Sometimes teachers think they can’t or shouldn’t tell their students why they are doing something. Maybe this is because they don’t want to give away a ‘secret’, or maybe because they don’t think the students need to know, or maybe there is another reason. But I always think that teaching shouldn’t be a mystery. I’m all for full and total disclosure.
I find that if I tell my students why they are doing something, then they are more engaged with it and more motivated to do it. If they see that there is a specific reason why they are doing that activity, then they can see that there is a benefit and they will learn from it. In other words, if they know your learning objective, then they can see that it is not just a coverage or involvement objective. Not only will they be more engaged, they will also appreciate your teaching. So if they are doing a scanning task, explain that they are practicing a specific reading skill. Explain what it is. And explain why they are practicing it – when in real life is this a useful skill? Or, if you give the students a discussion question, explain what language they are practicing. Explain what you want them to gain from it and what you want them to be able to do by the end of it.
This can apply not just to an activity, but to the whole lesson and even the syllabus. Many teachers write their learning objectives for the lesson on the white board at the beginning of the lesson, so that students can see what they will achieve by the end of the lesson. I think this is a great idea. If possible, at the beginning of their course, I also think it’s helpful to present students with a syllabus focused on ‘Can do …’ or ‘Will be able to…’ statements, so that they can see where they are going. You can refer back to these when presenting a particular activity or task – especially if the students don’t seem engaged. This ‘buy-in’ is an essential part of motivation that you can give them.