There is an old saying ”You can take the horse to water but you cannot make him drink”. 

This is more or less true for students, especially ESL students. They have to put extra effort to learn and use English as a second language while they feel comfortable using their native language in everyday life. Most often it is seen that they get a chance to use English only in the classroom. Younger students are in your class, most likely, because their parents enrolled them. They don’t have a high degree of self-motivation. In such situations, it is up to you, the teacher, to keep students motivated in the ESL classroom. As motivation has a major influence on our behavior, you have to go one step further and think differently –

“Leave the horse there and he will drink.”

Being an ESL teacher, how will you keep students motivated in the classroom? Motivation is the crucial force which determines whether students embark on a task at all, how much energy they devote to it, and how long they persevere. Motivation is something that fades away unless you feed it regularly. It takes time, effort and energy – but it is worthwhile. However, at first, you have to be a motivated teacher to keep students motivated in the ESL classroom. When you have a passion for teaching, your students are more likely to show a passion for learning. On the other hand, if you don’t care about teaching, your students won’t care about learning.

You, the teacher, have to stimulate these motivational components in the students. However, it’s not always as easy to plan and execute amazing strategies that will keep your students motivated. Here are a few effective tips that can be done to motivate students in ESL classroom.

Think about your methods and your lessons from the perspective of your ESL students. They might be outdated, irrelevant and—worst of all—boring! If so, keep your students motivated by ditching those old methods and embracing new amazing and super engaging activities that will push them to the next level.

Be resourceful and skillful enough to motivate your students to participate in the lesson by using “pair work” or “group work”. Language is best learned through the close collaboration and communication among students.

Try to confirm and maximize eye contact – both teacher to students and student to student. Make sure students are seated at a considerable and comfortable distance from one another. Think in advance about how you will organize changing partners or changing groups.

Let them make mistakes. If you interrupt your students to correct every word, they will get frustrated and lose motivation. Allow your students time to think and respond, and let them realize they have made a mistake and try to correct it themselves.

Use different techniques like role-play activity in order to motivate students and help the less motivated learners take part in the lesson. Use tools like realia and flash cards which are considered as important tools in teaching especially a foreign language. Storytelling will develop speaking and writing skills of the ESL students. Use various audio-visual materials to teach grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation and community building.

Encourage students to sometimes speak their first language (L1) in the ESL classroom since it can prevent time being wasted on fruitless explanations and instructions.

Build a great relationship with your students. Be flexible with a great sense of humor. Be fun, telling stories while teaching, laughing with them and know them by their names.

To keep your students motivated in the ESL classroom, you have to try your best and make the knowledge useful. Keep in mind, nothing is more boring than useless information. And if a student asks a question, take your time and really answer it. It may be the biggest gift you get.

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