I just finished the book The Motivation Breakthrough by Ken Lavoie. Wow! What a great book, it is filled with wisdom for both parents and teachers. It is quite a dense read, but you are sure to finish it with a new motivation for working with kids.
A series of chapters that devoted itself to discussing with the reader about a motivating classroom. Lavoie determined six 'C' adjectives that will ensure students feel safe and capable in school.
Creativity: Encouraging student's creativity and teaching in creative ways can be very motivating. Allowing students to share their artwork, music, or natural abilities in class can be phenomenally encouraging for a student to feel motivated to complete an assignment or task. Understanding your students and applying that knowledge can switch a classroom around. Students need to feel cared about in order to attempt completing tasks that may be daunting or new.
Community: "Each member is recognized, accepted, and embraced." Creating community changes with each new class or student that enters as dynamics will change. It's important to establish rules and boundaries in the classroom that allows students to feel validated and accepted. Modeling acceptance and encouragement will do more than any rule could do. However,
Clarity: Expectations need to be clear. Students should understand exactly what is expected of them. It's important to break down multistep processes down, by chunking them down. To ask a child to get their homework, might be too ambiguous. Creating checklists can be very helpful both in the classroom and at home. Incorporating clarity can reduce time that is spent catching kids up and not getting frustrated with students who are struggling to stay with everyone.
Coaching: To take an approach to teaching as a coach can really change a classroom dynamic. When you watch a good coach, they are encouraging and help kids develop their weaknesses so that they are stronger. Creating a positive environment in the classroom is not just focused on giving praise and no consequence, but also on developing skills. As a teacher, continuing to refine our practice and developing relationships with students it essential to understand their strengths and weaknesses.
Conferencing: Create a structured time each day or week to have conferencing one on one with students. This is necessary to continue to develop and learn about students and what is really going on in their lives. Students may be more willing to communicate when their peers aren't listening. It's important during this conversation to create that community that is developed in the classroom, by asking the student about their life, "How was that baseball game last week," "How's your new baby sister." Setting the tone for the conference is important to maintain motivation. At these conferences they can be based on academics or just a time for a student to ask questions and for the teacher to clarify, whatever you choose, keep in mind that that conferencing isn't about reprimanding but coaching and encouraging.
Control: Students are motivated when they have a buy-in. It's no fun to go somewhere that is controlled in everyway. Allowing students to have choices and make decisions is a powerful tool in the classroom. Establishing boundaries is necessary because the teacher is still responsible for learning and management. Lavoie discusses that teachers must find their way in managing both support and challenge. Too much support and no challenge is just as unmotivating as too much challenge and no support.
Hopefully you find these helpful. To get more in detail about Motivation, read The Motivation Breakthough.