Motivating students

Posted in Articles, Resource Centre

How do you make sure your students are engaged for every lesson and not just special ones? The folks over at Creative Education have some suggestions:

Motivating students for one lesson is a challenge – keeping them continually motivated is an even bigger one, but if we invest the time, effort and energy into developing lessons that sustain student motivation week after week, we find that students both enjoy and achieve more. Here are some suggestions to get you started:

1. Provide a real life contextsustaining-student-motivation
Nothing is less motivating to your typical adolescent, than thinking that what they are learning is completely pointless – and it’s easy to understand why. If we provide a purpose to learning and can help students to understand how it might be relevant and useful to them, they will be instantly more motivated. Try to think about this as you plan your lessons. Imagine a disaffected student peering over your shoulder asking ‘what’s the point?’

Try to answer the questions:

  • Why is this skill, knowledge or understanding useful?
  • How could it be generally applied?
  • What is a specific, example that sets it in context?

The easiest way to do this is to build case studies or vignettes into our teaching so that students can see the new skills or knowledge they’re learning in action.

2. Don’t teach in silos
As well as helping students to understand how they’ll use their new-found knowledge and skills in real life, it’s also important for them to understand where their new learning sits within the curriculum. Being able to see how each lesson builds on the last and seeing that each lesson forms part of a larger whole is far more motivating than the feeling of learning lots of disparate skills and developing discrete pockets of knowledge.

3. Make visible progress
We all find being good at things motivating. Success is, in and of itself, rewarding – so make sure that when you plan your lessons, you design them in such a way that progress will be possible, clearly defined and acknowledged. When students can see themselves making progress they are often motivated to continue working towards the next target.

4. Create challenging targets
However, it’s important that your targets aren’t too easy. A prize too easily won doesn’t feel like a prize at all and learners will rapidly disengage. Of course, different learners work at different levels and paces so it’s important to ensure that your lessons are efficiently differentiated to allow for your most and least able learners as well as providing plenty of challenge and opportunities for success for middle learners too.

5. Use peer led learning
Student led learning can prove motivating both for the student doing the teaching and for their pupil. Being taught in a new way, in our own words by a peer can help to reenergise us and reframe difficult subjects whilst the student-teacher is provided with a great ego boost and a chance to consolidate their learning.

6. Invite and act on their feedback
Students are well-placed to explore and explain what would make their lessons more engaging. Whilst the content we cover may be largely constrained by the curriculum, how long we choose to focus on each area, or the ways in which we teach and learn are a little more open to negotiation. Enabling students to voice their opinions about this and actually responding to the wants and needs of the class, within reason, can help to ensure that they really buy into your lessons.

Motivating our students isn’t a one off thing, it’s something that needs to be built into every scheme of work we write and every lesson we plan. I hope the ideas shared here provide some food for thought.

Using Distancing Techniques in PSHE

Posted in Resource Centre

This post from Lynne Deacon & shared by Creative Education is really helpful in minimising those tricky moments that arise in PSHE sessions with students

Teaching some of the topics in the PSHE curriculum can be tricky, even awkward and, not to put too fine a point on it, just plain embarrassing. Some experienced teachers can handle it all without any problem. But what about those who find it more of a challenge? And more importantly, what about the pupils?

Of course, the clue is there in the name: the P stands for Personal! For them, almost any topic has the potential to be sensitive – relationships, health, family, financial matters, expressing an opinion, speaking out in front of their peers – the list is almost endless.

So what learning strategies can we use to encourage more open discussion whilst at the same time giving some protection to the feelings of both pupils and teachers?

Distancing techniques depersonalise the situations under discussion. Being in a role, empathising with a character or speaking in response to the actions of others (real or imaginary) allows pupils to explore their feelings about issues safely, because they are not speaking or acting as themselves.

Distancing also helps pupils learn and then reflect on how it applies to their own lives. Different learning styles are accommodated. Pupils who struggle with written work often come into their own when given the chance to take on roles or to respond to scenarios. Teachers can also be less anxious about the possibility of upsetting pupils, unexpected disclosures or inappropriate comments. Continue reading

More excellent resources for mental health

Posted in Uncategorized

Excellent support and resources from Dr Pooky Knightsmith

There are likely to be lots of questions today as students wake up to the news of a 13-year-old suicide. I’ve written some brief guidance to help you to be supportive rather than scared when those questions arise:

How to talk to students about suicide

I’ve also included a range of sources of further support.  Yesterday’s news also featured stories about the rapid rise of eating disorders referrals and the impact of social media.  I wrote a little guidance on that too:

Social Media cited as source of Doubled Eating Disorder Admissions – How to Help

Since I last emailed, I have also written and reviewed a range of other things which may be of interest:

5 Ideas for Raising Teenage Self-EsteemThese are simple ideas that parents or people working with young people can implement.

6 Moments You can Listen to Your Child Each Day – When I run parent workshops, I encourage parents to spend a few minutes each day just listening to their children, but it can be hard to find time regularly.  Here are a few ideas that have worked for other people and can be built into a daily routine.

A New Hand to Hold – a poem about loss and support – This poem was inspired by a boy I met recently who told me about the important role his teacher had had in helping him overcome the loss of his father.  It could be used as a way in for teaching or for one to one sessions with children in a similar situation who are anxious about accepting the support of a new trusted adult.

First Hand Account: How to help someone with an eating disorder
A beautifully written account by 21-year-old author and recovering anorexic Nancy Tucker about how we can help, rather than hinder, the recovery process.

Reviews, Resources and Recommendations

I hope you find some of these resources useful. Please let me know if there are specific topics you’d like to see me write, speak or teach about.  I’m currently rushing headlong into busy conference season, so no doubt I’ll see (or speak at 😉 many of you over the next few weeks.  Please take a moment to say hello.

Very best wishes,


P.S. If you haven’t read my latest book yet, please consider doing so: Self-Harm and Eating Disorders in Schools – a guide to whole school strategies and support (if you quote Y15 when you order, you’ll get a 10% discount).  If you have read it, I’d love to hear what you think.  All constructive criticism welcomed as I get ready to write the next one.

Dr Pooky Knightsmith 
Child & Adolescent Mental Health Specialist
Tel: 07590446791 | Tweet: @PookyH | Connect: