How Do You Motivate an Unmotivated Student? 8 Best Ways

When students doubt their ability, they can be unmotivated.  They feel sluggish.  And they feel down. Poor motivation affects academic performance and social development. How do you motivate an unmotivated student?

motivating students to perform better

Student motivation is crucial in learning. Without it, students can’t take charge of their learning. They are passive and they feel unsupported. Eventually, if this remains for so long, students struggle to communicate their thoughts and will never say a thing and just let it be.


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As a result, you will never know how they are. As a teacher, you should not allow this to happen. You should find ways to encourage an unmotivated student and help him to get going.

“If you hang around unmotivated people you will fight an uphill battle to stay motivated.” – Billy Cox

In this post, you can seize proven best tips to motivate an unmotivated student. Help him out. Make him comfortable and confident to step out of his comfort zone and create himself.

How Do You Motivate an Unmotivated Student?

Motivated students are made tough and confident to accept challenges in real life. Hence, increasing student motivation should be made a priority and things will fall into place.

The following strategies can help students stop being passive, go out of their comfort zone, and believe in themselves.

1. Promote open communication

Students who are unmotivated may want to say something, but they feel they aren’t appreciated.  So, they keep things to themselves.

You know, these students need perfect ways to express themselves so you will know what they are thinking and what challenges them.

They cross their arm and let the day ends without expressing their thoughts and ideas. And embrace another day. Something is wasted, and a learning opportunity is squandered.

It is your job to motivate students who are unmotivated by promoting effective ways of communication.

By establishing effective communication in the classroom, students build up their confidence to say their piece. Dialogues and interactions in the classroom are essential in teaching and learning.

Effective communication helps build a safe learning space where students grow. It fosters a supportive teacher-student relationship so students learn and prosper.

Make sure students feel safe and supported so they can open up and talk about their thoughts and ideas. For students to do well in school, they need to feel like they can ask for help when they need it.

2. Help students discover their potential

Giving students extra support in the classroom will help them discover their potential. Your appreciation of their strengths boosts their self-esteem and makes them feel good about themselves.

For students to reach their potential, their strengths must be recognized; hence, it’s important to know your students very well. This is about believing in what they can do and that they can be successful.

Your belief in your students’ capacity also frames your engaging teaching strategies. Each of your students in the classroom has amazing talents and potential waiting to be uncovered and strengthened.

Dr. Yvette Jackson, a professor at Teacher’s College of Columbia University, as she shares her conception of “pedagogy of confidence“, points out that teachers should have confidence in the students’ potential and ability to learn.

“When you have confidence about the potential of students, you help to push them to the outskirts, the limits of their minds.” – Dr.  Jackson

As a teacher, as you enter the classroom, do you believe that all your students can learn? Do you make them believe that they can do something and that they can learn?

3. Make learning activities interesting

How do you deliver content? Have you thought about making the learning process interesting and more individualized?

When the learning process is made fun, your students feel so comfortable and they are more encouraged to participate. Think about fun activities and plot them in your lesson plan. It could fall into your motivational activity, engagement part, or the assessment part.

By making learning fun, you are waking up those students who are timid and are afraid to take on challenges. You can employ gamification techniques, technology-based instruction, differentiated instruction, and collaborative learning.

When you make learning activities captivating, students are more willing to participate, give their share, and express themselves. Rather than using one activity, try to incorporate many fun activities in dishing out a particular lesson. This makes students’ learning experiences more impactful and meaningful.

4. Provide varied opportunities for learning

As you make learning activities more fun and engaging, you are giving your students enriching opportunities to master the skill and take charge of their learning.

This great tip can keep students on their toes and enhance their focus. When they are given opportunities to participate and enjoy learning, they are more encouraged to finish their tasks and do their best.

The provision of different learning activities likewise encourages the students, even the bashful and unmotivated ones to accept challenging opportunities. And because they are provided with choices, they are more confident to take part in active learning.

Furthermore, when challenging and engaging learning activities are exhibited to the students they won’t experience boredom because they will be enjoying their relevant choice of tasks that highly impacts their growth and development.

5. Praise students for their achievements and efforts

One way of promoting student resilience and motivation is to praise them for their efforts and recognize their achievements. They should know that their presence and their efforts are being valued. This enlivens their thoughts and heightens their self-confidence.

Give them words of positivity and thoughts of happiness so they get excited about creating meaningful learning experiences with you.

Unmotivated students might feel inferior. Then it’s best to magnify their effort by giving honest praises. Simple and practical lines of praise can do something to encourage students to make an effort to learn and do better.

Words of praise can inspire students to view their own skills and intelligence. When being recognized for their work and effort, they won’t forget it and will harness a positive mindset.

When they do well, let them know that you recognize their effort. “You’ve been doing great. Keep it up.” “You’re a great writer.” “Your poem inspires me, this has to be published in the school gazette.” “Thank you for your hard work.”

Recognizing students’ efforts can make them feel better about themselves. Indeed, praise is an effective tool that all teachers can use. It’s a practical push to make students know that they can do it and that they are on the right track.

6. Exhibit fairness in the classroom

Unmotivated students may think that you are only favoring the cream of the crop. As a result, they just sit and wait for the period to finish.

Remember, students are very observant. They know when you are approving and supporting just a few. They can feel it. Hence, you should avoid it.

They should be on an equal footing regardless of their backgrounds and diversity. This is promoting fairness amid differences.

Promoting fairness in the classroom is about interacting with all your students, supporting all of them, treating them equally, giving them equitable learning tasks, and respecting their differences. This is a way of creating a safe learning environment where trust and confidence reign.

Fairness in the classroom makes the students feel safe and builds trust. And when a classroom is a space of trust, respect, acceptance, and fairness, unmotivated students become more optimistic that they can make achievements and succeed.

7. Provide clear instructions

At times students avoid doing certain tasks because they don’t understand the instructions and are afraid to try.

Giving clear instructions is support to full comprehension. When instructions are clear, students will follow and they can finish the tasks. However, when things are vague, students move backward and decline the opportunity to learn.

Clear and precise instructions can have a significant impact on student motivation and achievement. Students are more likely to get the most out of their time in the classroom when they know exactly what to do.

Furthermore, students are able to complete a certain task when they understand the instructions. If for example, you are requiring them to write a 5-paragraph essay, you should specify the topic, the mechanics, and the organization.  Are they to develop a factual essay for academic writing? Or is it a personal essay?

Ultimately, students will have confidence in their work when they comprehend the instructions. In other words, for the effective completion of learning tasks, clear directions must be given. If you need to explain it and give examples and models, then do it.

8. Give timely and constructive feedback

Feedback is crucial in student learning. Students should know how they perform in class and what they need to improve.

With constant feedback, students will feel your enormous concern about their growth and improvement. It means that you care about them and it makes them feel better. It boosts their self-esteem.

Effective feedback raises the level of confidence of unmotivated students.

Effective feedback helps the students think and reflect on what they’ve learned and how they are learning. Moreover, it is a constructive way of encouraging them to make changes to learn better and make progress.

Furthermore, giving feedback shouldn’t only be done with students but should also be done with parents.

Giving the parents frequent feedback on their child’s performance gives them the opportunity to closely monitor and improve student achievement.

Additionally, when the student’s level of understanding is determined, it’s a lot easier to give assistance and plan for more engaging activities. Specific ways can be identified to devise a plan and help them reach their learning goals.

a teacher interacting with her student


Seemingly, unmotivated students need assistance, genuine support, and heartfelt concern. The tips shared above can make them so endearing that they stay connected, engaged, and do the hard work.

When highly motivated, students become so confident that they figure out creative ways for task completion, active participation in class discussions, and set a growth mindset.

Your motivational approach as a teacher can change things. Encouraging words matter, and supportive actions internalize reasons to get up and extend horizons.