I teach 7 - 12 year olds. Have done so for the last 2 years.

Recently I’ve been pondering the little uns’ psychology somewhat and wondering…

Are kids of this age primarily motivated to learn and do well based on in-class reward and punishment (using positive/negative reinforcement tactics and posititive/negative consequences)?

Or are they motivated by success and/or fear of academic failure?

Are children this age able to visualize beyond, say the next week or month, and see themselves using the English they are learning? Can they conceptualize it being a useful ‘skill’?

Your thoughts and opinions please…


My senior high kids can’t conceptualise having a ‘useful skill’, and very few of them have any idea where they’re going in life. They don’t have time for such luxuries as speculative thought.

It’s all about passing exams to get into a good university to get a good job. Try asking what a ‘good job’ is, they have no idea. They’re just doing what they’re told and taking on all the pressures their parents and school system load onto them. They mostly want to succeed because succeeding is important, that’s all.

I agree with Loretta, except when they say they are learning English because it’s important and it’s to get a good job in the future, they are actually not really even meaning that. That’s just the correct answer on yet another oral exam given by a teacher.

The real reason most of these kids are in class? They are told to go there and told to perform. If they don’t do well they get punished. It’s not about 7 years down the road, although they may eventually get convinced that’s true since they repeat it so many times…

But many kids have moved beyond that level of motivation. They have developed a sense of duty to family and self. So, they are no longer thinking about their immediate punishment or reward, they try their best and stress for tests because it has become a habit and they internalize the need to perform well.

There are students who love to learn, and there are students who are really looking forward to the future rewards. But that’s the exception, not the rule.

It is possible to help kids find a passion for learning. Build up their confidence, give them a feeling of accomplishment, and then show them how what they have learned can benefit them even now. But that is not something you can just tell them.

If you tell them, they’ll memorize it and give it back to you as the correct answer the next time you ask the question…

It is not so hard to get kids thinking about what skills they could be able to develop.

We have a big library in our school, and there are lots of books at different levels. Right from the beginning, we read to them, stories, poems, rhymes. We schedule in time for them to free read in the library.

We telll them, “One day, you’ll be able to read this book all by yourself.” What’s cool is that they don’t believe it and say as much. But I read Green Eggs and Ham to them a few times when they just begin, and then a few months later, we do it again. I keep stopping when I read until they get mad. So I feign anger and say, “You read it then!”

So they do. I schedule in more library time at the end of class for them and get the books I KNOW they can read out. It amazes them that they can read the books.

Convincing them thay they can read is not so hard.

Maybe you guys aren’t talking about the near future, but if I can’t get them to think about the near future, how in the world can I get them to think about 5 years from now??


I wasn’t talking about the near future. Actually, what you said you do is exactly what I said is a good way to help them…

Good job :smiley:

They aren’t going to see that learning to read now will make help them get a better job later in life, but they will feel confident, enjoy learning, and have a positive attitude.

For the most part it is a forced excercise that should become fun and hopefully interesting for the younger ones. When they turn up in my Jr. and High school level composition classes, then they realize, “Holy shit! This is for real!” No more fun and games :noway:

Seriously, some of the 6th graders and most of the Jr. level kids know that a lot is on the line. Before that? Well I guess it’s our job to prepare them for the Holy shit phase.