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How to motivate the students in English teaching?

I've been an English teacher at a college for 1 year and sometimes i feel frustrating because many the back-line-sitters seem to be idle at class---dozing, playing their mobile, even talking in a low voice. I hope i can help them from the "torture" and enable them to enjoy the class. Any good ideas? Also, I began to teach a new class this semester and some students asked me to speak less English and more Chinese, which made me feel at loss. What should I do?





I guess you need to get to know your students a little better. Find out their likes/dislikes and use them during your lessons.

Talk to them find out what they need.

What seating arrangements do you have in your classroom?

You could sit students that would usually sit at the back near the front but not together.

Try to have an open feedback session to encourage the students to speak with you rather than eachother.

Move the class around so that all students get a chance to work with students they wouldn't usually work with.


Hope this helps.



I was shocked to learn how rude some of your students are.


Here in the United States, we are told that the students in China are very respectful of their teachers.


You feel frustrated. I think you are a good teacher.  Some teachers constantly speak their mother tongue. I think your students just don't understand some aspects of English, that's why they ask you to speak Chinese. Perhaps you should vary your classroom activities. Most students don't like learning using only textbooks. 

Students are the same in Russia. They are respectful when the teacher is really strict or the lesson is really exciting.

I had a similar problem working in Spain. Most of the older students (16-18) didn't want to listen and learn English. They were forced to be there by law and so weren't interested. It also didn't help that there were different ability levels in the class and those who were "better" in English would take a lot of the class time. It's much easier to work with younger students and get them engaged. If you have only just started teaching may be get them to work on projects with each other that they can the present at the end of term? I know it sounds silly but prize systems do work, at least with the students I have taught. Tell them that the projects could be about anything but need to involve a range of material (written and spoken). Just don't give up :)

Hi, everyone,

Thank you very much for the inspiring ideas. I should have replied you separately, but i am a novice here and don't know how to make it.  In China, most students learn English only because it's a compulsory subject mandated by the government. During college, they should take an English TEST called CET-4, which is a necessity if you want to graduate with diploma. However, i wish i can help all the students to like it and i will try my best.


BTW, teachers are really respected by the students in China and i'd say, my students are respectful, they were just expressing their true thoughts at my request in a frank way.

They did that to you because they did not understand English and had no intention to learn it in any  ways no matter how hard you tried because they did not love English as they knew nothing about that. Only one way you can do, make their mind busy by using some alternatives in teaching English through giving games, discussion, conversation and analyzing English movies in learning. Better rather than making them listening your speech for all days. Good luck!

What about splitting the class into teams and having a year long competition - you can give points for activities, team with the most points at the end of term/year wins? I agree with Yulia - make it active, don't just have them sitting in the class not doing anything (although I know this is the traditional approach to classroom based learning).

Some of the ideas you were given here are great, but if those ideas  don't work...


Here is another option:


Take thier mobile phone of them, I heard from a Chinese girl who study here in Australia that her teacher took the mobile phone of 2 boys.

 It seems to have worked well, they didn't use it in the next lesson.  


Give them their mobile phone after the lesson, tell them that if they do it again... the phone will be  confiscated untill the end  of the day.


It works well in Australia, it should work there too.


In my opinion if are not strict - youn may lose some of their respect pretty fast.

Ellie - most of the time tactics like that do work but there was a story in China of a student killing a teacher by slashing his throat because the teacher confiscated his phone. Not trying to scare anyone but you have to be careful!

I have English courses and my teacher is magnificent.He is very funny, smart and considerate. All our group always looks foward to his lessons.He tells about your life, your family and trys to find out everything that we are hiding inside.He chooses topics which will be interesting for us  for our speaking clubs. And the most important thing.........we see that he wants to teach us.

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