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Friday, July 27, 2012

Getting Motivated

Looming over my head as I vacationed on the back of a Harley making a loop through the extraordinary countryside of Northern California was the deadline of making a one minute video on “Motivation and Learning.”  As we zigzagged along the coast, through the redwoods, to the top of a volcano, I could not help but wonder.  I wondered what those crops were, why there were cows on the top of a mountain, how those seals could be comfortable on those rough rocks.  I wondered about how all of those pears got pollinated (they self-pollinate), how they get from those trees to my grocery shelf, how the weather could change in the matter of a mile.    Then I realized that I was surrounded by the perfect example of motivation and learning:  curiosity.   It was not just me wondering, I traveled with a group of lifelong learners, they too were people who were inspired and awed by the vistas and curious about how it all came to be.  As we traveled, we asked questions, looked things up, and wondered out loud. 
We wanted to know more! 
Curiosity and enthusiasm are great motives for learning.  Can you replicate the motivation and inspiration that we felt in the classroom (can you say Harley field trip?)? 
 Here are a few things that you might try:
  1.  Share your enthusiasm.  You don’t need to show them your online digital photo album of your summer vacation, but why not show them a picture or two and have them wonder with you?
  2. Share their enthusiasm:  Let them share a photo (vacation or otherwise) that will make you wonder. 
  3. Keep it real – I know field trip planning has gotten quite complex, keep the trip simple-just take your students outside and give them a two foot plot of grass to explore!
  4.   Make kids wonder - As a science teacher, I had a number of “discrepant events” videos, demonstrations and activities that I used as grabbers in the beginning of a lesson.  For example- you can tri-fold a piece of tissue paper (we used to use the tissue that came in between the ink and the paper in a ditto master:).   Set it up like a chimney and light it on fire from the top-it will burn down and the ash will fly up.  Like a magic trick, it makes them wonder and ask “how did you do that?’ – a first step in critical thinking and developing the motivation to learn more.
    Technology now puts resources and learning at our fingertips.  You can use all sorts of media to get kids motivated and increase the learning by having the research tools in their pockets.
How do you get kids motivated to learn?

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