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Get Unmotivated Learners to Enjoy Learning

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Get Unmotivated Learners to Enjoy Learning

Have you ever tried to engage a youth or teen audience with little or no success? I know how that feels. I have experienced that many times in many places. As educators, we must actively find ways to overcome the curse of knowledge i.e. the difficulty of expressing what we know in such a way that a new learner understands it easily.

During the 2011 school year, I had to give hundreds of presentations to young people about cyber safety. As part of my preparation, I uncovered some valuable information I wish I had years ago. Here are 6 ways you get the unmotivated student to sit up and learn.

1 Create Curiosity
One of the best ways to get unmotivated students to learn is to get them curious about a subject or topic you are about to share. I still recall one example from my 5th grade teacher.

He made a bold declaration that caught my attention. He said, “A Spartan soldier dies, but never surrenders!” From that moment on, I was very keen to learn about Greek Civilization to find out why Spartan soldiers never surrender. The reason this works is that, curiosity hooks them and warms up their interest to see a new picture.

2 Create a Mystery
Another way to get difficult students to learn is to create an intriguing mystery. Young people innately love mysteries because mysteries enable them to discover the world beyond their understanding. Mysteries work for the same reason that Santa Claus exist.

Have you ever wondered why young people love puzzles? With a little nudging, young people ‘d love figuring out a missing puzzle. They will also prefer talking about who murdered Tupac, as opposed to learning about forensic science, however you can use that mystery to boost their interest in a forensic science lesson.

3 Provide Context
Prior to teaching a class, it is crucial to help students realize why they should care about a particular subject. Educators sometimes overlook the importance of getting buy-in. You can get buy-in by talking about topics that they are familiar with and care about.

In addition to providing previous knowledge, you can get them to care about a particular topic by giving them a back story. Students may not care much about a class on metamorphosis, but they will care to know why butterflies in Africa can cause hurricanes that can potentially disrupt their dream vacation to DisneyWorld in Orlando, Florida.

4 Create Excitement
Another way to get students to pay attention and learn is to create excitement. For instance, one of my fire instructors was a master at creating excitement. Instead teaching the technical details BLEVE (boiling
liquid expanding vapor explosion), the instructor came to class and asked us to follow him to the training ground, without saying a word.

He led us to an enclosed area and then proceeded to light a fire under a small LPG canister. Moments later, there was an explosion with a huge fireball. We were not expecting an explosion or anything that dramatic, but it got us excited to learn the mechanics of what had happened. In other words, we were primed to learn more about how to be safe while fighting such fires.

5 Tell Stories
Unfortunately, some educators shun stories as a vehicle of teaching. Robert McKee once said: “Stories are the creative conversion of life itself into a more powerful, clearer, more meaningful experience. They are the currency or human contact.”

Have you ever met a youth or teen who does not like movies? They love movies because movies are based on stories. Educators can do themselves a huge favor by crafting vignettes, springboard, or crucible stories that capture the students imagination; because stories can humanize and humorize any subject from science to mathematics and beyond.

6 Create Conflict
Another practical way to get and keep students’ attention is to create conflict. Conflict can be created through dramatization of issues or concepts. Conflict often gets people ‘s attention and if the conflict is escalated, it builds excitement, expectations, tension and momentum that enhances learning.

Educators can create subtle conflict by involving students, characters or teams. Not only will this increase class interactivity, it will also get students to enjoy the process of learning actively by taking sides, thereby unconsciously getting educated on the issue at hand.

If an educator takes the time to design lessons that include the above ideas and concepts, they will certainly keep all their unmotivated students, the at-risk on the edge of their seats. Above all, every student benefits because these tools will engage the auditory, visual and kinesthetic learners.

Please, leave a brief comment. What is your take on this article. Is it useful? Did I miss any key piece of the puzzle?. Have a happy new year 2012!