6 Ways to Motivate your Students in the Foreign Language Classroom

What do you do in order to motivate your students to speak the target language in your classroom? At home?

As educators and loving caregivers, we understand that every child is unique; the way they acquire knowledge, their motivations, their struggles, and their strengths vary so much between each one.

Four children sitting with speech bubbles of various things
Image found here at heystudents.com

Motivating your students and encouraging them to participate in the foreign language is not an easy job. Although, it is not impossible.

Here are 6 ways to motivate your students and keep them engaged in your foreign language class:

  1. Be patient - Some children pick up the foreign language faster than others. Some like to shout the answers while others whisper it. No matter what your students are like, be patient and encouraging. Remember that you are not only teaching them a foreign language, you are also teaching them about other cultures and diversity, and you are planting the ‘curiosity seed’ that will possibly inspire them to travel, learn more languages, and become a global citizen.
  2. Be excited & positive – The more excited you are about the lesson and/or activity, the more excited your students will be. So, make your lessons exciting, age appropriate, and have fun with them! 
  3. Provide varied activities – When teaching a foreign language, repetition is very important. Therefore, many lessons may relate to a similar content for several weeks. This is no reason for you to keep the same activities for this amount of time. Be creative! But if you are feeling like you cannot come up with your own ideas… Well, the internet is a great place to find awesome ideas. Teachers know and understand the importance of collaboration: therefore, we are always willing to share tips and ideas.
  4. Allow students to succeed – Each child will learn at their own pace. Be sensitive to this fact and allow each student to succeed. Again, be patient and positive. If a child feels like they are succeeding at something, most likely, they will instinctively want to get better and better, so that pretty soon they will start to challenge themselves.
  5. Relevant content – Teaching student random vocabulary or verb conjugations is hard, boring, and just not natural. I have found that students learn faster and better when the content is relevant to their everyday life as well as applicable to their routine. This is another reason why I always try to really get to know my students and develop my lessons around their interests while still meeting the language acquisition goals.
  6. Reward students - Depending on the student’s personality, age, and gender, I rotate between various types of rewards. From a simple toy to being my teacher aid for the day. The bottom line is that rewarding children for their positive behavior and/or participation definitely motivates them to keep up the good job!

In classes, I motivate my students to speak the target language in many different ways. I am always coming up with creative ideas to engage my students in the activities I offer, and motivate them to participate and challenge themselves.

Here is a list of ideas of the ‘things’ I have done in order to motivate my older students to speak Spanish:

Boy hugging plush alpaca
Student hugging ‘Escupito’ the alpaca
  • Alpaca (aka ‘Escupito’) – I have a plush Alpaca -from Chile- that ‘spits’ Spanish. This alpaca participates in our class every week and he always starts class by sitting next to me. Escupito observes for the first few minutes of class and the student who is speaking the most Spanish, or trying his best gets to hold Escupito. This alpaca gets passed around throughout the entire lesson. It works beautifully.
  • Helper – Students that are excelling and challenging themselves are rewarded by being a teacher assistant OR selecting the activities that will follow in our lesson. Simple, but effective.
  • Movie day – As a reward for their hard work and participation, we have a movie day. Children select an age appropriate movie that we watch in the foreign language while eating popcorn. They love it!
  • Question box – I have a ‘question box’ where I encourage children to ask me questions about the foreign language, other countries, culture, anything! I take a week to reply and I am honest to then, if I do not know something, I will look it up. This idea has started amazing discussions!

Here is a list of ideas of the ‘things’ I have done in order to motivate my younger students to speak Spanish:

  • Stickers
  • Temporary tattoos
  • Stamps
  • High five
  • Become my helper
  • Eat something fun
  • Plastic microphone – This works miracles! Children always repeat and/or answer a question when the -less than $1- plastic microphone points at them. I highly recommend it!

What are some of the ways you motivate your student in the foreign language classroom?

2 thoughts on “6 Ways to Motivate your Students in the Foreign Language Classroom”

  1. Very interesting article…..can see how suggestions would motivate students to achievement of better language skills! Would be interested in other articles and ideas! Thanks for a very provocative article! Nancy Roth

    1. Wonderful! I am so happy that you enjoyed this article. As a teacher, I am always challenging myself in order to keep students motivated, interested, and engaged. I will definitely work on more articles and ideas related to this topic. Thank you very much for your feedback, I appreciate it. Denise :)

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