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How to Motivate Disaffected Students

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Do you have disaffected students? Do some students seem tired and restless? Do you find yourself having to constantly tell the back row to stop leaning their chairs against the wall? Day in and day out you think why my class can’t be the enthusiastic bunch like the year below, where’s the motivation in them? Teaching has its ups and down, but inherit a few disaffected students and your work days can become very trying.

So what do you do?

You can do some experimentation – change the seating arrangement in class everyday for week and see what impact it has. Talk to other colleagues to see if they have issues with the same class and talk about different classroom strategies.

If there’s a certain subject like topic that you want the whole class to progress in. At the end of the week look over the work they’ve produced and choose 10 pupils. At lunch organise a quick meeting and let them know that they’re work has been impressive (lots of compliments) and you want them to help others, so their work can be as good as theirs! The 10 students chosen may include some of the disaffected students who have tried hard. It’s a chance to recognise some in a tangible way and place emphasis on helping and collaborative work:

In Threes

Forget the perfect two and try working in three’s! In pairs of two, it’s so easy to compare yourself with the person next to you which can make them feel demotivated. By having, groups of three pupils can encourage each other. This can really boost pupil’s confidence leading to a higher performance.


You don’t want to be the patronising teacher that everyone is scared to ask for help. After you’ve set the class an activity and have left them a couple of minutes to try work it out between themselves; why not ask around each group on how they’re finding the tasks? Sooner or later a pupil is bound to ask for help and this is the first step towards preventing everyone feeling shy and intimidated.

Sticky notes

After reading a chapter of the book get them to write an interesting fact they’ve learnt. I’m sure as a teacher you’ve found that students dislike reading what they’ve written out loud. Instead, collect the sticky notes and place them on different tables. Thereby, everyone should not have their own fact in front of them. You’ll find that the children are more than happy to say out loud the answer in front of them. Encourage that each point is valid.


At the end of a topic get them into groups and set them a 5-minute presentation challenge on what they’ve learnt. It’s a great way for children to listen, plan and talk to one another. They’ll enjoy the independent work and feel a sense of ‘good’ under pressure to provide the best presentation in front of everyone!  For once, the children will be teaching you… so sit back and listen. Give yourself a tap on the back on the areas they seem confident and take it upon the chin on the weaker areas.

Engagement and motivation

Relax and have a little fun, you’re the teacher, you’re the one who knows best! So, don’t be so serious and get the students moving around and making noise (to a certain extent of course).  Attend a workshop or grab a book that involves lots of fun activities which you can bring to the class!


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