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November 2014
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Quick Tip: M is for Motivation
by Sarah Sahr

Audience: All levels of teachers and students

During the 2008–2009 school year, I worked as an English advisory teacher at AL Wajbah Primary Independent Girls School, in Doha, Qatar. I assisted many groups of professionals in this school including English, Arabic, and physical education teachers; media specialists; and school administrators. In May of 2009, I helped develop a school-wide workshop on motivation. After the workshop, teachers compiled a summary of key points for distribution to the school with some key findings and highlights. I’d like to share some of those findings with you here. It might be just what you need to keep both teachers and students motivated!

Suggestions on How YOU Can Motivate Students to Continuously Improve

  1. Create an environment that is open and positive: Your classrooms should reflect an environment that allows students the ability to speak freely and to have a sense of personal ownership in what takes place there. Help students find personal meaning and value in learning. Decorate your walls with useful, engaging information, not just the latest trendy comic characters. And, of course, you can always give snacks and other rewards, and send positive messages home.
  2. Increase student success by assigning task that are neither too easy nor too difficult: Often, problems from classroom management stems from students being disengaged with school work. Make sure to differentiate instruction based on the level of each student. Set achievable timelines and deadlines for tasks. Work with your students to find the right instructional balance.

Suggestions on How YOU Can Motivate Yourself to Continuously Improve

  1. Never say “no” to professional development (PD): And by PD, I mean all PD. Walk to a teacher’s classroom down the hall and talk about the current initiatives in the school. Search the Internet for communities of practice that interest you and you can participate in. If comfortable, ask selective students how you, as a teacher, could improve. Sometimes the greatest PD is closer than you think.
  2. Celebrate small victories! If a challenging student finally sees the light, tell your colleagues. If a class has had an amazing week and met all lesson outcomes, include them in the celebration by allowing a homework pass or 30-minutes of controlled “down time” where students can relax. And, when taking a vacation, sincerely take a vacation and disconnect. Leave school work at school.

As a reminder, these teaching tips come from an amazing group of primary school teachers in Doha, Qatar. Although they might have a different teaching experience, I think we can all take some of their advice.


Sarah Sahr is the director of education programs at TESOL and is currently pursuing her doctorate in education administration and policy at the George Washington University.

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Table of Contents
TC Homepage
Intercultural Skills for the EFL Classroom
Applying for International Teaching Jobs
Confessions of a Digital Neanderthal
Quick Tip: M is for Motivation
Activities from New Ways in Teaching Vocabulary, Revised
Association News
Job Link
U.S. Embassy ESL/EFL Teaching Projects, The English Language Fellow Program, Worldwide

IEP Faculty (Full Time), Spring Int'l Center, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA

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