Monday, 28 December 2009

Motivational quotes for passive students

Just before the Christmas break, we started our 3rd grading period of this school year. It is the last period for our graduating students, who will finish regular school in February and then start preparing for their national final exams at home. The Finnish senior high school system is quite particular (as I have tried to explain many times before). For example, I teach English, for which students study 8 courses during 2.5 years, with each course graded individually. The final English grade will be the grade point average of these 8 courses. A typical scenario is that the first 3 courses, which are considerably easier and basically only revision of earlier English studies, will give most students much better grades than the later, more demanding ones. By the time students start their 8th and last course, many know that the grade for this last course won't make any difference whatsoever to their final grade, so they just slack through the last weeks. I get quite frustrated with them, since they should really be learning more than ever now that the final exams are looming so close. But for the carefree youngsters there is always tomorrow, and "when school ends I will really start studying". Total self-deception and procrastination.

This year I decided to start 'brainwashing' them into making the most of the last lessons and taking advantage of any help and guidance I could give them before the all important exams. I looked for inspirational and motivational quotes for them, then browsed through Flickr to find illustrations for them and decided to start each class with one of these quotes. Apart from motivating the slackers, I also use them to introduce some more vocabulary, and also to start discussion in English about their relevance to the students reality.

So far they have worked quite well, and students are actually already expecting the new quote at the beginning of each lesson. The following one has produced the most discussion so far:

It was rather endearing how keen and open my students were to reveal all their secret strategies of avoidance (most of which I could guess anyway!). I don't know if these quotes will actually change their studying habit in any way, but at least the discussions we've had have been worthwhile. In their hearts, they know all of this, of course, and I know I should be looking in the mirror to find out why they have become so tired and passive, but for their last few school weeks, at least we are having constructive discussions about learning and teaching, and all in English.

For the quotes and illustrations, I have been inspired by others, who have kindly uploaded their work online:

the Great quotes about Learning and Change - a pool by several great educators
Education & Technology Quotes - 19 slides by Tony Vincent on Slideshare
Quotes - beautifully visualized by Silvia Tolisano

(and I'm sure there are many others, but these came to mind straight away)

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