Helping Students Form Healthy Learning Habits – a Most Rewarding Way to Keep Students

Introduction: why you should read this

There are two ways for you to enhance your earnings as a private teacher:  increase your hourly rate and/or extend your teaching hours. If you already have your own students, the most effective way is to develop a long-term relationship with the students, so they keep coming back to your classes.

This article suggests a Trigger, Action, Reward, Track framework to help you continuously engage with your students. It starts with parents and when you get students involved, the model starts to work. While your students learn to form a healthy learning habit, you continue to engage them with learning. Win-win! This framework is based on the Hook model developed by Nir Eyal.

The HOOK Model

The Hook Model was developed by Nir Eyal who worked in the video gaming and advertising industries . Based on his experience with these industries, he wrote ‘Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products ‘. The Hook Model describes a user’s interactions with a product during four phases:

• Trigger: a trigger to begin using the product

• Action: an action to satisfy the trigger

• Reward: a variable reward for the action,

• Investment: and some type of investment that, ultimately, makes the product more valuable to the user.

As the users go through these phases, they build habits in the process.

I have modified the model to suit the learning and teaching context while minimising the potential addictive downside of this model.

Modified Hook Model for Educators

1. Trigger


Let’s start by understanding what triggers your student to take your lessons.

It’s most likely induced by an external trigger. Maybe the child’s language exam result isn’t ideal, or the parents want the child to speak a language as well as a neighbouring child, or a friend recommended your teaching to his/her parent, or the parents saw an advertisement about learning a new language.

It’s important to notice that at this stage, the trigger is external, which works as a stimulus leading to step 2 – action

Hook model for educators - trigger


Some teachers share their examples below (these examples are provided by members of an ESL teacher Facebook community); do you find these familiar?

• ‘My student came to my class because she wants to attend a foreign university. (external trigger: educational goal)’

• ‘My student came to my class because his mother was unhappy with his English assessment results. (external triggers: bad grade, maternal consequence.)’

• ‘My student came to class because he wants to improve his understanding of the material in his IB world school. Internal trigger: learning makes him feel excited and happy external: improves overall scores in school’


This is a simple exercise you can do: write down answers to this question and share them in the comment box if you’d like:

My student _______ came to my class because ______________

2. Action


If parents feel enough motivation, they will take the next action. If you are teaching independently, there is a lot you can design to make their actions easy and valuable.

Hook model for educators - action

Here are three aspects to make things easy for the parents:

  • Time effort: can you make the action straightforward?
  • Money effort: perhaps you can offer free add-ons?
  • Technology effort: choose a technology the parent is familiar with (email, WeChat, Facebook, WhatsApp)

To make the action valuable, you could offer

  1. A 10-minute free language assessment session
  2. An invitation for an open class to ‘taste’ your teaching and interact with other children and parents
  3.  A free group Q&A session to answer some common questions on language learning
  4. You can show detailed examples of how your teaching brought results.

These interactive sessions will help you understand your future students and achieve step 3 – reward


This is a simple exercise you can do: Write down some ideas about what actions you can offer parents when their motivation is ready.

3. Reward


Now you have an opportunity to make learning rewarding for your students.

Reward means different things for children: some of them like animals such as dinosaurs; some like songs or quizzes. You can make some props and show these props every time you see a desirable behaviour.

By finding out what interests your students, you can design the right rewards for a ‘right’ behaviour. These behaviours can be being willing to make mistakes or being willing to talk or listen.

Hook model for educator - reward

Giving rewards is a great way to engage students. To educate students, we need to help them track progress which I will address in step 4.


This is a simple exercise you can do: write down answers to this question and share in the comment box if you’d like:

My student ______ likes ______________ so I can make a reward such as ______________

4. Track


Are you familiar with the reward cards from Starbucks/McCafe? Or the loyalty cards from airlines? These are ways designed to encourage and reward repeated behaviours.

We can put on our teaching hats and reward students for repeated learning.

Design a learning journey for your students and help them to set personal goals and track progress. The more they invest in their own learning, the more rewarding the while process becomes for them.

You can make learning trackable by encouraging students to have a learning journal. You can make learning visible by giving out progress stickers for their learning journals. You can make learning fun by giving students personalised stickers (their favourite food, favourite animal)

Hook model for educator - track


This is a simple exercise you can do: write down answers to this question and share in the comment box if you’d like:

The learning goal for student ______ is ______________ , ______________ and ______________


Gamification is a popular approach for K-12 education. One example is Duolingo which did a superb design job in making language learning fun. As someone who also works in the cultural tourism industry, I often feel we educators can benefit from interacting with people in the gaming, entertainment, and tourism industry and apply user engagement methods in an educational setting.

The beauty of this HOOK model is that through step-by-step design, we can (hopefully) manage to convert a student’s external motivation into internal motivation so the incentive becomes intrinsic, and learning becomes a habit.

Hook model for educator - cycle


  • To make some exercises and help YOUR students form healthy learning habits, you can submit a request for the Hook model for educator exercise book below.
  • To read the book in full details, you can purchase the book via the link.
  • To invest in your independent teaching career, you can join our digital course ‘From Good to Great, Level Up Your Teaching Business’ to empower you to develop a sustainable and successful independent teaching career.