As the new year rolls in, students enter classes hoping to have a great year. Students who did well last term will probably do more of the same in the second. Since they can see "the finish line" with ease, they generally do not need much in the way of encouragement to keep their grades where they are or higher. However, it is a different case entirely with those who received very poor grades. This is especially the case with long term English language learners.
As would be expected, there are some major reasons behind such lackluster academic performance. A record of past academic failures over the years does take its toll. With such poor track records, they often expect more of the same. Though they come to school everyday, they try their best to be invisible among their classmates hoping to be ignored.
Another reason for their being unmotivated is a lack of support at home. Frequently with ELLs, there is limited academic literacy in the home. Parents many times have limited to no knowledge of English which makes accessing textbooks close to impossible. Further, many of these same parents have limited formal school experience so there is very limited background knowledge to draw from.
Sometimes, teachers, who have the best of intentions, oversimplify the material so that the content is not grade level. This approach may bring some results, but it doesn't really prepare them for grade level academically challenging work in future classes (or college). Teachers need to therefore find alternative assessment instruments which don't skimp on the content. These assessments do not inundate them in stilted language. For example, passive voice has been rewritten in the active voice. Such a change does not alter content material. It just makes it accessible to them. CAUSES BEHIND POOR ACADEMIC PERFORMANCE
So what can teachers do about these students? This link offers many practical suggestions. For example, if teachers stay positive, it can transfer. With encouragement and support through techniques which do not draw attention to them, student attitudes can change. After all, no one wants to be embarrassed or shamed in front of peers.
Keep high expectations for all students including the weaker ones. This approach sets a "can do" atmosphere for the class. Such an approach on the part of the teacher creates a classroom environment where not only teachers are responsible for what students learn, but also students are responsible for helping each other. In such a setting, even the academically weak ones want to do their part and inevitably they identify strengths they possess and can share with classmates.
If providing feedback on student work, teachers need to be specific on what the student did that was well done. Simply saying "Nice work" doesn't tell such a student what he did well and what he should repeat in future assignments.
Offer different types of formal assessments. Allow them different ways to demonstrate what they understand and how well.
The article offers more ideas. It is a good refresher:) SUCCESSFUL APPROACHES TO MOTIVATING STRUGGLING LEARNERS
ELL TEACHER PROS