6 ways to motivate students and get past the fall wall

Teen boy with his phone sitting on the sofa

We’ve all been here before. The first burst of the new school year goes by in an exciting rush. Then, suddenly, it’s fall and students are beginning to look a little glassy-eyed. It’s normal for motivation to ebb and flow. The good news is that there are many ways that educators can support students through the downswings. In fact, staying focused is a great topic to bring up on Along. Start a conversation about what motivation strategies work and what doesn’t, and gain greater insight into how to help your students.See below for 6 tips for breaking through the fall wall.

1. Go straight to the source.

Use the reflection questions in Along to ask students what motivates them. The answers to these questions will give you a better idea into what’s behind a drop of focus. We particularly like the following questions: What activities energize you? What activities re-energize you when you need a break after a long or tiring activity? What helps you stay focused when you’re working? There’s a good chance that your students have never really thought about what props them up. So not only are you providing an opportunity to learn more about your students, you’re also giving them the space to better understand themselves.

2. Admit your own motivational struggles (and how you conquer them).

When you connect with students on Along, make sure to include your own struggles and techniques for working through them. Need to take a walk when your mind is overloaded? Tell them. Do you turn on music when you feel your concentration is waning? Share it. It’s helpful for students to see that motivation isn’t a superhuman skill. It’s something that requires self-reflection and takes practice.

3. Establish clear goals.

Being transparent about expectations helps students know what to prepare for. It’s easier to stay motivated when the path forward is clear. Start class one day by telling students how many weeks are left until winter break and what needs to be achieved between now and then. Lay it all out and show students that they only need to push forward for a particular amount of time — not forever

4. Give students a voice.

When students have a say in how their education is being run, they’re more likely to remain driven. They see that their skin is in the game. According to this Edutopia article, it even boosts dopamine. So take a look at your upcoming lesson plans and find ways to give students a choice about how the lesson will run. (It doesn’t have to be anything big. In fact, starting small is a smart way to go.)

5. Get creative.

There are enormous benefits to shaking things up in the classroom. It keeps students engaged and on their toes. It helps them see things from a new angle and reconsider topics they’d maybe zoned out on. Utilize discussion, games, music and activities. And don’t underestimate the power of movement to reset and recharge students’ brains. 

Not sure where to start? Explore the Along Content Library for activities to incorporate into the classroom and check out this Education Week article on using movement.

6. Tie motivation to broader goals.

It’s important to show students that working on motivation isn’t about one test or a particular paper. It’s a skill that will help them achieve their larger goals for their hobbies, interests, relationships, and eventually careers. Take a look at our Sharing Goals and Aspirations Collection for reflection questions and activities to get students thinking about their long-term ambitions and to see how motivation plays into their decisions.The best way to support students is by understanding where they’re coming from and to help them hone the skills to push forward — despite a loss of motivation. When you do this, not only are you helping students leap over the fall wall, you’re also setting them up for years of successful learning. 

It all begins with asking a question. Explore the Along Content Library and start connecting.