Motivating Japanese Students

When teaching English in Japan, motivating Japanese students is always a challenge but rewarding too! Using a diary to keep track of what works and what doesn`t with particular groups of Japanese students will be helpful.



(Motivating Japanese Students Photo: The Kari River in Kanagawa)

“We may not be aware of it, but motivational issues take up a surprisingly large proportion of our everyday talk…Our hopes, our dreams, our goals, and what we like and dislike, are some of the things researchers have felt are the main motivational determinants of human behaviour.”

–Zoltan Dornyei, “Teaching and Researching Motivation,” p. 1

It is a tragedy that more teachers and teacher training programs fail to address the problem of motivating students.

It is a problem that is especially acute in Japan, where I teach. In my twenty year career of teaching English, motivating my students has been perhaps my biggest challenge.

In a general way, I had felt that I knew how to motivate them. Recently though, I have come to the realization that there is a lot I need to learn. I have chosen to keep a diary as a research project into what motivates and demotivates my students.

By keeping a diary of which strategies work for which class, we will gain a record over time of what works and what doesn`t.

Indeed the key phrase seems to be “over time.” The diary must be kept for an extended period of time to

benefit from it.

(Motivating Japanese Students Photo: Anne Frank, one of the most famous diary writers)

(Pictured, a junior high school student at Kevin`s English School in Minamiashigara)

To aid in motivating Japanese students you may want to divide it up into different age groups or even different groups ie) people studying to be flight attendants, university science majors, or children aged 4-5 years old. My teaching context: (consists of teaching motivated adult learners at my own chain of schools, a mix of motivated and unmotivated learners at a private junior high school, as well as some motivated and unmotivated learners in some required English Writing and Speaking classes at university in Japan).



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Motivating Japanese Students with Exit Slips

One way we can motivate students is to give them more ownership, or more say in their English classes. Thomas C. Anderson accomplishes that with his Exit slips activity. I recommend it to classes of junior high and up. Anderson uses it in his university classes and I intend to incorporate this valuable motivator in my classes as well. Thomas C. Anderson talks about how he uses Exit slips in his classes.


Inspiration Motivation, Why should children study hard at school?

How do we motivate our children and our students?

Here are some of the answers I received from other teachers about how to motivate my own children, and how to motivate students in general. One reminded me of a gem: Praise from Dad is priceless.

Anderson’s Anecdotes

A Strange Foreigner’s Take on Life in Japan

by Tom Anderson

This time around I’d like to share a short article by Charles Swindoll, an American writer and theologian, which I use with my students after they’ve been in class for a few weeks.

"The longer I live, the more I realize the


impact of attitude on life.


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