Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Finding the motivating factor

I just came home from the dentist, I had to get three cavities filled.  Yuck.  To be honest, the actual procedure doesn't bother me, I've had enough dental work done in my life that I'm used to the noise and the numbness, it's the price tag that really hurts.  I've been told for the last 20 years that I need to be flossing every day, and I finally learned the lesson - because I finally figured out my motivation.  The cavities don't motivate me, but the money definitely does.

So what does this have to do with preschool... I promise, it actually flows quite well!

This is why it is so important to figure out what motivates our students, they can't learn any sort of lesson unless they are motivated to learn it.  Now, when I talk about motivation, I'm not talking about sticker charts, rewards, or praise.  I'm talking about planning things that interest them - for example, I'm interested in not having to pay the dentist exorbitant amounts of money and therefore, I'm more than willing to floss.

It's similar with preschoolers, when we plan an activity that interests them they will want to participate.  That makes sense right? Then why is it easier said than done?

Well, for one thing, planning activities that really truly interest our students often means that we can't simply recycle the same activities year after year.  What last year's class absolutely loved may not capture the attention of this year's class.  This can mean that planning takes more time, time you don't always have.

On top of that, planning for children's interests take some observation and deep understanding of the children that you are working with.  It isn't always about finding a topic, theme, or material that they love, you might have to pay attention to how they are using these things, or what they don't understand about them.

You may also have a group that has very diverse interests, how do you find something that they all want to do? This is where a few very preschool-teacher traits come in. Use your creativity, and a little bit of your stubbornness.  If something doesn't capture interest in the way that you expect it to, don't give up on it, instead ask your self why.

Every child is motivated by something.  Some have a natural curiosity, while others need to observe their peers before they feel comfortable exploring.  Some children are motivated by tactile, hands-on activities, while others prefer to listen to a story or song.  Learning what motivates your students is just like learning their personalities, likes, and dislikes. It takes time, but the process creates a bond that builds trust.

Whether or not I trust my dentist is a whole different story...

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