Week 8 Review: 10 Ways to Motivate the Unmotivated from Ken Wilson's Blog
Ken Wilson originally began his blog as a way to share the materials and knowledge that he had from being involved in over 30 different ELP publishing projects. He wrote about 150 ELT songs and co-wrote (with Doug Case) close to 100 English Teaching Theatre sketches and hoped to use the blog as a way to share these creations. However, more recently the blog has become a collection of resources on teaching English, written by him and a range of guest authors. My review this week focuses on one of the posts that stuck out to me, titled 10 Ways to Motivate the Unmotivated or as it later appears in the post "Ken's Ten Rules for Motivating the Boys on the Back Row." Below is a summary of the first 5 rules:
1. Deploy Your Big Guns
"Every class is a mixed ability class, and, even with a new group, you know who the best students are, even after spending just a small amount of time with them." Picking just one group and teaching to that level makes people feel either left behind or bored. Ken suggests that teachers need to engage their "best students" (what he calls stars) and have them meet with a group of their peers to mentor and learn together. Encouraging the students to be in different groups each time prevents staleness and it challenges the people who you choose to be stars to "grow into their star status."
2. Engineer Threesomes
"I have never understood the fixation with putting students in pairs. Threes are much better, especially if one of the three is one of your stars." In this point, he encourages teachers to stop placing two people in a group, but instead allowing students to have more than one other partner. This way, the students do not feel intimidated or singled out and they will be more comfortable and therefore more engaged with the activity.
3. Get Down On Your Knees
Here, he talks about the importance of getting down onto the same level as the students when they are working in groups. In a classroom in China he observed a teacher crouching down to make sure her head was lower down than the student she was talking to. "I asked her afterwards if she had been trained to get down lower than the student in this way and she said no, she just did it once when she was listening to a student, and the student seemed more confident asking her for help." Students who do not feel looked down on are more motivated to ask questions and seek out assistance from the teacher.
Unless you work to engage the students, they are simply "passive recipients of what you and the book have to offer." One example that Ken provided is using post-it notes to have the students write down everything that the know about a subject before beginning a unit. This gets their brains focused and their prior knowledge can't necessarily be "wrong," so they will be more willing to participate.
5. Devolve Responsibility
Allowing the students to teach themselves and take some of the responsibility motivates learning. "Let’s imagine the book has 12 units. Tell the class that you are going to present the material in the first two units, and after that, you are going to make them responsible for introducing the material in the rest of the book." Students will be more motivated if they feel that their learning is going to be beneficial to themselves and others.
If you would like to read the rest of Ken's rules please click here.
What should I do as a teacher?
Ken's blog has a large amount of resources for teachers of English and English as a second language. With his extensive experience in the field, he offers a unique perspective that is gathered from observing some of the best teachers all over the world. This is a great resource for teachers to challenge themselves to try different things after seeing what is working in other classrooms.