How to Unleash Student Intrinsic Motivation from Day One

Global Teacher Prize Finalist Mike Soskil Shares His Secrets

You can unleash a student intrinsic motivation from the first day of school. First, you start the school year with authentic connections. Second, you create a culture of learning.  In today’s episode, Mike Soskil, award-winning science teacher and Global Teacher prize finalist, shares his ideas for starting school.

student intrinsic motivation

Additionally, he shares secrets for creating a culture that unleashes student intrinsic motivation. While Mike is an elementary science teacher, I learned many techniques that apply to my middle and high school classrooms.

Listen to this show on: BAM Radio Network | iTunes | Stitcher

Today’s Sponsor: Freshgrade

This episode is sponsored by Fresh Grade. Freshgrade has a free tool that lets you create student portfolios. To make them even more powerful, these portfolios can include video, sound, various kinds of media, text and more. In fact, you can even include student and parent comments!

In light of their flexibility, consider using Fresh Grade for your student portfolios. Take time to test out Fresh Grade. It’s free for parents, students and teachers.

Check out Freshgrade’s Portfolio System

If you go to Fresh Grade’s site, you’ll get a bonus episode with Todd Whitaker about The Biggest Mistake Teachers Make When Giving Their End of the Year Grade.” 

Show Notes:

  • How letting his students share their learning in more meaningful ways other than passing the test on Friday made magic!
  • How does Mike give students powerful global experiences from the first day of class?
  • What is mystery animal Skype?
  • How does Mike start the school year in a strong way?
  • What do you do and say to develop a classroom culture of respect and learning?
  • Can you help students become more intrinsically motivated?
  • What is the advice Mike would give to himself as a first year teacher?


Michael Soskil @msoskil was a top-10 finalist for this year’s Global Teacher Prize, widely considered the Nobel Prize of Teaching. Mike has been recognized for the innovative ways he empowers his students to use learning to solve problems around the globe. Additionally, he was a 2012 winner of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching. Currently, Mike teaches elementary science in northeastern Pennsylvania. .

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4 thoughts on “How to Unleash Student Intrinsic Motivation from Day One

  1. Hi Vicki,
    I like the ideas that Michael provided to use as intrinsic motivators from the beginning of the school year. I like the idea of using global learning, this helps to include other cultures into class learning. Michael mentions,”the learning space belongs to the learner and learners should be in charge of learning”. I agree to the ideas as the goal is for students to be life long learners. I also liked Michael’s enthusiasm about his teaching which transmits a motivating attitude to listeners.

      • Hello Myra,
        As a high school history teacher, I definitely agree with integrating global learning, as it does help the students learn on multiculturalism with multiliteracies, as well as with intercultural communication. I am thinking about using their summer experiences and connecting them to major domestic and foreign issues, so that they can personalize and make connections on significant trends. Indeed, I want to use some of the platform issues on the presidential election, as well as environmental issues abroad. I truly feel that this would be enriching and would help with, like Michael mentioned, “intrinsic motivators” from day one. As such, I’m getting a bit excited on all the elements of Design that we can use to motivate, as there are endless options. I do agree that the key, is to make “the learning space belong to the learner,” and the more responsibility that we put on the learner’s education, the more that the learner will feel pledged to learn. In turn, this will motivate students to be high achievers.

    • Hi Mayra,

      I also agree with Michael and what you can do to become a life long learner. I teach 2nd grade math and science and his idea on Global learning through the Mystery Animal skype calls. This is a great way to get students to not only learn from each other and others, but also a great way to collaborate with classrooms from around the world. Having these skype calls also is integrating technology into the classroom. Students are using the internet and computers to connect to others. Great ideas from Michael.