Discovering Creative Ways to Motivate and Support Students

Last week in my team’s EVO session Branka Marceta took the lead and shared a valuable online resource for independent learners, U.S.A. Learns. The U.S. Department of Education funded this collection of professionally-designed presentations and exercises on basic and intermediate topics. The three programs on the site aim to support immigrants in the U.S., but many of the skills covered are those that all learners need to master.

What’s great about the context in which such resources are being shared is the discussion threads that develop among EVO participants. For example, by just reading one exchange between Branka and a participant, I was prompted to think of all the ways we can encourage our students in their studies, especially when some or all of their studies are done online. The more responsibility a learner has to study independently, the more important motivation becomes.

Much has been written about setting personal learning goals to build intrinsic motivation. What else can be done? Branka gave a list of recommended practices to motivate and support students, and the one I found to be very original was the use of e-cards. I’ve actually received some e-cards from students who wanted either to thank me or send holiday greetings, but I never thought about using e-cards as a way to motivate them as learners. Indeed, most e-card sites have a whole category for encouragement and support. Why didn’t I think of this earlier? The occasional personalized e-card could be very effective, especially if timed right after a noticeable improvement or commendable effort. “I love teaching conversation class, and this week I especially enjoyed your contributions. Thank you and great job!” – or – “I just corrected your make-up test. Your score jumped up by 15%. Awesome effort!”

Have you discovered creative ways to inspire your students? Please share them.


4 Comments Add yours

  1. Branka Marceta says:

    Thank you for bringing up the issue of student motivation in online learning. It is a fascinating issue that most educational fields and levels are dealing with these days, as we are all moving in the direction of online and blended (combination of classroom and distance). I also need to give credit for the e-card and other ideas in my message to the content creators of ESL Learns, and the lead content creator – Evelyn Fella.

    1. englishwithjennifer says:

      Kudos to you and Evelyn for great tips! I think another good feature of U.S.A. Learns is the checklist. That is, you can see which activities you’ve completed and which ones you have yet to do. Both online and off, learners benefit from some type of organizer that not only reminds them what remains to be studied but also what has already been covered. I believe most of us feel a sense of accomplishment when we confidently check off an item on a to-do list. 🙂

  2. Thank you. We didn’t know about USA learns. A really great and free tool.
    We will use it at our language school and I have a great suggestion for teachers: share the password of every student so that you, as a teacher, can check the results.

    1. Evelyn Fella says:

      Glad to hear that you’ve started using USALearns at your language school. Your post was from some months ago, so you may already have found out that USAL also has a teacher management system so teachers can set up a class and view the students progress and scores. Best of all, you can see the students’ writing and give them feedback. Go to to register and set up a class. Then, be sure your students register at and always sign in there. A teacher can only view scores and writing of students signed in at

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