How to Motivate an unmotivated Student

As teachers, we have all encountered students in our time that are unmotivated to learn. Sometimes, this can be subject specific i.e. when a student genuinely has no interest in the subject and sometimes, when a student struggles to access what is being taught.

Parents also frequently report that they have ‘battles’ with their children at home when completing homework with them, thus creating regular resistance and a further lack of interest.

So how do we manage this in school and how can parents motivate children at home? There is unfortunately no definitive answer as all children are individuals with differing interests and abilities, but here are some strategies and ideas that can, and do work for the vast majority of students.




Allow children to ‘teach’ the teacher, parent and their peers.

Giving children the opportunity to show what they know and understand about a subject can be very empowering. As well as improving self-esteem, this enables children to explain to their peers in a language that is clear and understandable, and allows teachers/parents to determine possible misconceptions and to address these.

Ensure that learning is delivered in a variety of interesting ways.

Some topics and areas of learning can be seen as ‘dry’ and ‘uninspiring.’ It is the role of a good teacher to ensure that lessons not only create interest for the learner, but that they also motivate them to achieve and find out more about the subject. This can be done by recognizing the different learning styles of individual children and presenting lessons that take account of all of these.

As a parent, you may be unaware of your child’s preferred learning style and knowing this may help you to think of ways to alleviate the homework battles by presenting and completing it in a different way. Take a look at the website below for some information about learning styles. Which one is yours? (

This website also has some great ideas about how to make completing homework more enjoyable for your child.

Encourage exploration and discussion.

Young children in pre-school and Foundation Stage environments are particularly well catered for in respect of being actively encouraged to explore and ‘find out’ about things as they learn. They are less likely to be specifically ‘taught’ a lesson, and even if they are, these are short and active sessions.

This is due to our understanding of their developing ability to focus for periods of time, and because it is well documented that this is the best way for children of a young age to learn.

This becomes increasingly difficult as the demands of curriculum and required knowledge come into play as students progress through school, but it is possible through a range of activities e.g. role play, hot seating and discussions.

Praise and reward.

Self-esteem is a large part of the lack of motivation in some students. Teachers see this daily in children who regularly choose not to answer or ask questions and children who complete very little work in a given period of time.

Rewards for effort, good work that suit the age and stage of the child are an important way to improve self esteem and motivate children to participate. This can take many forms, but generally in schools it could be a sticker, showing good work to a senior member of staff or being given house points.

Finally, it is our role as teachers and parents to ensure that everything is in place to allow students to learn. Routines such as bedtimes and diet are contributing factors in possible lack of motivation. Students who have difficulties in learning will need support that is unobtrusive and effective and may require more praise and even break out times (5 minutes where they can take a break and then return.)

Family circumstances may also affect motivation temporarily, and it is important that new situations are discussed with the student’s teacher.


Mrs. Katherine Gilbert

Assistant Head- Dovecote Green Primary School

  • This is my fifth school year teaching in Dubai, and my second year at Dovecote Green Primary School. Previously, I have worked with children in a variety of roles for over 30 years, and can honestly say that no two children are the same.  The challenge created by this is the reason why I have continued to work  with children for so long.



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