How to Motivate Students Remotely

Every teacher has had one of those students who just needs some extra motivation to get to work. There are countless ways to make this happen in a classroom, and even more in an in-person tutoring session. However, with the barrier of the screen, finding ways to motivate students remotely can feel daunting. With a little creativity, though, we can transfer those in-person motivational tools to the virtual world. Here are some suggestions for motivating your students during remote sessions:

1. Build the Relationship

Of course relationship building should be happening in all meetings, between all students and their teachers, whether in-person or online. But when the teacher and student are divided by a screen, that bond is even more important. Kids need to feel that they are known and heard, not just as a learner but as a person too. Be sure to take a few minutes at the beginning of every session to connect with your student in some way that has nothing to do with their academic goals. Did you see a movie that you think they would love? Tell him about it. Did something exciting happen in your life? Let your student know! It is much easier for a kid to listen to and learn from someone they trust and feel a connection with.

2. Choices, Choices.

The simplest, yet most powerful tool to motivate students remotely is choice. When students have some control over their learning, they are much more willing to engage. Assign them a specific article and they may fight you on it, but provide them with options to choose from, and they’ll feel more in control.

A word of caution: know your students before offering too many choices. Some kids get easily overwhelmed by too many options, which can backfire. Some children will feel happy choosing between two or three activities, while others will need a whole slew. Get to know what works best for your student.

3. Set Goals

Creating clear, long- and short-term goals helps students see their work in the context of the bigger picture. At the start of each session be sure to go over everything you’ve planned for that meeting so the student knows what’s coming. Create some sort of visual schedule or agenda that has breaks built in that the student can look forward to. They’ll be a lot more likely to stay with you through the learning portions of the session when they know that relief is on the way. Make sure you also embed some choice into the breaks too!

4. Feedback

Give frequent feedback, and balance constructive feedback with praise. Most students need a little help building up their confidence, but be sure to celebrate their efforts more than their performance. If they are only praised when they get it right, then it can feel scary to even try. While you’re celebrating their effort, be sure to also tell them how they’re doing. Be honest about their strengths and areas for growth.  Students are most likely to take sessions seriously when teachers speak openly with them about why they are there in the first place!

Interested in additional ideas and suggestions? Listen to Braintrust CEO and Co-Founder, Mara Koffmann, in conversation with Benjie Messinger-Barnes, Director of Online Learning at Friends Seminary, as they discuss how to create a better Zoom tutoring session.

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