Teaching Title 1 • Part 2

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Motivating Title 1 Kids

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We are all relational human beings and our relationships influence and encourage us as we grow. After recognizing firsthand how relationships truly impact adolescents (see Part 1 of this blog series), I now know this is the most significant factor in motivating Title 1 kids. 

In my health and fitness class, with 50+ students per class period, it was tough to learn every name and an important detail about each of them. Of course there are always a handful that you end up developing better relationships with, maybe due to where they sit in class, their personalities, or even how they tend to gravitate towards a teacher who really cares. 

Students with whom I built better relationships on a deep level performed so much better than those who were less reachable. For example, kids that I had a good relationship with would make comments like, “Miss, look what I did for you!” as they would hand in their homework, as if they were completing it to make me happy rather than simply for a good grade. I could see that my interest in who they were, what they were interested in, and what their individual goals were motivated them to produce good work for my class. 

Once I caught on to the kids' effort to do their work “for me,” I began to wonder, “How can I get them to do things for themselves?” My curriculum had a segment about goal setting. I designed an extra lesson to go with it to really help students think about what motivated them as individuals. Specific questions also encouraged them to hold focus on a particular goal set for the semester. The hope was that they would learn how to set and achieve goals and then use these tools later on in life, too. 

Here are some of the questions that I challenged them with as they began to think about areas in their life they would want to change:

  1. Why do you do what you do? Do you do things for yourself, your family, or your friends? I would have students write down their answers and describe “why” in their response. 

  2. How can you keep yourself accountable to change? I gave them examples like setting reminders in their phones, establishing an accountability partner, or writing a goal on a mirror or in a place that they would see each day. Most kids had never thought in depth about accountability or some of these simple, free strategies.They really had to evaluate accountability and what it was going to look like to them. 

  3. What motivates you most? This was an interesting question, because I know that relationships motivate a lot of people’s desire to be liked and accepted. It was fascinating to see how kids were wired so differently. For example, some kids were motivated to do well in the classroom so they could be the first in their family to go to college. Some were motivated by seeing tangible results in their life which would cause them to want more. And some were motivated by money and success because their current situation at home may not have had much of either. 

Asking questions and getting to know kids helps motivate them because they know they will have a cheerleader to come alongside them to give hope and encourage them to push on when things do not go their way. Finding out what motivates each student will help build a sincere relationship and helps them think rightly about themselves to know how to go about reaching their goals. 

If you seek gaining additional strategies to motivate students, explore and consider taking this Connecting Link course: Transformative Classroom Leadership.


A Connecting Link course you may want to explore that may help Title 1 students’ motivation when it comes to assessments is Differentiated Assessments: Alternative Ways to Assess All Students in your Classroom


Here are a few classes related to this topic:

Zoe Price
Zoe is a Title 1 High School educator in the Palm Beach County School District, Florida.