Intrinsic Motivation


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What is motivating our students to learn right now? 

How can we increase our students’ intrinsic motivation to learn online?


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Working with your Professional Learning Community on video calls can be difficult. But, at least, you aren’t this guy who got caught in his underwear during the most awkward team meeting ever.


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Failure is good. Jessica Lahey, a middle school teacher and author of The Gift of Failure, shares why failure is an essential part of learning for middle schoolers. (1:24)


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Help Students Build Intrinsic Motivation – Jessica Lahey, an expert on motivating middle schoolers (and fun to listen to!), shares  3 ways to help students get intrinsic motivation


How do we intrinsically motivate students during the COVID-19 pandemic?

The normal ingredients of our “motivation recipe” for students are no longer available. The structure of the school day, social motivators, and the daily conversations about missing assignments have all changed over the last month. Many students rely on these external cues, and they are struggling during the shift to online learning. 

As if that wasn’t enough change, many students are completing work on their own because their families are dealing with the loss of work and loss of childcare. If you are having trouble motivating your students, you are not alone. Most schools in America are struggling to connect with and motivate their students since the rush to online learning.  

To help you cook up a new motivation recipe, here are 4 practical tips and resources to help you support and foster intrinsic motivation and deeper learning. 

Start with Connection

Your relationship with your students is still your most powerful tool for motivation. Check-in with them personally as much as possible. Use all the tools you have (email, Google Classroom, phone calls, and social media), while being sure to follow any district policies, to maintain relationships, validate their emotions, model resiliency, and recognize their effort and achievements.


Make Learning Relevant

Middle schoolers already have a “me” mentality, and now they are literally separated from the “we” of our classrooms. So our online instruction must answer the question, “why is this important to me?” or “how does this relate to my world?” suggests these 5 ways to make learning relevant to middle schoolers. Our favorite ideas are to give students more voice and more choice. Give students autonomy over what they learn and challenge them to apply their learning to change their world. Check out our SOLE resources for some ideas on approaching this.


Make Learning Entertaining

At home, students must decide where to give their attention. Social media, Netflix, and Fortnite are all literally at their fingertips. Making learning entertaining does not mean we make it less rigorous. Instead, try gamifying your lessons by engaging challenge, creativity, collaboration, and competition. Use TomTod’s Lesson of the Week – We created a gamified lesson plan on Digital Citizenship and a slide deck that encourages students to research a topic for your class, practice technology standards, and earn badges for each step of their quest to become Internet Awesome!


Work with Families to Reduce Anxiety and Encourage Curiosity

Many parents are feeling stressed about being responsible for their students completing work on time. Develop assignments that encourage curiosity above grades. Edutopia has defined 7 Guiding Principles For Parents Teaching From Home. They emphasize helping “students move beyond a compliance mindset — ’I’ve completed my work, can I go now?’— by building in time for passion projects and fun.” 


Want to learn more about intrinsic motivation?  

Drive into this 1.5 hour seminar as Jessica Lahey breaks down the research on motivation (1:28:58), resilience, and learning. We hope these tips help you motivate your students this week!
– The TomTod Team

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