italki Teaching Tips: How do I keep my students motivated?

Our italki Teaching Tips are real teaching tips from real italki teachers who have first hand experience teaching different students from all over the world.   We share these tips to help you become a better teacher.

How do I keep my students motivated?


I find that all students, young and old, respond to positive praise when they are working hard. Remember, as a language teacher, you will be making A LOT of corrections– make sure that is not all your students hear from you! Especially when you have been working on a particular skill, be sure you compliment students when you notice them doing something right. A good way to be sure you do this is to begin your feedback with one positive statement. Tell them you notice what they are doing RIGHT before you tell them what they are doing wrong.

I also think people respond well to a sense of accomplishment. You can help instill this in your students by keeping track of their language goals and objectives. Begin each lesson by telling your student what you will be working on. At the end, revisit the objective for the lesson and verify that the student has either made progress or mastered the lesson objective. You may even find that a chart or checklist is helpful to keep track of the student’s long-term progress. Remember, if a student feels successful, they are motivated to continue to put in the effort (and take lessons from you!) Students on italki are here because they WANT to learn. If they believe they ARE learning, they will be motivated to keep learning!

Motivation to learn is both intrinsic and extrinsic. While some student’s motivation can come from outside efforts such as prizes and rewards, the most important motivation comes from the student’s inner desire to attain their goal. Our job as teachers is to try to help stay focused on their goal by setting up a plan whereby they take steps leading to their ultimate goal. In order to keep a student motivated during this process, it is important to have enjoyable activities that focus on the skills they need to reach each step. It is possible, even on Skype, to have a “spelling bee” to review spelling/vocabulary words or even a “jeopardy game” to review grammar. Lessons don’t have to be dull and monotonous in order to fulfill a student’s needs. If a student feels as though they are making small steps each lesson and having fun doing so, they will stay on the path to achieve success.

  • the homework I give stimulates my student’s creativity – and creativity is demanding in language knowledge ; then they want to learn more.
  • I help them connect to other french speakers.
  • I give them objectives (“at the end of our next session you will know how to book a hotel room”)


Most of the time I don’t need to motivate them because they see the progress themselves and feel more confident. Confidence is a big thing with speaking a new language. After a student starts to feel comfortable with a teacher, their confidence will get stronger and they will notice this in other areas of their life where they use English (so they tell me).

You can also give them a little challenge… talk faster with them or send them a youtube of a different accent speaking English. Similar things to what I mentioned earlier about when a student is frustrated. It really depends on the student. I reference their goals that they told me in the beginning and keep dangling that carrot in front of them 🙂

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