Motivating Students by Empowering

Motivating vs. Enabling

The reality is that in order to internalize new material, you have to make yourself think about what you are supposed to do.

If we help students through the whole process, they won’t know how to do it on their own afterwards.


It’s really hard as a paraprofessional or teacher, especially when working with a student who struggles, to walk away and let them sort the learning out.


But we must let them practice, so that they learn and remember.

So, how do we help our youth without doing too much for them?

Tell Them What They’ve Done Correctly

Find something right about what they’ve done. They don’t need to hear what they did wrong. Instead, tell them what they did correctly, so that they feel a measure of personal power and capability.

Teach the Next Step and Leave!

After you’ve told them what they’ve done right, then tell them the next step.


Don’t get into long explanations; just tell them the next step: The next step is this.


If they’re getting it wrong and they’re frustrated, and we try to take the time to go through this long explanation about why it’s wrong, what to do next and how to do it, the student is on sensory overload.

Walk Away – Leave and Don’t Look Back!

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Resist the urge to take care of them! Resist the urge to do it for them! Resist the urge to give in! Resist.

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The work that they do is THEIRS!

(Your job security does not rely on their academic standing)

What can you say if a student is stuck?

Where might you look/find the information?


What tools/resource could you use to find the information? (book, notes)


Explain/Tell me what the problem is?


It looks like you are stuck what is the issue/problem/hard time with?

What can you say if you know the student’s answer is wrong?

You might want to check your answer again.


Can you explain why/where you got that answer from.


Can you show me how you got that answer.


I think/looks like you are on the right track but you haven’t answered the question completely. What else could you add/include?

Quotes to remember:

Failure is okay!


Let them write down the wrong answer.


They don’t all need an A+ (100%) , 100% of the time. (Grades aren’t everything)