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Motivating Children to Learn.

Larry Ferlazzo blogged recently about how to "motivate" a student to learn in a classroom setting. There are some very interesting responses over that way, including 1) finding out WHY the student doesn't want to learn the material, and 2) not giving all the answers/making the student strive and accomplish on his own.

I watched the video and read through the other responses and it struck me that the fact that the student MUST be in that room and MUST take that class would set things off on the wrong foot, just to begin with. Just imagine if the state demanded that YOU learn high school chemistry every weekday for the next year, and "your future" depends on whether you do well. (Or so your parents/high school counsellor tell you.)

I'm not saying that in an anti-school or anti-teacher way, but really. What if that coercion happened to you for 12 years straight? And you copped an attitude? And the state's response is to keep you in school until you're 18? Several states are raising the dropout age and/or requiring a certain number of credits before leaving school is an option, you see.

What if that were you? Having a local school to go to where the teachers know advanced subject matter such as physics or calculus is a very precious thing. It just isn't going to feel that way if you are FORCED to go under duress. I think being forced to go is just going to make people resentful. It's going to make for unhappy teachers, too, because guess what? Unhappy and unwilling students are nowhere near as fun to teach as children who are eager and excited about the subject.

And then I had another thought: WHAT HAPPENED to those cute little kindergarteners who all thought they could do great things? What happened to them? They turned into these surly teens who think history sucks and Dad knows nothing. It can't be all hormonal, this unwillingness to learn, or new video games with boring instructions would not sell out. What we need is a really high-level maths game with kewl graphics and unlocked rooms and stuff. Give those out instead of textbooks. Tell the kid they MUST get to the Throne Room of the Amber Palace by June 1 or fail in their quest. Just a thought. What you teach in class, the student will go home and try to play! Better than homework or even the old Choose Your Own Adventure series classic. I always died in those or wound up becoming a possum or something. :)


  1. Well..I put in my 17 years in school .. And then 25 at a desk. Not sure that it was time well spent --- but it did enable these retirement years :)

  2. Yeahhh, lots of retirement years. I'm remembering you retiring at something ridiculous like 44 and having to petition for an exemption so you could live in the Old Folks' Town you currently call home. :)

  3. Well if they made PSP/Playstation games that had 'hidden learning' in them we would all be on a winner! Griffin certainly would win for sure.

  4. Coercion is certainly not helping. I got to hear a lecture in college from a guy who ran a boarding school for kids who dropped out of school. The first thing he did was make class not mandatory. He said that it often took a couple of months for the kids to detox before they could discover that they wanted to learn.


  5. Chris, I wish I could market this stuff! If Nintendo put a few math problems in with Zelda, it would still sell!! :)

    Luke, DETOX is probably the best word for it. I'm not saying it's ALL school's fault. Sometimes we adopt toxic attitudes to our own detriment! And it probably took a couple months for these folks to settle in and get to the point where they could even start to answer, "What do I want to do with my life now?"


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