Tips for Motivating Reluctant Learners

  • MentorshipBe positive about your mentee’s school and let him know you think his education is important.
  • Learning activities should be based on the mentee’s interests. Ask about her school preferences, activities with friends and family, passions, and preoccupations.
  • Allow your mentee to have a voice in determining what, where, when, and how the learning takes place.
  • Encourage your mentee to relate his work to his own experience, or to that of others he knows. Sharing your own reactions and experience can sometimes establish a lively conversation.
  • Think of ways you can model your own love of the topic. For example, share your favorite book with your mentee or talk with her about your passion for bird watching.
  • Think of ways to incorporate aspects of your mentee’s culture into his school projects or homework. For example, if he must do a formal research report, encourage him to research something related to his cultural background.
  • When your mentee gets stuck or discouraged, take time to review past successful projects for motivation.
  • If you recognize specific skill development—good thinking, creativity, general improvements—praise your mentee. Just remember that students won’t welcome inappropriate, excessive, or false praise.
  • Encourage your mentee to examine his own work, critique strengths and weaknesses, and set goals for improvement.

Adapted with permission from: “Now I Get It!” Homework Help Strategies for Volunteers, by Charissa Sgouros and Nicky Martin (The Tutor, Spring 2005, pp. 1–5. Portland, OR: Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory, and New York, NY: Bank Street College of Education).