How to Engage & Motivate Boys

A few simple tweaks in the classroom can have a major impact in helping boys (and girls) discover their potential!

The education of boys is in crisis! From birth, boys are wired with higher energy levels, untiring curiosity, and a natural born spirit to compete and win. Although they have great potential, it’s no surprise these qualities make it harder to engage and inspire them in the classroom.

motivate boys

This is MY boy. He’s a pretty cool dude! (I may be biased.) I sure appreciate all of the special efforts his teachers make to “activate his emotional energy.”

These qualities can get in the way of learning in traditional classrooms. Maybe you already include “boy-friendly” teaching strategies in your classroom. If not, think about the impact if we all found ways to teach them in a way that makes most sense to them?

According to Neuroscientist Edmond Dixon, “Brain science has proven ‘engagement and effort’ are not just important, they are critical.” These motivation elements are simply “human friendly.” So, they are useful for teaching girls, too!

How Do We Motivate Boys to be Engaged and Give Effort?

In short, we must activate their emotional energy. When we make emotional connections to new learning, a whole new region of our brains are triggered! This region floods the brain with chemicals that provide energy. That energy is motivation – motivation to get engaged!

“Activating emotional energy” doesn’t mean you have to do kart-wheels or stand on your head. (Although it often feels that way.) Just a few small and strategic adjustments can make a world of difference!

  1. Tell them “why.” Boys (and girls) need know the reason for learning something new. If they can connect the dots about why they need the new knowledge, they’ll naturally be more motivated to learn! This connection supplies the extra “brain juice” required for motivation.
  2. Incorporate some kind of challenge/game in the curriculum. This stimulates their cave man “hunting” instinct. Boys naturally love competition and winning, so the adrenaline rush that comes with reaching their goals motivates them to keep playing the “game” of learning.The next time you wrap up a unit, help your students prepare for the test with a Quiz Bowl. Make it easy on yourself by having the students create the questions. (Simply provide them with topics they need to cover.)
  3. Add in action and play! Boys are simply hard-wired for it, they gravitate toward it. The more you tap into their natural energy supply, the more interest they will display for learning.Give them options to move around the room. Encourage “pairing” with a partner. (Just be sure to provide a mechanism for matching partners so no one is left out; that will cause the emotional energy to go in the completely opposite direction for the students left out.) Encourage students to create their own games with the content.
  4. Inject humor! Boys have a tendency to revert to comedy and general messing around, no matter the situation. Why not add it to your bag of tricks for teaching curriculum? Humor activates the emotional region of their brain; it makes them comfortable. As a result, it will also reduce any anxiety he may have about school and in his ability to excel in that environment.You can make “humor” –and other emotionally engaging activities—a simple routine. See our popular article, Getting Students in the “Green Zone.”

Motivating the Masses

In summary, a boy’s aptitude and potential for success in school must be founded on engagement and effort. It’s not that they lack intelligence or passion to succeed in school, it’s how that intelligence and passion are activated that makes ALL the difference!

For SOAR® proven ways you can help boys get ahead in school and life, click here.


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