How to Motivate Students to Learn English


Teaching English to non-native speakers presents a significant challenge. Language and cultural barriers make it especially difficult for beginning students grappling with English for the first time. According to, the teacher's skills in motivating learners plays a pivotal role in student achievement. Lack of motivation leads to lack of focus and effort, and ultimately lack of success. Instructors must figure out effective techniques to motivate foreign students if these learners are to make improvements in their English language capabilities.

Things You'll Need

  • Flash cards
  • Visual aids

English as a Second Language - Teaching Tips

  • Establish goals for students. Develop group learning goals for the entire class, and allow individuals to set some personal goals as well. Simplify the curriculum and make it relevant to learners' goals. Use skill-specific exercises and homework assignments to address one learning point at a time. Track the students' progress, motivating them by pointing out positive achievements as well as areas for improvement.

  • Use visual aids in lessons. Working solely out of a textbook can be tedious and discouraging for students, so mix in some more lively teaching tactics. Use slides, chalkboard drawings, videos, flash cards or other items to help learners visualize concepts. Consider other approaches such as labeling items in the classroom to further cement vocabulary comprehension.

  • Foster interaction and camaraderie in the classroom by conducting games and exercises that require communication between students. Orchestrate group speaking and listening drills, play a game of charades or have learners participate in a vocabulary contest using such activities as Pictionary or flash card roulette. Cooperation between students in drills and friendly competitions will create a more positive learning environment in which individuals work together to improve their English.

  • Use small rewards as positive reinforcement for learning advancements and good behavior. Give out little treats to students who earn high scores on their homework and tests, or provide a modest prize for the winners of group games. Let students watch a popular movie or TV show in English at the end of productive lessons. Organize a field trip at the end of a semester for students who attend and participate regularly in class.

Tips & Warnings

  • Start with the basics and work up gradually. Use consistent vocabulary when giving instructions, placing emphasis on high-frequency words so as not to confuse new learners.
  • Do not be overly critical. Learning English is very difficult for non-native speakers, and they will make many mistakes. The best form of motivation is encouragement. Praise and provide constructive criticism to bolster the students' self-esteem and their understanding of topics.


  • Photo Credit students image by Ivanna Buldakova from
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