Promoting intrinsic motivation is often a central concern in teaching foreign languages to elementary school children. Self-determination theory posits that intrinsic motivation develops through the interaction of the person and the environment. The present study investigated how elementary school students’ motivation develops over the course of a school year in Japanese public schools. Five-hundred and fifteen Japanese elementary school children were surveyed over the course of one school year. Self-reported motivation, perceptions of teacher support, need satisfaction, and engagement were measured at different times. External raters observed students’ engagement, while classroom teachers assessed the quality of students’ motivation and learning. Structural equation modeling results indicated a positive, dynamic relationship between motivation, perceptions of the learning environment, and engagement. External raters’ assessments showed significant positive correlations with students’ self-reported engagement. Findings indicate how the instruction offered in these Japanese elementary schools supported students’ foreign language learning motivation.
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