Types of motivation

Different types of motivation for learning, based on the theories of American psychologist, Carl Rogers.
Intrinsic motivation — comes from the learner. The learning activity and the learning environment motivate the learner because they are a source of enjoyment or value.
Extrinsic motivation — comes from an external source, some kind of external benefit or reward. The potential negative consequences of notlearning can also be motivating.

  • Think of a foreign language you have studied in the past: what motivated you to learn?
  • What motivates your learners to learn English?

Getting to know your learners

Getting to know your learners helps you to find out more about what motivates them.
How do you get to know new classes/ learners quickly?
Try these ten activities to better understand your learners’ needs, interests and preferences: 
1. Ask learners to write personal profiles and post them on the classroom wall 
2. Do a needs analysis at the beginning of the year / at the beginning of a course 
3. Ask learners to do classroom surveys 
4. Keep records of learner strengths / weaknesses / participation as you find out during each class 
5. Do a whole class mingle (where everyone stands up and speaks to other learners), where learners ask each other questions (about interests, hobbies, etc.) 
6. Play ‘I like’ – ask learners to stand in the middle of the room, ask a question e.g. ‘I like working in groups’, ‘I like sports’. If they agree, they run to one side of the room, if they disagree they run to the other (make sure you tell them which side before you start!). Make a note of the class preferences as you play the game. 
7. Ask learners to introduce each other 
8. Ask learners to interview and then write a profile of their partner (you can provide the questions to get the information that you need) 
9. Ask learners to (anonymously) write things they like and don’t like on pieces of paper. Place two bags at the front of class. Learners drop in their papers at the end of the class. 
10. Ask learners to suggest topics or activities for class – anonymously or in groups.

Rapport in action

Rapport is the relationship we have with our learners.
Knowing your learners better is the first step towards building rapport. By building a relationship with students and finding out about their needs and interests, you can make English more relevant to their lives, and plan lessons and activities which engage them more.

Ways to build rapport

In the video, you saw a teacher who had built a lesson around her learners’ interests - the Harry Potter books.
You probably noticed the number of hands that went up when she asked if anyone had heard of Harry Potter and who had read any of the books. The learners were clearly engaged and interested in the topic of the lesson. The teacher knew her learners’ interests and was tapping into their intrinsic motivation. You might not be able to plan every lesson around the interests of your learners, but there are some things you can always do to build rapport and create a good relationship with your learners.
Choose your attitude
You need to be friendly but professional. Remember that your students don’t want you as a friend, but want to respect you as a teacher. Show them from the outset that you expect them to work hard in your class, but that it can be enjoyable.
Use names
Yes, it can be difficult with a large class to learn names quickly, but using your learners’ names shows that you see them as individuals and creates bonds.
Really listen to the messages in what your learners say, not just the English that they produce. Try to avoid unnecessary ‘echoing’, or simply repeating what learners say and be aware of the amount of time you spend talking in a class.
Avoid over-correcting
Teachers who correct learners every time they speak run the risk of damaging learner confidence and breaking down rapport. Of course, learners need correcting at times, and when this is done supportively it can increase trust between learner and teacher.
Stand tall
Work on your voice and body language so that you appear confident, even if you really don’t feel it. Your voice needs to be loud and clear. Stand straight in front of the class, and don’t hide behind a desk.


Another essential ingredient of good rapport, and one which can motivate learners is giving praise.
Praise is extremely important. However, it has to be for real. Students know very quickly if you're not telling the truth. And I think to give out praise on a regular basis for the sake of giving out praise is very much the wrong approach for a teacher. I believe in being very honest to kids. They know when you're being honest, and they really appreciate it. So if I do give praise, they know it's been well earned, and they really respond to it. On the other hand, if you start giving out praise for, as you say, the little things, I think you can end up undermining what you're saying.
Skip to 1 minute and 8 secondsAnd many teachers get into a habit of repeating things, and the kids end up one, not listening, and it loses any meaning. So if we really want them to accept the praise, it has to be used more carefully. It  should be given, when it's been well-earned. And people respect it, especially the older kids. They really like praise to be for real. And I think this is important for every teacher to remember.

Motivating learners to speak

Successful speaking activities

In the video in the last step, you watched teachers talking about different ways that they motivate their learners to speak. You’ll have noticed the learners in the classroom clips were enthusiastic and were participating well, both in the primary classes and the secondary classes.
Read the tips about what makes a speaking activity successful and give your own ideas below.
  1. Choose the right topic
    A bit obvious this one! Of course learners will be more motivated to participate in an activity which they are interested in and which relates to their lives or experience.
  2. Be specific 
    Speaking activities with a clear communicative goal work best. For example, ‘Tell your partner what you did at the weekend and find one thing you have in common’ gives learners a specific task and an end goal so that they know when they have achieved it. Vague activities like ‘Talk about things you like’ can leave learners wondering what a teacher wants.
  3. Give support and preparation time
    Sometimes, a speaking activity falls flat because learners simply don’t feel ready to speak. Make sure they have the language they need and give them a bit of time to prepare. This could be time to read instructions for a role play for example. Making notes can help, but writing a speech interferes with fluency.
  4. Allow learners to work together 
    If learners talk in pairs or groups, they get much more speaking practice than when you are asking questions to one learner at a time. You could demonstrate the speaking activity with a strong learner first, to make sure that learners are clear about what you want them to do.
  5. Provide a clear purpose
    Activities where learners have to exchange information in order to complete an activity provide a real reason for speaking. These are sometimes known as ‘information gap’ activities. This could be a simple question and answer activity, or something more complex like a group activity where learners have different information which they have to share in order to solve a puzzle.

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