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From limitation to motivation: fourteen tips on how
to enhance motivation in the EFL class
Glenda Demes da Cruz
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10. In the case of bad results, check your motivation and your students’.
Whenever a student or group gets low grades, check the students’ and your own motivation. It is common to say that a student who gets a low grade is a bad student. For some teachers, low grades mean lack of study. Not always. A great many things must be taken into account to diagnose lack of intelligence or to label a student good or bad. Instead of labeling a student, check his motivation. If the problem is due to motivation, the good news is that students can improve and a low grade can be overcome. Try to encourage your students to study for pleasure, for the sake of simply learning a foreign language. List the opportunities they will have just because they speak a foreign language.

You might be thinking that this sounds great in print, but in not in practice. Try it, anyway. What have you got to lose?

11. Talk to your students.Do not limit yourself to greeting them.
Being a teacher means being available to your students. It means being the facilitator in the process of learning. They should feel comfortable in asking you questions concerning the class you are giving, language usage, cultural aspects related to the language, and so on. Talking to a student does not mean confiding personal secrets or discussing personal matters. It means caring about him as a learner and as a person, providing him with tools to learn, and one of these is empathy.

12. Praise good performance, even though accuracy may not have been achieved. The way a teacher responds to a student’s attempt to accomplish a task can be a decisive factor in motivation. What do you, teacher, look for? Errors or talents? Are you a talent or an error hunter? (Cruz, 2004) Highlight your student’s attempt, correct when necessary, and praise whenever he succeeds in his task.

13. Turn complaints into motivation factors.
If a student or a group complains about your class, find out what the complaints are and try to solve the problem, if there is one. Talk to the student(s). Never take it too personally. Remember you are a professional, and, if there is a complaint, this is cause for reflection. If the complaint is arguable, discuss it with your student(s). Be humble. Take it as a hint to improve your work. You will notice that the class will respond to that, and, once the problem is resolved and improved, that particular point in your class will turn into a motivation factor for you and your students

14. Change your approach, if it helps to motivate your students.
The way you speak, explain, exploit content and develop your students’ skills while teaching are very high motivation factors. If your approach does not arouse interest in a particular group, change it. What may work with one group may not work with another one. Think about the goals to be reached in that particular class with that particular group. You will find one that suits your group, for sure.


An English teacher should be motivated to motivate her students. Maybe the first question you should ask yourself is whether you are really motivated to motivate. If you are, you will get motivation in return. If you are not, then, teacher, you have two options: you can go with the flow, walking the path of apathy which leads to nowhere, or you can seek motivation factors in your students and yourself, so that you can be a happy and fulfilled professional, motivated to motivate.


Bettiol, E. Can Learners Be Motivated to Speak a Foreign Language Through the Use of Games?. Linguagem em (Dis) curso On Line. Vol. 2. N° 1. <>. Online. 23 de Maio de 2003.
Cruz, Glenda D. O Melhor Professor do Mundo. Língua Estrangeira. <>. Online. 11 de maio de 2003.
Cruz, Glenda D. The Teacher when responding to students’ writing: error or talent hunter?. To be published in ESL Magazine, issue 39, 2004.
Heller, R. (1998). Como Motivar Pessoas . São Paulo: Publifolha.
Johnson, S. (2002) Quem mexeu no meu Queijo? Rio de Janeiro: Record.
Scütz, Ricardo. Motivação e Desmotivação no Aprendizado de Línguas. English Made in Brazil. < >. Online. 23 de Maio de 2003.
Ur, Penny. (2000) A Course in Language Teaching: Practice and theory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.



Glenda Demes da Cruz has bas been an EFL teacher for 14 years, a teacher trainer for 10 years and a professor at UECE (a State University in Brazil) for the last two years . She holds a degree in Letras from UECE and a Master’s Degree in Applied Linguistics from the same University. She can be reached at

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