Means of Increasing Motivation to Learn English for at-Risk Students

Successful learning is a goal that every teacher hopes for and effective methods and techniques can help them accomplish this goal. Trying to motivate our students is a difficult task, especially if they are at risk of academic failure or dropping out of school. Students in poor, rural areas are at potential educational risk as a result of economic decline or geographic isolation.

When we talk about ”at-risk” students we refer to students who have raised concerns based on specific behaviors observed over time that indicate they are more likely to fail or drop out. A broad range of students` characteristics can be emphasized, from situational risk-factors to innate difficulties:

  • Physical disabilities and learning disabilities
  • Prolonged or persistent health issues
  • Delinquency
  • Absenteeism
  • Family welfare or marital status
  • Income levels, employment status, or immigration status

There are many reasons causing students’ difficulties in learning English: the curriculum emphasis on passive learning rather than active learning, class conditions, too much focus on grammar, boring classes and limited opportunities outside of class to practice language. Therefore, teaching English can be a challenge both for teachers and students, therefore, finding the best solutions so that students stay in school and perform well in school is a major priority.

Teaching strategies have changed over the years from the traditional methods when students were learning by recitation and memorization, to modern methods that focus on interaction and students’ participation. Teachers are an important source of language for students, and for some of them the classroom is the only opportunity to listen to English being used. The teacher`s role is to expose students to language as much as possible. In many cases, teachers use first language for classroom management, depriving the students from the experience of using language in real communication. In order to develop the communicative competence, teachers should motivate their students by applying certain strategies and techniques. Students should be exposed to authentic, natural communication as much as possible and also interesting and challenging materials should be used for successful communication.

An important aspect in the process of language learning is the interaction that takes place, especially in a group. In order to maximize foreign language acquisition, students should be exposed to language as much as possible which is a little beyond their current level of competence. The question is what classroom activities provide the students the opportunities to practise language and help them stay in school?

One of the most efficient methods is the use of games. Using games in the classroom helps the teacher and also the students. The teacher creates a context for learning while the students have a purpose, a meaning for using language.

Nowadays games are a part of our students` lives, they play games on the computer, on their cell-phone bun not very often in the classroom. The potential of games in a language learning classroom is not fully used. Games are entertaining, amusing and interesting and help students develop all four skills: listening and reading, writing and speaking. While playing games students interact with each other using English, expressing their opinions and feelings in a relaxed atmosphere, thus becoming more fluent and less anxious.

The teachers should introduce language teaching games step by step, choose the most suitable game as a supplementary activity. The rules may need explanations in the mother tongue so that students understand clearly how the game works, demonstration is also effective.

Games should be played with a spirit of friendly competition, some students tend to be over competitive and others give up too quickly, therefore a balance should be achieved, allowing everyone to participate. It is better to stop a game before students get tired of it and change to something else so that their interest and focus is kept.

The concept of game also implies reward, to end a game in a positive note, it is motivating to give students small prizes such as praise, applause or candies. Students should be encouraged to congratulate each other for their hard work, emphasizing at the same time the learning outcomes.

1. Brophy, Jere, Motivating Students to Learn, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers, New Jersey Hove, 1998.
2. Gardner, R.; Lambert, W., Attitudes and Motivation in Second Language Learning, Newbury House, Rowley, 1972.
3. Hadfield, Jill, Intermediate Communication Games, Longman, Harlow, 1990.


prof. Felicia Farcaș

Școala Gimnazială Nr. 1, Orbeni (Bacău) , România
Profil iTeach:

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