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Learning and the Supreme Power of Motivation

Updated on August 9, 2012

The Stirring of Affect

Always desire to learn something useful. Sophocles
Always desire to learn something useful. Sophocles

The Theory of Motivation

All Humans Have Basic Motivational Needs

~Competence: The need to feel capable.

~Autonomy: The need to exercise self-direction.

~Relatedness, Belonging: The need to feel cared for.

Needs Must Be Satisfied In Context

~Activities that are both challenging and doable. .....Competence

~Activities that permit choice, self-direction.....Autonomy

~Positive and supportive interaction with others.....Relatedness

Satisfaction of Psychological Needs Affects Behaviors

~Positive attitudes toward self-efficacy, esteem, self-discipline

~Positive attitudes toward school-engagement

~Prosocial behaviors-positive interaction with adults and peers, acceptance of rules and regulations


~People's experience in organizations affects their behavior.

~Students' and educators' experience in schools affects their feelings about themselves and the quality of their work.

~Effective organizations and institutions like schools address people's psychological needs.

Taken from the Socio-Cognitive (Self-Determination) Theory of Motivation

Building Cohesive Classrooms

The responsibility of building a cohesive classroom vests with the educator running that classroom.

In order to learn, a student must feel comfortable to speak their mind and make mistakes without the fear of being judged (not by a peer or by his/her teacher). If you want a student to be generative, you have to lay the foundation well and sturdy enough to support the beautiful minds that enter your room and stay there with you for the duration of a term. How do we do this? Well, believe it or not, it's simple.

First of all, you begin with the classroom, a unique kind of space that must be designed for the knowledge you are to deliver. A room needs to be dressed in much the same way we dress ourselves daily. And, the first place we start is the door.

How can you welcome children into your room? Remember, you want to capture their attention from the second they arrive at your door. Therefore, the first thing you need to do is your homework. Who are the students you will teach? As educators, we learn that "knowledge of the learner" is key to delivering the best instruction possible. So:

1.Who are these children?

2.Where do they come from?

3.How do they learn?

4. What are their beautiful cultures?

5. What do they enjoy?

6. What do they dislike?

7. What pop culture are they into?

8. How can we turn their toys into tools?

Once we have established the necessary criteria about the demographics, we can choose a theme that will capture the minds of these children and welcome them into a space that will expand their minds, open their hearts and unite them as learning partners with their peers---we must break down the barriers that divide human beings.

And, how we address these children ourselves in class is critical to how they will relate to and interact with one another.

I have come to a frightening conclusion. I am the decisive element in the classroom. It is my personal approach that creates the climate. It is my daily mood that makes the weather. As a teacher I possess a tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous.I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal.

In all situations it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated, and a child humanized or dehumanized.

~~~Dr. Haim Ginott


“I have come to believe that a great teacher is a great artist and that there are as few as there are any other great artists. Teaching might even be the greatest of the arts since the medium is the human mind and spirit.” If you are lucky, you may find a teacher. Three real teachers in a lifetime is the very best of luck.

My three had these in common-they all loved what they were doing. They did not tell--they catalyzed a burning desire to know. Under their influence, the horizons sprung wide and fear went away and the unknown became knowable. But the most important of all, the truth, the dangerous stuff, became beautiful and precious.

John Steinbeck

How we engage our students is tied to our own self-awareness and ability to unlock the native childhood curiosity that still lives and breathes inside of us. If we ever hope to unlock our students, we must first break the ties that bind us.

Then to that end, let's release the imagination that shines inside all of us....

Multicultural Children's Literature and Lesson, Primary

Primary Grades

The Colors of Us By Karen Katz

1.First, "An interactive read-aloud," using the above story, a story that ties cultural differences to tasty flavors.

2. Then, have the students play around with different flavors themselves by creating a mix of alchemy that defines who they are scent and taste-wise. Have a station set up with a cup they can mix their potion in (with utensil spoons). Make sure you have a delightful array of flavorings to choose from.

3. Have them share their concoction with the class, using as many adjectives as possible, why this creation is like them.

4. Then, have them come up with some footwork that could be used in place of their names. Have them show off their new unique steps that state who they are. Or music?

5. Have them choose a color that best shows their personality.

6. Culminate with a writing assignment that collects this data and generates a compilation of " The Color Of Me."

There are online books they can create so be sure to integrate technology--

This is a great opener for the beginning of school and a showcase for open school night.

Multicultural Literature Upper Grades

Poems by Angela Shelf Medearis, "Skin Deep and Other Teenage Reflections"

The Poem for this model is: Colors of the Race

So, you finally found out what I knew all along.

My big full lips are beautiful

and so envied that

you pay

to have yours plumped up.

Roller coaster curves

and caramel cream to deep ebony skin tones

show off clothes to perfection.

let's not even talk about

all the ways I can style my hair,

previously labeled as


Yeah, sometimes I might be loud

and unfafraid to speak for myself,

but I was raised to be proud, no need to whisper,

or smile falsely.

I'm glad you finally realize

that all the colors of the race

are beautiful.

Start with an "Interactive Read -Aloud" getting the juices flowing with your older students. Implement, "Question the Author" as well. Why do you think the author compares the plumping up of lips that individuals opt for, using fillers, is to be equated with people of color? How was the author effective, or not in making this comparison?

Have the students work in teams observing one another, writing down the "beautiful and pleasant features of his/her teammates." Have each student write down a distinguishing feature they like on themselves. It could be as simple as a "mohawk" haircut, eye coloring, dye coloring of their hair, etc.....

Then, have them generate a "Traveling Poem," one that goes around the room and details the members of your beautiful classroom.

For example:

Each member examines the observations made by their teammates and by themselves and writes a one- liner about themselves, passing it to the next member of the class until each member has contributed to that poem, ergo, traveling poem.

This will break down the tension because everyone has a stake in this piece. However, they must all vote on what kind of poem they want to create prior to the traveling process (free verse, meditation, rhyming....).

Summing it all Up

In order to bring about cohesion, you must first break down the barriers that divide us as human beings. We may appear to be different on the outside, but on the inside, we all share the same organs necessary to live and our human needs are parallel.

As for the motivational piece, we as educators must dig deep and try to find innovative and imaginative ways to present curriculum. Children need to be mentally invited to learn, feel capable of performing the tasks asked of them, be given choice (by experimentation, by vote, selection of some element) and feel comfortable with his/her peers and teacher (a sense of belonging). These are basic human needs and a prerequisite to learning.


Some Materials that Would Help

Books for this Lesson


Submit a Comment

  • RobinGrosswirth23 profile imageAUTHOR

    Robin Grosswirth 

    6 years ago from New York

    Thanks Integrity. This happens to be one of my favorites.

  • profile image


    6 years ago

    I voted up for sure.

  • RobinGrosswirth23 profile imageAUTHOR

    Robin Grosswirth 

    6 years ago from New York

    Wow......thank you..... I will check him out.

  • Deborah Brooks profile image

    Deborah Brooks Langford 

    6 years ago from Brownsville,TX

    his is wonderful have you met billybuc? he is a teacher.. he is so wise. I will share it with him.. and share on facebook



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