Family Resources on Motivation: Pain and Gain, Part 1

Project and Purpose

Students read an article and interview their teacher about how they think about motivation.

Essential Questions

How do teachers help students find their motivation? What is my personal motivating value statement?

If this lesson was used in the classroom: Students analyzed an article from Psychology Today about motivation and leadership. In class students read the article and discussed how people are motivated; as the article mentions, there is more to motivating than “carrots and sticks”. In groups students discussed how good leaders motivate people.

Getting Ready for the Conversation

Many people believe that people are only motivated by external rewards and punishments, which is not true. While external rewards and punishments do motivate people in short-term situations, this perspective overlooks the most important factors such as inner desire for success and healthy interpersonal relationships.

Conversation notes:
As adolescents become high-school aged, they are starting to understand that motivation is no longer about just punishments and rewards, but about quality relationships with others. This changing dynamic can also be a challenge not only for adolescents, but also for parents and mentors.

The complete article by Tim Elmore students read in class can be found here:

Tim Elmore’s website:

Constructive Conversation Starters

The first item is for follow-up after participating in class activities.

The article from class discussed pain and gain. What did the author mean? Why was he focused on this rather than rewards and punishment?

What are some situations where a reward or punishment works for you? Describe why.

What are some situations where a reward or punishment does not work for you? What does work? Why?

School to Home Resources on Motivation: Pain and Gain, Part 1



Note: Before conducting this session, think about your own personal strategies for motivating students and helping them find their own motivation.

1. Form reading/discussion groups of no more than four students and have them read and annotate the article “The Two Greatest Motivators for Students” by Tim Elmore from Psychology Today, January 22, 2015. In approximately 20 minutes, each group must complete the following:

  • Read through the article, either aloud or silently—their choice.
  • Highlight the three most important statements in the article and be able to defend their choices.
  • Determine whether or not they agree with the author’s main premise and be able to defend their response.
  • Based on the article, create three questions to ask you as a teacher about your personal strategies for motivating students as well as helping students find their own motivation. These should be specific, appropriate, information seeking questions.

2. At the end of the 20 minutes, gather students back together and have groups share and discuss their annotations and thoughts about the article.

3. Then sit down in the middle of the class and allow the students to ask you their questions. Be sure to tell them you have the right, just as they do, to pass on certain questions and/or tell them you will have to think about it and answer the question at a later time.


At the end of the class, ask students what their biggest takeaway is from this session. You might have them write it out as a brief writing response or share in a popcorn discussion. Explain that they will use the information from this session in the follow-up session.

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