Sunday, January 15, 2012

Tips for Motivating the Unmotivated Student

"If you would persuade, you must appeal to interest rather than intellect." ~Benjamin Franklin

I saw this quote on a poster on the Persuasive Writing teacher's classroom door this week, and it got me to thinking about how, in my experience, teenagers do need a lot of persuasion to be convinced that studying any particular subject is worth their while.  So how do we persuade them in a World Language class?  Appeal to their interests, such as:

Cultural Differences

All of the above are easy to weave into French class if you're willing to exert a little extra effort.  Let's take music, for example.  Over the years I've developed a list of French music that I use to
 teach listening skills and to reinforce grammatical concepts at appropriate times.  Students also learn cultural information when they listen to authentic French music, so they're really learning on so many levels when a teacher can use a song in their lesson.  I've attended some great workshops here in Michigan on how to use music in teaching.  I learned from French teachers Suzie Martin & Marge Mandl at one of their workshops how to show the history and impact a particular song or singer had by tracing a modern version of the song back to the original singer.  This week I did this in French I by introducing students to Edith Piaf and her beautiful love song, l'Hymne à l'amour.  I played a YouTube video of Edith singing this song.  To show how much importance the song has today in France, I also showed a YouTube video of a young French singer who is singing the song at Versailles, and you can hear the whole crowd join in.  Here's the video: 

This is such a moving video!  Eventually, I'll show my students videos of Celine Dion & Johnny Hallyday singing the song and also Josh Groban. 

So back to motivating students by appealing to their interests.  After showing the above video last week, a student who is generally not motivated in any of his subjects stayed after class to talk with me about the song and about music and about how much he liked it.  This is a student who also struggles to fit in socially and who just has a hard time in general.  It thrills me to see such a student become engaged and motivated to learn!  This is not the first time this has happened, and I'm always reminded that the extra effort is worth it to see the spark of interest ignited in the hard-to-reach student.  Wouldn't you agree? :)


  1. wonderful ideas! and I just love your blog, Renée! would you be willing to share your list of French music that you mentioned above?
    Thank you!

  2. Bonjour, Brenda! Thanks so much for commenting on my blog, I really appreciate it :). I'd be happy to share my list of French music. I use music in many different ways in different levels of French. Here are some of the songs I use regularly:
    Tu es de ma famille (Jean-Jacques Goldman)
    Je marche seul (Jean-Jacques Goldman)
    Il est ne, le divin enfant (traditional French carol)
    Hymne a l'amour (Edith Piaf)
    J'attendais (Celine Dion)
    Je chanterai (Celine Dion)
    Petit Papa Noel (Josh Groban)
    Confidentiel (Jean-Jacques Goldman)
    Il y a (Jean-Jacques Goldman)
    Couleur Cafe (Serge Gainsbourg)
    Champs Elysees (Joe Dassin)
    Je ne veux pas travailler (Pink Martini)

    I hope that gets you started!



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