Think back to when you were in school. Did you like to sit at a desk and listen to the teacher drone on and on. This type of passive learning is BORING and demotivating. Active learning doesn’t mean the children need to by physically active throughout the class period – it just means that you design your class period around having them actively participate in the learning process. There are lots of things you can do:
Implement games that have the same outcome that you might have them reach by doing a worksheet. For example, if you might normally give them a worksheet to write the correct verb next to the picture illustrating the action, have them instead practice their verbs by doing the action for the word you say or the word on a card that you hold up. Likewise, you could do the action and have them write down the word.
When you play games, you can use points and competition as a motivator, but not for kids under six who may find the competition too stressful. For them, just playing the game is motivating enough. You can also sometimes award extra credit, but use it sparingly so that it remains “extra” and a special reward. Also if you use it too much, children can have so much extra credit that it sways the actual grades too much.
Get Them Moving
Movement is a vital component to motivating children. The best way to prevent children from zoning out is to get them up out of their seats at least once each class period. Even if you just require them to come up to you instead of you going to them for help, the movement can help get them out of the trance that they sometimes get from sitting in one spot too long. Grouping the children for study projects and activities helps as well. If you can, let them move the desks around or sit on the floor to change things up as well. Many games involve movement without the children needing to leave their seats, such as miming, moving certain body parts and passing things around as part of a game or race. Therefore even teachers with large classes and no space to move can use this technique, albeit to a more limited degree.
Get Their Hands “Dirty”
Well, not literally, but the more hands-on activities you can do the better they will learn and the more likely they will stay interested in the activity. If you’re talking about the words to describe fruit, have each student bring in a piece of fruit and use the fruits in games. It is much more motivating and effective to be handling real objects, or learning with pictures than copying down lists of words from the board. If you are discussing how to put a sentence together, have them construct their own sentences (alone or with a partner) and write them on the chalkboard. You can also intentionally make mistakes to encourage them to look for the “right” way. If you do this you should warn the children so that they are on the look out for your deliberate errors, otherwise you could do more harm than good.