satisfaction, and I’ve seen many other cases where seating has been a crucial element in the success or failure of the lesson.The seating pattern you use may, in some cases, not be fully under your control – if for example the desks are fixed to the ground or the school has strict rules about not moving the furniture. Student numbers are also going to be an issue.
  • I’ll talk about average size classes – anything from 6 to 25. Teachers have different preferences for seating arrangements – groups seated round small tables is often one choice. This is probably the best option for the larger classes in this range, but for smaller numbers and with adult or teenage students I think the horseshoe shape, which I find has all of the advantages of groups, and none of the disadvantages. A horseshoe may be desks in a U-shape with a hollow centre, students in a semicircle on chairs with arm-rests and no desks, or students seated around three sides of a large table, with the teacher at one end.nIn any case, whatever seating pattern you choose or is imposed on you, the class is likely to be more successful if you keep the following principles in mind:

 a) Try and maximise eye contact. 

  • Both teacher to student and student to student. In full class phases of the lesson, if the person who is speaking does not have eye contact with the others, then attention is likely to drop. This is the main reason I personally think the horseshoe shape to groups is better.

 b) Make sure students are seated at a comfortable distance from each other.

  • Make sure you don’t have one student sitting alone or outside the groups. Besides, try to leave a fair empty, but not so much a space because large distances between the students will tend to lead to a “muted” atmosphere, low pace, and less active student participation in the lesson.

 c) Think in advance about how you will organise changing partners or changing groups. 

  • This is a stage of the lesson which can potentially descend into chaos if it’s not tightly controlled, with students wandering aimlessly around not knowing where to go or confidently moving to the wrong place.

 3) The Error Correction 

  • It is always asked whether we should correct all students’ errors, whenever they occur. The reasonable answer is that if we stop at every single error and treat it with no room for errors to take place, this will lead to a gap of communication and students will be too much afraid of making mistakes. Hence, due to being too much obsessed with making errors, students will be too much reluctant to participate.Thus, Teachers should be aware of when to correct errors and how to do that without any hurt and humiliation. In a learner- centered classroom, it should be better to correct errors, which students make unconsciously, whenever there is a gap of communication or when not treating the error will result in a misunderstanding of the idea expressed.
  • Concerning the ways of how to correct errors, there are several techniques which the teacher, who is seen as the monitor, should choose from them according to the type of the error and task where the incorrect form of language occurs. Among these ways of correction we can state: self correction, peer correction and teacher correction.

  4) Role play 

  • This is another technique to vary the pace the lesson and to respond to the fundamental notion of variety in teaching. Teachers are advised to use the role- play activity in order to motivate their students and to help the less motivated learners take part in the lesson. Besides, certain tasks in the student’s book are followed by a role- play activity where it becomes a necessity to undergo such an activity. As good examples of that we can state: the hide (item) and guessing game, dramatizing an interview of customer and shop assistant, doctor and patient conversation, etc…

 5) Using realia, flash cards, Stories and songs in teaching 

  • Realia and flash cards are considered as important tools in teaching especially a foreign language, since they play the role of a facilitator in teaching new vocabularies such as fruits, vegetables, clothes items, etc…Besides, they are very helpful in drawing especially beginners’ attention to follow and match new words to items. In addition, realia is an authentic material that helps the teacher to overcome classroom artificiality.Creating stories with the students is another way of developing speaking and writing skills. Actually, creating stories is grounded in the students’ ability to create a story from their personal experience. In creating stories some issues are revealed such as: a) fluency, b) whether the students have enough language to create the story, and c) accuracy.
  • Teachers are able to demonstrate techniques of using songs in different ways to teach grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation and community building because the students like songs and they motivate the students to learn the English language in an interesting way. Teachers can elicit students’ ideas about the song through activities such as prediction, mind maps, word splashes, etc. Students discuss questions such as the feelings in the song, what will happen next, etc. and write their responses in an interesting manner. Students may write and present how the song makes them feel and then draw a picture of their feelings while listening to the song. Teachers respond to this presentation and ask questions. Then, feedback is provided from the group.

 6) Using audio visual material: cassette player, video, computer…

  • Since our schools are equipped with various audio visual materials such as cassette recorders, videos, computers, projectors, magic boards and many others, teachers should use these materials when teaching. Indeed, they should include the appropriate material to use while planning their lessons. For instance, we should include a cassette player in a lesson based on listening, while we need to include a computer in any e-lesson or a lesson about designing a website or an internet page about your school. Whereas, we can use an overhead projector in presenting writing drafts for classroom correction or to read.

 7) Using the L1 in the EFL/ ESL classroom 

  • Should we or shouldn’t we use the students’ first language (L1) in the classroom? This is one of the questions which most divides EFL/ESL teachers, whether they are for it or against it.The main argument against the use of the L1 in language teaching is that students will become dependent on it, and not even try to understand meaning from context and explanation, or express what they want to say within their limited command of the target language (L2).But there are other, historical reasons why the use of the students’ mother tongue went out of favour. Initially it was part of a reaction against the Grammar-Translation method, which had dominated late 19th and early 20th century teaching, and which saw language learning as a means towards intellectual development rather than as being for utilitarian, communicative purposes.
  • But, we can say that there are a few cases when we can resort to the student’s mother tongue such as- When there is a gap of communication or total misunderstanding, since it can prevent time being wasted on fruitless explanations and instructions, when it could be better spent on language practice.- It can be used contrastively to point out problem areas of grammar. For example, various course books, like Headway, now encourage students to translate model sentences into their own language in order to compare and contrast the grammar.
  • - It can be used with beginners, when students are trying to say something but having difficulty, they can say it in their own language and the teacher can reformulate it for them.- When students need to combine the two languages, for example in those lessons whose focus evolve around translation and interpreting.

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