Dr. Nancy Livingston  

Root word motive = “to move into action.”

Motivation is an inward/outward influence that causes us to behave certain ways, to work toward some goal, or even change places or positions.


Students suffer from a lack of motivation.


They are more motivated to do different activities than we want them to do.


What motivates one motivates all.


Different things motivate different individuals.

Someone said, “These are trying times for educators.” How true! All we can do is try and try again.

Generally the consensus is that kids may be motivated by some of the following ideas.

Involve students. Let them write their own books, correct their own work, make up their own questions to ask about a text being read, tell about something important they have seen, heard, done, or read.

Try new approaches, a novel format, fun and easy games, or use the computer.

Stage a competition with others with similar skills. Have students beat their last score. Have them keep their own records, graph their progress on things such as number of phrases read correctly, pages read, or how fast they can do their multiplication without errors.

By setting reasonable expectations, the risk of failure is lowered. Fear of failing destroys motivation. For many students, it is better not to try at all than to try and not succeed. This happens to adults too!

Ask students to look for what happens next to a character in the book, movie, or computer game they are involved with.

Provide feedback often. Grades at the end of the term or a test handed back with lots of red marks—is too removed. Instant replay is helpful. It gives students a chance to see their improvement and correct errors when they occur. Teach students to proof their own work and praise them for progress as well as product.

Choosing options. Many times the only options students have are “Take it or leave it.” There are multiple ways to report on a book, for example. Let them use technology; let them be creative. Let students work or read in library, in the hall, on the floor, even the teacher’s desk.

Find a significant other. Assign a task associated with a person your student considerer important, someone they want to be like or please. One school used the coach to motivate low-level readers to read more. He had a whole library of high interest/low level books, including the latest in graphic novels. Students went to his office to check out books, record completed ones, and get praise from the coach. He was the significant other in that school.